“If we are grieving, it is because of our blessed capacity to embrace life and take risks.” – Kathleen Hawk
Although writing usually helps clarify my thoughts, composing this journal entry isn't as easy as I imagined. I not only encounter multiple issues that resist translation, I come into collision with my own perceptions. No matter how the words arrange themselves, they look back at me with trifling glances. The deeper I excavate, the less justice accorded to the lived experience. I find I can only endure so much time addressing this topic before I'm consumed with nausea or fatigue.
When we believe we are undeserving, we may involuntarily open ourselves to unsuitable company without understanding why. These unsuitable personalities have abilities to decode susceptibility and hoodwink others through false assurances. While being charming on the surface, they are volatile, combative, and disrespectful of boundaries. They maintain a persistent self-referential attitude and suck away energy like vampires. Yet, as one therapist put it,
"The abuser may be loving between abusive episodes, so you deny or forget them."
These abusive episodes operate within cycles and begin with measured doses of seductive sweetness, followed by days of increasing tension, then finally erupting into violent verbal and/or physical attacks. They're called cycles because the sweetness, tension and acting out become a recurring pattern played over and over again like a loop cassette tape.
This kaleidoscope of emotional contradiction is just one example of the drama I faced. After each explosion I’d put on an antic disposition, not wanting to eat nor take care of myself. I breathed a peculiar kind of calm because I didn't have to walk on eggshells. I’d go for long walks alone; I'd interact with strangers on the street; I'd sit near my daughter's bed at night and cry as if to mourn an unforeseeable exile and I’d tuck away a small suitcase with carefully packed clothes, important documents and other essentials, in case I needed a quick getaway. For many years, I strained as I listened to cheerful voices celebrating family achievements or special occasions, yet such joy seemed out of my reach.
Usually when society thinks of grief, it fails to acknowledge losses that are not death related. For many years I have been involuntarily experiencing what therapists refer to as “disenfranchised grief”-- grief that is not socially validated because of the stigma attached to emotional abuse.
Recovery from abuse is as elusive as it is profound. The hardest part is having so few models to follow. You frantically seek help, only to realize the subject at hand is foreign to the general public. Just as support can hold you steady, the opposite can throw you into perplexity.
Only when we embrace trauma, can we release it. Recently I came across a list of “grief” descriptions that I converted into questions to reflect upon. To this end, dear readers there is a means...
Who was I before the abuse began?
Why did I not take action when the abuse first happened?
What about the life I could have lived?
What about the dreams that never bore fruit?
What about the person I thought she was?
What kind of father would I have been had my marriage been different?
What kind of life could my child have lived?
How do I grieve a life I can no longer recover?
How do I come to terms with the way it was -- the way I wished it had been?
-- Intuitive Feeling