September 23, 1992 is the date my Great Grandmother died. It was my first experience with death and it was tough. She had been my favorite of the grandma brigade. She and I also had a special kind of relationship. It was treasured.
She was a feisty one, a cheater, serious smoker, came to America in 1911 from former Czechoslovakia and had a spicy mouth. She lived in Connecticut so I only saw her a few times a year and every summer for vacation. We had so much fun together. One of my favorite memories of her is when she started wearing her socks mismatched just because it was totally the style then.
She got sick and never got better. When my dad called to tell me she had died I knew it before my mom even handed me the phone. It was weird, her name wasn’t mentioned, and nothing about death yet I still knew she was gone.
It was my first funeral, strange enough I wasn’t sad and weepy. I remember almost having to force myself to cry so I would fit in with everyone else who was sobbing. I ached at having faced death for the first time. I was sad, so why wasn’t I crying.?
I wasn’t crying because first off I had never experienced death before and wasn’t sure of my emotions. I was never shown that grief is okay, especially in death.
Grief is a foreign subject in my family. We are ones who don’t deal with things, rather push them under the rug so that they can’t be seen or heard. However when grief pops up instead of tears trickling out like a stream. The dam breaks, everyone becomes involved and no one ever real stops the argument they just walk away. It’s never spoken of again.
I have had this happen multiple times in my family where something I was doing was “displeasing” to someone one else. The family would talk about it behind my back in order for my mom to build ammo. The bomb would drop, there would be yelling and crying but…….
Never an acknowledgement of it again; no apology, no “can we talk this over’s” that was it. It was our way of life and functioning for a very long time.
When I came back home though after seven years away, clean now and with a baby I decided I’d had enough of the rug sweeping and the table covering. I also made the assumption that now that I was clean, everything was going to be fine.
I was wrong, it had made things worse. Now out of nowhere I became responsible for the healing and feelings of everyone else in my family. Even though I knew shit about my own.
It became about me apologizing for every wrong thing I had ever done and at the same time being told that my “bipolar/borderline personality disorder” was most likely the cause of everything and I need to apologize to everyone in my family for even being mentally ill.
There were so many repressed emotions that started leaking out during this time. Memories started to flash back and when I really went to therapy and spoke about my childhood I gained major insight into why I reacted the way I did as a child and now adult.
The abuse that we kids experienced had repressed us all in different ways.
I however was now ready to get it out, talk about it and move on.
In their minds it was still my responsibility to do that for them.
I had my own shit to deal with and it was rising higher by the session. That first summer I became trapped by the thought and memories of the trauma I dealt with. I believe this was the first step in my own journey to being able to grieve properly.
That’s why I shared the story of my great grandmother. Had I known how to process emotions and grief in a healthy way I don’t think I would have needed to hold this days “Anniversary” status for as long as I did. I needed to move the memory from one part of my brain to the other, where it has the capability to not store the memories in a traumatic way.
I experienced several other physical deaths over the next 22 years, spiritual and familial death as well. I am now in the daily practicing of holding my grief in a sacred place until I am in a safe physical place to I share it.
Learning to grieve at 33 is hard. Sometimes I go overboard in the neediness because I am so afraid of being left again. Otherwise I will sink into my deep dark hole and lie to people about what is going on. It’s hard to find balance when I have an everyday life that I cannot put aside just so I can weep, lament and mourn for what was lost.
Whether it was the bright light of my great grandmother or the death of my family from abuse, I will now grieve and grieve with compassion.