Friday, February 6, 2015

Post Estrangement: Who are our others?

Who are the others
that guide and help us
through the darkness of grief 

Ziva: “One gets over the loss of a wallet or a watch. But a loved one, they never leave  you. You never get over; you only get through.”
Lydia: “How?”
Ziva: “By leaning on others, the comfort of friends.”
~ NCIS, Season 10, Episode 8 

If you have been estranged there is a feeling of isolation, of being alone, of being the only one experiencing the pain you are feeling.

And yet there remains the human need for the comfort of friends.  But who can we turn to that understands the enormity of what we face?

In the aftermath of estrangement our corner of the world, our security has been shattered.   Family and friends seem to “choose sides”.   And those who do not choose our “side” drift quickly away, furthering the feeling of abandonment. 

Then those who have no reference point for the grief we experience get tired of hearing our sorrow and they slowly distance themselves.   Oh yes we still “see them” but there is a clear message that they don’t want to hear about "it" anymore.   Small comments like “isn’t it time for you to move one”, or the glazed look in their eyes when you open the topic once again in an effort to make sense of it all. Or maybe they say things to you like “you need to see a therapist to talk to” (meaning I don’t want to listen to you anymore)   You figure it out, you know that they are done with “hearing about IT”.

You would think that parents who have lost children to death would be a source of comfort.  But for the most part they don’t understand.   They say things like “but your child is still alive ALL you have to do is mend the bridges”.   And they say it like that is something that is simple to accomplish, as if we have not already tried that over and over again with negative results.  For them it is just a question of if you work at it hard enough you can have your child back so you are not like us.  We do not belong; we do not get the comfort we need from them.

We also get no comfort from others with broken relationships, separations or divorce.   There is love yes, but the bond that a parent feels for a child is powerful strong.  It was designed that way by nature to protect the child in the process of growing up.  Just because the force is no longer needed does not mean that it no longer ties us to our estranging adult child (and subsequent grandchildren).  And so we don’t get the comfort we need from those support groups either, for these are about relationships that end and both parties move on.  We don't stop being parents!  Even when the relationship is ended we are still parents and grandparents.  That fact does not change!

We might move on, but our burden remains right there with us all the time, centered in our nurturing parenting heart. Our family remains our family even when we are estranged. 

So inevitably we gravitate toward one another.  We find support groups of other parents that have also been estranged or alienated.   Because here we find acknowledgement, perhaps for the first time since being estranged, that we are not alone in what we feel.  The devastation that has come into our lives and the crazy swirling of emotions that comes with being estranged is real to this group of people.  Other estranged parents become our “others”. 

And this is a good thing for we are no longer isolated

And at the same time this is a bad thing for in finding our “others” it becomes tempting to stay in one place in our grieving process, we forget that we are on a journey “through grief” and support groups for estranged parents tend to become places to “remain in grief.”  For in having our grief finally validated by others we lose the sense of direction that grief is a journey through toward healing.

And so support groups for estranged parents become this breeding ground for talking about how awful X was, and how horrible Y treated me, and always the topics return over and over again to the past and what has happened and why did it happen.  

And here is where the conundrum lies; can the same group that finally made us feel that we are no longer alone; our “others” help us on the journey through grief toward healing?

I have come to the conclusion that this group of peers is a temporary place of grief and understanding and that at some point in time we need to move forward, to seek out groups that are focusing on healing in the aftermath.

I need to be very clear, I am not in any way saying that support groups for estranged parents are not useful.  They are in fact essential to the process of coming to understand:

1.  I am not alone
2.  what I am feeling is normal
3.  I am a good person
4.  I did nothing to deserve this
What I am saying is that when the support group no longer fosters your own healing, when it keeps you in the cycle of pain rather than moving through the cycle of grief then you have start to look for healing support.

For us to journey through grief and into healing we need a group of “others” that is on the same journey.

While to share grief is a solace, it behooves us to remember that to share a grief is not enough.   While sharing a grief, feels really good, and knowing you are no longer in isolation offers a foundation for strength and hope, there is the danger that this comfort will become the crutch for not moving into the healing stage.  If there is no motivation to move beyond the grief and back into life, there is no healing.  

And to live life; really live not simply exist, we do need to move beyond grief.  That requires forward momentum.  And forward momentum does not come from looking back. Forward momentum comes from engaging the future. 

And so there comes a time for each of us at a different stage in the grieving time line, when we accept that there is a choice to be made.  The choice is to remain with the same group of others, repeating and reliving the unending tragedy of our lives, or to join a new group of others, one determined to accept that the grief exists and possibly will always exist, while at the same time accepting that there is life to be lived beyond grief, beyond the trauma of being estranged.

This is my journey; the journey beyond grief, the healing journey.  I will remain eternally grateful to my grieving group of “others” for they held my hand when I was isolated and needed a hand to hold. 

More and more I am drawn to those groups that struggle with healing.   We make two steps forward and then fall back one.  But we push and pull each other forward.  We celebrate that we are more than just parents who have been estranged or alienated, but that we are people who deserve more from life that never ending grief.

Most of my writing currently is dedicated to this group of parents; my “others” that help me get through the grief and living life once again.  I accept that as Ziva said in the opening dialogue “there is no getting over but you get through with the support of “others”

Renate Dundys Marrello 
2015 - 02 - 06
updated 2015 - 09 - 26:  There is hope in healing.  
Healing is allowing me to look back at the early grief with a new clarity. To understand more about the process of grief in the aftermath of estrangement and to be able to write about those moments that felt as though my world had ended.  

I hope to be able to have the strength to start to share those thoughts in the future for those still struggling in what I have labeled "the abyss".  

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  1. your posts are always so encouraging .. this one especially reaches deep. thank you.

  2. Thanks, Renate. First, I'm still just so grateful to have found a community of people dealing with this. I am focused on moving forward, though there are "those days". I have no interest, and never have, in blaming, but instead accepting the reality that I have suffered abuse. Who me?!? Never thought this would happen. Now I need to do the work to make my bad fewer and my good days more frequent. I have used a couple of your great insights to do this. One was when you talked about having your arm cut off. You can live without an arm, but just have to find new ways of doing things. The other one is your "monthly adventure" - I'm going on one next weekend. By myself, but will meet up with a friend for a part of it. And to a place that I love and that is healing. Thanks so much - I'd love to join your healing community.

  3. Replies
    1. yes there are.
      I do not post them publicly because they can only be helpful if they are secret.
      Personal message me on my FB page and I will gladly help you fin one.