grief

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For twenty years, these documents were tucked away in a fireproof box at the back of the closet. I knew they were there, of course, as I knew where the tiny bodies, whose secrets they told, were laid, but I never revisited either. Too intense, I buried my emotions alongside them and covered them both with soil.

Survived.

Last weekend, I viewed the film, Room, and there was this moment when the young mother, who has been held captive for seven years, and survived only because of her love for her child, is suddenly freed. Able to cope with years of harsh deprivation, somehow she falls apart when her life is returned to ‘normalcy’ and safety. There is a scene where she looks back on her high school yearbooks (for me it was an old prom dress) at the life she once had…and by extrapolation, the future life she may have had had it not been interrupted so violently, in an instant.  Unable to cope with the grief of what has been lost, and the unreality of the world she has reentered, she attempts suicide.

That scene was like a missing piece of self-compassion for me. I have long judged myself harshly, considered myself weak, for falling so utterly apart in the wake of the dismantling of my first marriage. I mean persons get divorced all the time, and it is a deeply painful, shame and grief-filled time for most, but most don’t come so completely undone as I did. I recall hearing the diagnosis of PTSD and thinking, “who me?”

I also recall standing in the shower shortly after he walked out, that soil washing away. Images flashing before my eyes that I hadn’t remembered for twenty years, I sobbed, ‘Why? Why me?’. So many memories… a predatory teacher’s hand reaching for my 12 year old breast,the numbing sounds of a vacuum aspirator, the image of my mother’s back turning away from, abandoning me, long slender fingers of yet another tiny stillborn baby girl, a doctor swearing under his breath below my hips, propped on a bedpan, as he struggled to loosen the placenta from its hold,  young residents peering with curiosity at my anomaly.

Years of suspicion-possession-coldness-diminishment-control-rejection-shame accepted as love, the burn of the ropes that bound.

Bargains with God, abandonment by God, shamed before God, punished by God, anger at God, betrayal by God, darkness of God.

Fierce love for my children. Fierce determination. Fierce proving God wrong. Fierce striving to make myself worthy.

Survived.

When grief comes rushing at once like that, it can be almost impossible to stay afloat in the torrent that bursts through that dam. It is too much for a body to bear and I almost didn’t

survive.

But I did. I crawled to the sanctuary of safe harbors, sometimes to be safe from myself. Other times I was carried there by angels when the pain carried me over the edge.

It’s been fifteen years now. The waters are calm. I have visited their graves, laid their spirits to rest, found a love that honors, enlarges, uplifts, found a God that does the same. But still there rises from time to time an urgent call from somewhere beneath that still surface, for 35 years ago I made a promise to come back for her one day and she is still buried in the rubble at the bottom of that sea.

 

 

 

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M.C. Reardon

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