The Ugly Side of My Grief
Grief. It envelopes me like a velvet cloak, it’s dark, heavy weight covering every part of my life.
I try to escape it. For short moments of time, at least. But it doesn’t last. I try to flip it. I find ways to make it more positive, uplifting, a potential for growth. But it just drags me back, to the darkness of long unresolved childhood scars and memories.
Since I was 12 years old, my relationship with my mom has been broken. Damaged, mauled, irreparable, and the carnage only worsened with the passage of time. The older I got, the worse our relationship became. My mother had disconnected. She disowned me on multiple occasions for years at a time. Her only reason for maintaining contact over the past decade was her granddaughters, and even that was limited. She spoke to them on the phone often but saw them only a handful of times and despite begging on our part, refused to come visit and didn’t invite us to visit her. The saddest thing of all, is there was no reason for it outside of a reality constructed by her own head.
My mother, a person whom I loved with all my heart, was incapable of handling personal conflict and maintaining close intimate relationships with others. I took her rejection and distance personally, but it wasn’t just me that she distanced herself from. She created a life inside a bubble where she felt safe and secure and in full control of every detail. She did not let anyone into that bubble. She would join life outside her bubble but only within the boundaries of her own unspoken rules and if you broke those rules you were either “distanced”, cut off entirely, or hit with a nuclear weapon in a vicious attack. In her head, it was those of us on the outside who had rejected or threatened her or her reality, and she was deeply hurt by that.
The thing is, MOST people who knew her never saw any of this. My mother had an incredibly polished external persona! She was absolutely charming, personable, fascinated by other’s stories, and because of that most people liked her very, VERY much. No one (or, very few) understood that these were just surface traits and an entirely different personality, that only came out when they were gone, lay beneath. One that was hurt, angry, resentful and jealous. It made for a very confusing life with her. I was always questioning which person was real.
Throughout my lifetime of therapy I was told over and over again by Drs that my mom had a personality disorder and most likely a combination of them. I understood where they were coming from in that assessment but at the same time I was in denial because that external persona of hers seemed reasonable and rational and she was in that persona quite often. Wouldn’t she KNOW if she had a personality disorder? Wouldn’t she want to fix it? The answer to both is NO. It isn’t something she would have believed or accepted (flashbacks to our therapy sessions where she routinely deflected therapist’s comments off of her and on to me) and if she did know, she would have deeply buried it. She was all about projecting an image of perfection.
With her death, everything that I had kept bottled up in my attempt to not drive her further away, has come crashing out with incredible force. It is overwhelming. For the first time in my life, I am seeing my mother as the abuser so many of my therapists had tried to tell me she was… and that is a horrible thing to feel. I always told them they were wrong. She wasn’t abusive, I was just really difficult. I was the broken one. That’s what SHE was always telling me and by the time I was 18 I believed her. I was broken and she suffered because of me. Why were the Drs so quick to tell me it was the other way around?
So, here I sit, 3 months after her death and I am seeing 41 years of a very difficult life with her in a different perspective and IT IS UGLY! I hate feeling this way. I hate even more that I still don’t know what was real, and I never will.