Friday, January 17, 2014

Careful... I might bite!

After the last of family had left after Tyler's funeral, the house was quiet. The  phone wasn't constantly ringing, we had nothing pressing to get to, people weren't bumping into each other on my sidewalk.  We shut the door and sat there, and it was scary.  We had had this little bubble surrounding us the past week, taking care of our needs and keeping us busy.  I had plenty of people to cry to, plenty of people caring for us and now it was so quiet.  We had meals in the freezer to get us through busy days or just days that I couldn't get it together, but it was so lonely the weeks following.

I was in an internal war with myself, and I over analyze things.  Our situation was such that I absolutely could not fall apart.  I had 4 confused and angry children.  I already felt like I was on the brink of no return mentally, and I was so afraid that if I gave in, I might never ever return.  I couldn't try to escape reality and in return I was angry with those in my life that chose to.  I felt like it wasn't fair that I had to feel it all and take care of it all.  Why didn't anybody else step up and let me float for awhile when it was obvious I was not going to be able to swim much longer without some emotional rescue?!

I felt so strange.  I was embarrassed to be the center of attention and I was so defensive that I didn't cry openly much.  I'm pretty sure people were a little confused when I would console them instead of the other way around.  
I went to the grocery store for my post funeral debut, and I wasn't fully prepared for that trip.  I know I had expectations that nobody could know or meet, and I got home, exhausted.  Everywhere I turned, there was someone giving their condolences or asking me questions, and after I was able to move to the next section, I would see someone else. Sometimes people asked me about everything BUT the huge meteor that hit my home, and I would think, "Just say it already.  How do you not know that I have a dead kid?  How can you possibly think that I truly care about anything else?  Please stop making small talk and just ask me."    After that, I saw someone that I considered a friend notice me and she hurried to duck down an aisle.  That really hurt.  I completely understand that people don't know how to behave in situations like this.  Obviously, I didn't even stay consistent with what I wanted.  

  If anyone were to judge me on what I displayed openly, they might think that I was unfeeling or that I had rebounded quickly.  
I said that I was afraid of not coming back, and that's the truth.  Was I going to be a happy person?  Would my kids grow up to say that when their brother died, so did their parents?  Would I abandon everything I had struggled for within myself because of grief?  Would my marriage and family survive if we both gave in to our guilt and sadness?  How I wanted to fall and sob out loud these things that ate away at my mental well being and my heart when people asked me how I was doing!  
It didn't take long at all to feel completely squeezed out of my place.  Nobody intentionally did it, but as we were planning the funeral, it was honestly the first time that I felt I had no place in the "family" section.  It was as if I was nothing more than a nanny who was no longer needed, after doing all the grunt work and investing so much into raising a human being.  I felt like all eyes were on me, wondering how I felt like I deserved the right to ache over this loss when I didn't share any blood with him. As if raising him for 15 years didn't mean a thing. 
 I felt so...irrelevant.  

I didn't go through the stages of grief as we know them.  I didn't bargain.  I had been doing that for years when I just thought terrible things were going to happen.  The day of reckoning had come and I didn't have a choice.   I regretted with everything that I didn't know what my feelings of fear the night of were all about.  I wished I had been able to figure it out sooner.  
I don't recall being in denial much.  I did for a little bit.  I had known that something was off the day that it happened.  I remember the sick feeling that I couldn't put my finger on, so when the officers came with the news, I knew it was true.  Of course, I went through different options.  But those ideas were brief and did no good.  I didn't get the closure of an explanation or apology.  None of us saw his body until the viewing, and even then I wasn't completely convinced that they had the right person.  The texture of his hair and the shape of his fingernail beds couldn't be imitated.  I held a little seed of hope down deep that he would walk through the door one day, but I really knew that he wouldn't.

It's fair to say that I was numb.  Feeling something extreme was one way to upset the whole cart, so I plugged along, beating myself up privately, expressing myself with control.  

But wow, did I get stuck on the anger!  
"In days that follow, I discover that anger is easier to handle than grief." -- Emily Giffen.  Heart of the Matter
It's strange, because on one hand people will tell you that it's ok to be angry, but then they get scared when you are.
The first thing that happens in a small town is that word gets around fast.  I'm not complaining about that at all, because it is good more times than it is bad.  My kids have called me from school with news that upsets them or excites them, and chances are other people know the same news just as quickly.  I only remember making 3 phone calls the night we found out, but this wonderful community was rallied very quickly.  But just as quickly, the speculation, the rumors, the judgements went around too.  I was ok with some of it.  It happens.  But it seems like there is a difference when someone dies in a car accident, or of a disease versus a suicide.  Suddenly, people feel the need to pick apart the deceased and talk about things they know nothing about.  I heard all sorts of nasty things and it broke my heart even more.  Here was a boy with hurts so deep that he didn't let any of us know about, but people felt it was ok to talk about those as if they were nothing?  My original thoughts on suicide were that it was a selfish thing to do.  That if someone was going to great lengths to get attention, it was better not to give it to them.  My thoughts now:  The person suffering truly, deeply thinks that it is a selfless act.  They already felt so selfish, always thinking about how miserable they were and they really believe they are doing something to put an end to a problem that they can't see a solution to at the moment.  Those people deserve just as much dignity in death as they wanted in life.  He made stupid choices, he acted like a turd sometimes, he ticked people off, he hurt people, but don't we all?  I was so angry at the people that discussed his life as if it all boiled down to those last few minutes of it.

My kids missed a week of school and I had no problem letting them come home in the afternoon if they just couldn't handle it when they went back.  I sometimes went back to bed, or sat around in my pajamas crying, so how could I expect them to smile and concentrate all day at school?  One day, less than 2 weeks after Tyler's death, a kid at school told one of my children , "My mom says that you're just dragging it out to get attention."  The anger flared again.  "Excuse me, but is there a different way you're supposed to act when you're brother is gone?  Is there a timetable that says you've passed the allotted time to have crippling emotions?" It's been 4 years and I think I cry more now than I did then.  Does someone want to tell me how long I am allowed to FEEL?  I dare them.

I was angry at people that had no clue I was angry at them.  Sometimes it was some arbitrary reason that I got mad.  I was mad at perceived and obvious slights, for keeping secrets, when I felt like I was made a fool.  I was mad at my husband who was hurting just as much as anybody because I didn't tell him what it all was doing to me.  I was mad every time someone looked uncomfortable when I talked about Tyler.  "I'm sorry, is that weird that I talk about a PERSON that I love and miss?"  I was mad when someone outright got mad at me for being mad.  As if my relationship with him was so superficial that it was reserved for those that loved him more. Mad that we were broke, mad that we were broken.  I was just MAD.

I held a resentment toward Tyler mostly for leaving.  I thought it was cowardly to check out when we were all plugging along, even if we weren't happy.  I expressed this to him many days over the next couple of years.  It really didn't seem fair sometimes and I couldn't understand how he could do this terrible thing to his brothers and sisters that he loved so much.  I was confused and hurt as to why he kept such secrets and felt like he couldn't come to us for guidance and help and I was really disappointed that after some of his experiences, he didn't feel like he could turn to God for help either.

Funny thing is, I wasn't mad at God (at least not for this).  I understood our free agency and I understood that he can't stop consequences from our choices.  Instead of feeling like he DID something to me, I felt like he was just as sad as we were.  I felt comforted knowing that this life is not the end, and just like people expressing disgust at me for being mad because I didn't create Tyler, what right did any of us have to get mad at the One that did create him?  He loved him just as much.  It's just because we can't see Him that we think we have the right to unleash and say things that we probably wouldn't to someone standing in front of us in the flesh. With all the anger surrounding me, this little feeling kept whisping in and out now and again.

You know what the good thing is?  Just like deep sadness, being angry doesn't have to last forever.

1 comment:

  1. I love you Amber. I am so sorry for the pain you and your family have gone through. Being in Africa, we are so far removed from everyone, so thank you for sharing, and know that we care deeply. Imagine a warm blanket around your shoulders. That's me giving you a biggest hug ever. I'm sure it's healing writing your blog, and it's helpful for me and many others to know what you are going through. You are always in our prayers.
    Aunt Judy