Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Of Grief and Gifts

It's that time of year again! Holiday gift-giving, festivities and scores of people scratching open those festering emotional wounds so they can reminisce about how miserable they are this time of year, every year and why.  I'll usually read enough of those blogs to wonder why I am not like that.  I mean, I have been through more loss in the last few years than most but I am not reduced to some Xanax and Vodka filled ball of despair every Christmas.  Is there something wrong with me?

I get hate mail and negative comments on this blog and the ministry's site all the time.  They don't usually effect me. I delete them, laugh and shake my head at their grinchy dispositions and go about my day.  There was one line in a message once that struck me.  I was confused by its meaning, then I was bewildered why they'd say that about me, of course never having met me or knowing much about me at all.  It took a while to digest.  Here it is, "She can't even appreciate her own humanity."  The reference was to the fact that I am not living as a shell of a person, like I should be, drowning in my own grief and never ending pain of having placed my daughter, Alex, for adoption.  To her and many like her I am supposed to resign myself to being cemented in the moment of placement and to decide to step out of the muck and say, "I can go on" is heresy, a deliberate lie even. 

In the widowhood circles I run in we have a coined phrase "a new normal".  That means that while we cannot go back and feel the way we felt before our husbands were in our lives, we can go on and live our lives in renewal and happiness.  It just won't be the same. To us there is nothing wrong with that. It is what it is. Can't change it, just go on and and live the life you know he'd want you to have. 

To me having to let go of Alex was a significant and painful event in my life but it doesn't determine how I am supposed to feel for the rest of my life just like having to say 'goodbye' to my husband didn't.  Grief is an interesting thing. Some want to shed it like an overcoat on a warm day and others would sooner have you pry it off of their cold, dead bodies before they'd let it go. 

Either case of extremes is not healthy emotional healing.  Trying to outrun grief, as I made the mistake of doing when my husband passed away created a backlash of risky behavior, over-spending and spiritual havoc in my life. It also resulted in Alex's conception.  No, being honest with where I was at emotionally and spiritually would have been the better avenue.  I have found that it can't be any other way.  To the other extreme, I have seen widows, parents who have lost or placed children and other significant relationships become completely paralyzed in their grief.  They seem unable to see passed a traumatic event that changed their lives.  All the therapy, pills, booze, food and whatever else does nothing to improve the emotional and spiritual condition of the sufferer.

I get it.  I didn't go through but I understand how someone winds up in that place.  I remember when I was a new widow and even a new birthmother, I had an anxiousness about when I wouldn't feel bad any more. As much as I wanted to get better, I still held on to this idea that equated feeling better with not caring about my husband or my daughter any more.  There seemed to be an emotional bond between my misery and proving to myself and others that I still loved them. 

At some point I started to see my life continuance as something more worthwhile than just feeling grief.  There was a part of me that felt an innate drive to make something out of what Id' been through not just live with.  I wanted it to be useful instead of hindering.  Instead of using pain to display my love, I could use my experiences to prove that it was valuable.  I didn't want my daughter to see me as the woman who let her go, I wanted her to see the legacy I am leaving that reminds both of my children that their mother is more than the circumstances of her life and her choices.  To me, I want them to say I can rise above the tide when the floods come in because I saw my mother do it.  She is a strong, courageous woman who made something of her life and look at all that became of a certain time in her life not that these events became the ruination of her.  The biggest insult I could give to Alex and Carli would be for them to see that Alex's adoption destroyed my essence.  I want be present for Carli and enjoy her as much as I can because I know how fragile life is.  I don't want her so see Mom in a constant state of wishing her life was different.  She makes life worth living in the present for and to live in the past robs her of her childhood and a solid relationship with her mother. Children are a gift from God, even if we are not parenting them. We still have a responsibility to be the example we would want them to emulate.  I live this every day in hopes that I could be at least a shred of a role model for my girls. 

While both of you, Carli and Alex, celebrate Christmas this year with ribbons and bows, my gift to you both is a mother who is healthy, strong in her faith and striving to be someone you'd be proud of and I hope you can receive it with the same thanksgiving that I have for both of you, in grace instead of grief.