​Could I Be Punishing Myself?

Toward the end of my session today with Lucy, I happened to mention to her that a few months ago I had the realization that for all the poetry that I write, nothing had to do with the loss of my first marriage. My divorce and the loss of my family got stuck between the midst of other traumatic events in my life. I never really processed it or grieved it.

And then I mentioned that I remember the first holiday after my divorce, it was so emotionally painful. I had always envisioned my children and grandchildren being at my house on holidays. I had dedicated my life to this reality.

Anyone who knew me or saw me with my children knew that they were my life, that I was deeply devoted to my family. In my future’s eye, there was no other vision. There were no other possibilities. In my heart and mind this was a guarantee.

Once you give birth to a child, you can never envision your life without them. Certainly not when they are still alive. There was no other future in my realm of possibilities.

That first holiday without my intact family was excruciating. The next holiday was the same. The pain and sorrow were unbearable.

Something died inside of me. To celebrate meant facing and realizing this loss. But the pain was too great. I didn’t want to feel it anymore. So I stopped celebrating holidays altogether.

Years have past and I still don’t celebrate holidays.

When I mentioned this to Lucy, she looked at me and said, “Maybe you are punishing yourself!” I wasn’t expecting that! My response was a hesitant, “Maybe!” I had never even thought to consider this as a possibility. We made arrangements for my next appointment and I left.

When I was about halfway through my drive home, her question came back to my mind. I started crying uncontrollably and felt the pain of the loss once again. To tell you the truth, I don’t know what I really felt. It was just a deep, deep sorrow.

It is one thing to grieve a loss through death. This kind of loss is final and devastating. There isn’t much inside of us to know how to process, much less grieve the loss of those who are still alive.

With death, you keep the memories of love and affection amidst the sorrow. When you lose someone who is still alive, it feels like this one is on you. As though you are not good enough or worth it. Every good memory is tarnished with the awareness that, in the end, you weren’t worth it. Nothing but shame and sorrow hang over you.

If I were to think about it, losing my family was the biggest failure of my life. There, I said it!

And now that I have, I realize, how can someone’s abuse of you be your failure? I don’t know, but I wish I could have at least saved my children from their father. And because they don’t fully know all that I went through in life or with him, they have no clue how much I was victimized by him as well.

He tried to take my life several times before they were even old enough to know what was going on. He harmed all of us. They were left to struggle through their own abuse by him, and rightfully so. There was no way for them to know fully what I have experienced from him as well.

They saw plenty, they saw his fist go through many or our walls and the dents in the dashboard of our car. They saw him drag me down the stairs by my hair and hold the hooked end of a hammer over my head threatening to hit me with it. They heard him tell me to get out, knowing I had nowhere to go. They know he killed our dog that we all loved dearly with his bare hands. They know what he did to them.

But how could they not wonder why I didn’t save them from him? I wonder this too! So yes, I do feel as though I failed immeasurably! I don’t know how to forgive myself, and so how could I ever expect that they could forgive me too?

Don’t get me wrong, my children wanted me to get free from their father. They were old enough and helped me to do so. I have even asked each of them to forgive me. But they just dismiss my apologies as if they are not even necessary. It is just something I feel or perceive deep inside. Maybe because I don’t forgive myself.

I don’t know if I am punishing myself or not by not celebrating holidays. But I do know that it has helped me to be able to stuff deep inside the pain that I feel today just thinking about it.


15 thoughts on “​Could I Be Punishing Myself?

  1. Wow. I think you know that I no longer celebrate holidays anymore either. Do I feel like I’m punishing myself? I have never really thought about it but I would say no. My children used to call me and ask it it looked like “Santa Clause had thrown up yet.” I would tell them yes and they couldn’t wait to come over and see the decorations.
    They stopped coming when I stopped decorating. Somebody once said “do it for yourself.” It occurred to me that I had never done it for myself….I had done it for them.
    They’re gone so I am almost positive that i will never decorate again….and I won’t miss it.
    Don’t dismiss that your children dismiss your apologies. They know what happened to you. You owe them no apologies…and they are smart enough to understand that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Laurel, your words make me cry… Yes I did do it for them and without them, it has no meaning! I don’t mean to dismiss their having no need of my apologies… I just needed them to KNOW how sorry I am for the life they had and I do so desperately wish I could have at least saved them! As you know from your own experience, this is excruciating!!! I don’t know if anyone who has not gone through this kind of loss can ever get it! Nothing in life can prepare you for losing your children and grandchildren, nothing!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You and your children have been through a lot of misery. Even with therapy it takes time to resolve the issues and move past them. Hang on to your strength and live as joyfully as possible. I lost my family too under different, less awful circumstances and know how hard holidays and everyday can be. Sending you lots of kudos for leaving a bad situation.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this Lori. There is certainly a great deal of heartache in the world surrounding these issues. Sometimes it feels as though our hearts have to be bigger than life. I am sorry for your loss. There is no pretty side of divorce. But yes, it is good that I did eventually get away. Thank you!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I have no words to offer you because I am not in your situation – I just want you to know, there are people out here who care for you. I think people like you and me, we do things for other people and when we are hurt from others, we still blame it on ourselves. Find strength and know you are a valuable person. I know many times I end my comments with ‘Happy Day’ or ‘Happy’ whatever. I do that not only for the person I am leaving the comment for, but also for myself. I do truly hope you have a happy day, I care. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Terry, I know you know the pain of divorce and loss of family, regardless of how it happened. Your insight is invaluable! Imagine what our lives could be like if we didn’t blame ourselves for the things other people do to us! However this got ingrained into us, it is not an easy road out. But I do look forward to the day when this is no longer the case. Thank you for all of your kind words and encouragement. They are received with the sincerity you offered them. I appreciate you immensely. I have found a jewel for a therapist. I needed someone special and I found more than I could have hoped for. Seeing and hearing her reflections back to me are helping me to even continue on here. It is amazing how much having someone get you and support you can do. And you my friend, just did the same thing. We each need all the encouragement we can get! Thank you Terry! You have made my day happier! 🙂 And I truly hope you are getting better each day and regaining your strength!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It is important to find the right person to talk to and express your feelings, emotions and life. I am very glad you have found that in your therapist – this is very important. I know, once a long time ago, I had that therapist, and he changed my life for the better. A happy day to you my friend! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you for sharing this. I thought it was going to possibly be a long hunt to find the right person. I didn’t even think this was a possibility for me. So finding a perfect match with the first try feels like a miracle to me! Your experience is encouraging. Lucy looked at me yesterday and said, “You are so ready for this.” And I am! A happy, pain free day to you Terry! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Maybe they saw and knew more that you realize. Maybe there is nothing to forgive because they know you did the best you could.
    It is so difficult to grieve those still alive. I still dont know how to do it.

    Liked by 1 person

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