Today, I woke up feeling shame that I always dread Easter. This year that dread seems to be at a higher level than usual. It will be fourteen years since my father’s suicide, the Friday after Easter, and I still feel weighted down. And even that feels shameful.
I don’t talk much to my church friends or pastor about the reason I tend to disappear during Easter. In a nutshell, I’ve got Daddy, Jesus, and death rolled up in a pretty tightly knitted ball. I feel pain, so I retreat.
This morning I thought maybe a gratitude list of what is going on in my life right now might help me out of my funk. Here it is:
· I am grateful that my Higher Power loves me and allows me moments of doubt as well as moments of clarity.
· I am grateful for my marriage.
· I am grateful that my mother is still alive and seems to be doing so well.
· I am grateful for my decision to write even though I struggle for ideas and scenes.
· I am grateful for the Spring season coming. I saw buttercups sprouting this morning.
· I am grateful for my Codependence Anonymous support groups that I attend on a regular basis.
· I am grateful for the friendship of my dog.
· I am grateful for grocery stores.
· I am grateful for new friendships.
· I am grateful for the realization that I grieve today.
Pictures of my father entered my mind, uninvited. Thoughts of his blood invaded everything. They swept through my every action and camped out in my dreams. Day or night, asleep or awake, it didn’t matter. I was suddenly emerged, pre-soaked, and never rinsed clean. I had bloodstains on my mind.
I obsessed. How long had he been thinking of killing himself? He started clearing away everything around his house nearly a month before. Had he also planned on killing Moma? He really could have, you know; I believed it was on his mind. He had tried to throw away her tomato cages as if she wouldn’t have another growing season. But Moma gave Daddy a hard time about throwing her gardening supplies away. So he put them back.
“What in hell’s name were you thinking?” I cried out in my sleep enough to wake me. Had he planned on me finding him? He knew I was coming to visit. He knew that I usually came looking for him. Did he have faith that I would take care of things for him?
How long did I suffer from traumatic stress? It was a long time. I longed for just the grief of missing Daddy and not being stuck on how he died. Counseling helped, although I have had uneasy feelings that tap me on the shoulder still.
Finally, I could pinpoint when the lessening started. In a dream, I didn’t raise that garage door; I didn’t go in calling out his name. In my dream, I chose not to go in. Waking, the dream left me feeling rested. Perhaps that one particular dream was the first real scabbing-over of my heart.
Raw grief hurts so much. It does get easier. It takes a while. Look to your dreams.
At its best our mother/daughter relationship was an intense flip-flop thing. One moment we bathed in each other’s love and attention, sharing laugher and friendly conversations. Then—flip, one of us penetrated the other’s skin-thin edges and we got mad, or hurt, or both. Sharp words crystallized into sudden swords stabbing. Then—flop—we would start a conversation about Daddy or gardening or birds, the whole time smiling those there-you-go-again grins. It had always been like that for us. We were close.
My mother and I shared the brunt of finding my father’s body. The first year after Daddy’s suicide, we reminded each other of that day just by eye contact. Traumatic shock affected our relationship.
I felt angry and guilty toward her. I didn’t want to talk to her about my father after his death, good or bad. She had trust-issues and leaned on me for too much emotional fuel. I erected reinforced wall-boundaries. When she crawled over them, I felt angry that she wouldn’t seek support from anyone else. Sometimes I even hated being around her. Then I felt guilty—thought myself uncaring. To keep from hurting her with these feelings, I kept an emotional distance. And truth be known, I think she felt the same way around me.
I wished that our relationship would snap back to its original innocence and felt a spinning anger at my father that his action had set Mom and me haywire. At least we still had gardens and birds to talk about.
Some things shouldn’t be measured in terms of good or bad. They are as they are. Suicide takes its toll in relationships and each person is responsible for their own grief. When the well is empty, does it apologize to the dropped bucket?