I grieve dreams.
I grieve hope.
I grieve for innocence and isolation.
All that I grieve came rushing back to me recently. I was at my parent’s home and my mother wanted some help going through old pictures. It started out just great, I loved seeing myself as a baby, a toddler, a feisty little kid that seemed in love with life and all that was around her.
However, it got difficult.
It got difficult because I came to the time in my life that before, I used to ignore. I came to that time of my life when I was sexually abused and the years that followed of survival and secrecy with me trying to forget it ever happened and believing if I did just that – forget, that all would be well. All wasn’t well. As I allowed myself to look, really look, at pictures of me during anytime after 11 years of age, I can hardly take it in.
Take, for example, the picture above. This picture was taken when I was 15 years old and with my family, on a once in a lifetime trip to my mother’s homeland, Argentina. It was taken at a time of seeming happiness for me – I was on a vacation in a beach resort town, connecting with family I had never met before but instantly falling in love with, and being surrounded by more love and acceptance than most people see in a lifetime; however, looking at this picture that caught me by surprise as it was taken, I am blown away at what I see – pain, fear, deep despair, self-loathing, sadness, and emotions that bring me to tears and for which, words are not sufficient.
In short, I see grief.
I began to realize that grieving isn’t just a process that follows a death, even though that seems to be the one grief our society allows as acceptable; even then, however, there seems to be a time limit placed upon it and certain steps that box it in, showing a futile attempt to contain the uncontainable.
Grief is LARGE, real, messy, painful, overwhelming, and hundreds of other adjectives; most importantly, and often forgot, however, is it’s uniqueness to every unique individual on the planet, which, in case I didn’t say the word “unique” enough times to drive home the point, means that for EVERYONE, grief, is different. .
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote a book in 1969 called, On Death and Dying, that had stages in it that someone grieving the loss of being diagnosed with a terminal illness MIGHT go through. It’s like somehow we are all playing the telephone game because when I heard about these stages in high school the word “might” never existed and there is no way I knew the stages were first referring to stages of grief that a person might go through in their process of understanding a terminal illness diagnosis. I was taught that they were just the five stages of grief … you grieve anything – a terminal illness diagnosis, a death of a child, parent, or friend, a divorce, a loss of a friendship, a loss of your innocence and childhood, a sexual assault, etc. – and you march down the listed stages until you hit the winning card of acceptance and all is fine, all is cured.
This isn’t true, this isn’t right.
Let’s stop playing the five stages of grief telephone game and realize that in no way did Kubler-Ross mean for her theory to be misconstrued as a blanket healing balm for all grief. In fact, she and David Kessler (a fellow colleague) wrote additional articles after her initial book to try and help society hear their real meaning and in those articles have said, “The stages have evolved since their introduction and they have been very misunderstood over the past three decades. They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss as there is no typical loss. Our grief is as individual as our lives.”
We all have messy emotions, we all have grief of some sort.
So, if you take anything away from this post today I hope it is that your grief is okay and whatever form it is manifesting in is okay as well. Stop adding guilt to the wound by believing you are “doing it wrong;” there is no wrong there is only what is real and happening for you. Does that mean you can’t work towards lessening your grief or pain? No. It just means that you get to decide what to do about it and what works for you, what helps you.
I guess I now return to my original question: what do you grieve?
For me, there are many things: I grieve loved ones who have passed on, I grieve dreams of what I thought my life would be and events that never came, I grieve the loss of myself at various times in my life, I grieve the noose that sometimes is around my neck in the form of anxiety, depression, or PTSD.
There are other grief’s that I’m starting to allow myself to look at and to stare down and one of those things is grieving all that my childhood sexual abuse at 11 took from me. Shining a light into what that looks like for me allowing myself to be vulnerable with that journey is what I believe the next little while holds for me.
What that looks like, I don’t know. How that will all turn out in the posts I choose to write, I haven’t the slightest.
What I do hope however is that you will take this ride with me, that you will continue to read and share if you so desire because my ultimate purpose still stands – if any part of my writings help only one person to feel less alone in this world, then I have succeeded.
For now, I choose to end this post on grief by sharing a few thoughts that have been on my mind recently as I have thought about my own life, my own grief.
I hear often from people, when talking about past pain or wrongs that individuals might be holding onto, that what needs to be done is to, “Lock the door to your past,” “Close the window in your mind because it isn’t happening anymore,” just:
Let. it. go.
How do you let go of something that you never held onto? That’s the question I have been asking myself lately. That’s the question that wakes me up in the middle of the night. That’s the question that slaps me across the face and knocks me in the stomach, leaving me gasping for air in a crowded room full of people who “never saw it coming.”
How do you hold onto something that you never want to be true? How do you hold onto something that you never let yourself look at because it was all about survival and now that you are looking at it, you can’t look away?
I was a victim of child sexual abuse.
No. No. No. No. No.
I am a victim of child sexual abuse.
Which is it Mia? Present tense – past tense?
“It’s ALL tense! It’s NO tense!” I want to scream.
It’s the incessant chatter, the outer and inner dialogue:
Don’t say victim, that’s weak – don’t say “sexual abuse” that’s too strong – be a survivor – you are a survivor – I don’t want to survive this, you survive this – toughen up – let it go – find the silver lining – it isn’t happening now – look forward – don’t look back – trust God – love yourself – serve others – be okay – stop calling me – find the positive – forgive – forget – give back – find God – trust me – trust you – others have it worse – see me – hear me – shake it out of me – God loves all the same – be sane – you are needy – you don’t reach out – PTSD isn’t real – messed-up – broken system – you are strong – you are weak – survive – move forward – you have a choice – it’s not what happens to you – yes it is – yes it is – yes it is!
I grieve in a world that tells me not to grieve.
I grieve for a world that tells me not to grieve.