Your Grief May Never End
I now know mine won’t, but that is better than the alternative
In my 47 years, I have not yet lost either of my parents or a close relative to death. Yet I know grief.
My first four pregnancies were lost to miscarriage, and my only living child, now 19 is severely intellectually disabled. His father, my husband of 24 years, was an abusive controlling man and has made most of my adult life a misery.
Now he has taken my child, a young man without a voice, a human being who I carried, nurtured and loved. It was his final punishment, the consequences of me having the audacity, despite the traps he carefully constructed over more than two decades, to escape his control.
I am deeply acquainted with grief.
I know its stages. I have experienced the denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and guilt. I understand they don’t happen in order and that each stage is usually revisited more than once. Over the last nine months, I have vacillated between extreme anger, deep depression and an overwhelming urge to use my skills as a lawyer to find a way to bring my son back to me.
Yet there is one stage of grief that I have vehemently resisted. The one that for me symbolized defeat, the ultimate victory that my abuser would have in my life.
Acceptance of the reality that I may never see my son again. Accepting that my ex-husband has driven the last nail into my proverbial coffin. Accepting that he wins, my son loses, and so do I.
There is nothing I can do about it. I shared my story about that here.
We Let Fathers Walk and Crucify Mothers Who Can’t Cope
Trial by gender is rampant when it comes to parenting the severely disabled
A big part of the struggle is that I made the decision to completely cut contact with my ex-husband knowing that the loss of my son was a potential consequence. I can’t describe the guilt I feel at making that decision. A decision for which I may never forgive myself.
Grief without death
I am part of a group of mothers who have lost their children. I’m part of a smaller group of mothers who have lost their children, yet their children still live.
I am a mother who may or may not have her relationship with her child restored, which is a good thing, because I have hope. It’s also a challenge because I don’t have closure.
And for my son and me, it’s a separation that neither of us wants. A separation that is a tragic result of me having the courage to put an end to more than two decades of domestic abuse.
For me, I teeter on the knife-edge of a complete breakdown every day, a crash that if it eventuates, from which I have no confidence that I could recover. A deep realization, that I must maintain my stance that I cannot under any circumstances have any contact with my abuser, my son’s father.
A man who was a terrible husband but was and is a capable and loving father. A father who no doubt believes that he is doing the right thing. The man who has Jack in his care.
Accepting the reality, for now
The most painful part of grief for me has been the reality that I must accept, at least for now, that I cannot see my son. To do so means contact with my ex that will at the very least re-traumatize me, at worst push me over the edge.
But I have learnt that acceptance of my current situation does not mean that I have given up hope. Like all stages of grief, it is not a ‘serve it once and it’s over’ situation. Many, many times over the last five years I have, sometimes without warning, revisited the passion of anger or the temporary relief that denial brings.
Acceptance is no different. I can accept my situation, for today, tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow I may be angry, depressed or may bargain with myself, with my situation, with God.
I may, for another day, accept my current reality.
I won’t know until tomorrow gets here.
But I do know that I misunderstood acceptance. To me, acceptance meant a conclusion to the grieving process. A place where I no longer felt pain. The end of my agony.
I was wrong.
I don’t think that will never happen. Not for me.
My pain remains because Jack matters.
I misunderstood the Acceptance stage of grief
I thought it meant that I would be the way I was before, before I lost Jack. Somehow, once I had paid enough penance at the altar of agony I would somehow emerge, pain free. If I could only suffer enough, cry enough, journal enough I would emerge, just like I was before.
I now know that acceptance is the bridge between today and what life has for me next. It doesn’t mean that what has happened is less painful or doesn’t matter. It just means that I can go on, different but okay.
It certainly doesn’t mean I’ve lost hope.
Actually, it feels like just the opposite.