My Mom and Dad were divorced when I was one. Dad actually managed to sexually abuse me before the divorce. Karen and Janet, my two older sisters and I went to Dad’s on Sundays where we had breakfast. We listened only to classical music, which we hated probably because it was Dad. We did not like him too much, he was different. I had no idea until after he was murdered that he was gay. Well, looking back he was flamboyant, wearing scarves and brooches. He was a gourmet cook and prided himself in the feasts he made for us. My favorite was the crepes drenched in butter and cinnamon sugar. He kept house meticulously, which mirrored his career, a famous art restorer.
I never told him I loved him. We had an emotionally distant co-existence. One thing I have held dear like the person in Living through Personal Crisis by Dr. Ann Kaiser Stearns who saved all the clothes of their loved one is a small crystal Easter egg that he gave to me one Easter. It is a symbol of his love, and my valuing it. Mostly, he showed his love through things and outings to plays and musical recitals. Those times were sometimes fun sometimes tedious. But today, I have come to enjoy these types of cultural events. They have helped to shape who I am today.
How do you grieve someone you hardly knew, but who is supposed to mean so much?? I have postponed the grief some what through alcohol and drug use and avoidance. He did mean something to me because when we came home from school, in seventh grade, that day in January, I was shocked when Mom declared, you’re father is dead. What do you mean?! What happened?! What do you mean he’s dead?! Then the tears started to come and the oh my God’s- the utter shock. They told me it was a burglary but that is not what happened. The truth was withheld from me. He was actually taking advantage of two young male prostitutes. Risky behavior, that’s for sure. What do you mean male?! What do you mean prostitutes?! I was humiliated! It was years later that I got this news. The whole scene was embarrassing. I thought everyone knew from the newspaper but the whole story was not in the newspaper due to plea bargaining.
Back to the seventh grade when this occurred, I was supposed to give a speech dressed as Pocohontas in social studies. Needless to say I missed that one, and subsequently almost failed out of McDonogh that semester. People really don’t give enough time for grieving in this society. I needed more time.
You would not believe how many times I heard I’m sorry from acquaintances at school. It was too much. It did not help me at all to feel better. No one knew how to listen or even wanted to listen. One girl did ask me how many times he was stabbed. That was really ignorant. I would not have known what to say if someone had listened. But I’m sorry is really useless in helping a person in mourning.
Not having any close friends during this time caused me to push my anger down. This began years or depression and suicidal thoughts. An awful lot can happen when one does not deal with pain and loss. My best friend, Ramsey and I did not even talk about the loss of my Dad. However I did find one coping mechanism to further lengthen my grief. It was alcohol. My first drink was with Ramsey at her grandmother’s house. It was sweet white wine from my Dad’s wine seller.
I had no empathic friends at this time in my life, to route for me and help me to talk about my feelings. In middle school, who really has that anyway? It seems that no one I knew talked about problems, nor supported each other except the cheerleaders!
The importance of empathic friends in my life today is priceless. I would not do without the recognition of growth, warmth and affection, the reminders of strengths, and the respect of my courage and sense of determination along with all the other goodies that come from such a friend. I have also tried to be this kind of friend. I have discontinued those destructive relationships from my drinking and drugging days. Those days brought me nothing but being able to avoid my grief.
Another two forms of self-love I use now are first, a technique I learned from my therapist, looking in the mirror and having forgiveness and love for myself, and telling myself I love myself (looking deep within my eyes.) Also, I masturbate when I feel so inclined and do not feel guilty about it. It comforts me now as it did when I was younger.
At the time of the murder, I did not have any major decisions to make in the first year. My family went to Club Med as a getaway to heal from the loss. We did not heal any faster, but it was nice to escape for a while.
Now, when January approaches it always bring heavy, depressed, and angry feelings to the forefront of my mind. January 11th is especially hard, being the day he was murdered. I try to surround myself with supportive friends and make certain I am seeing my therapist once a week or more if needed.
The unexpected trouble I now expect is for movies to trigger a world of emotions and healing tears. Smoke Signals this past winter had me sobbing at the end where it talked about forgiving our fathers. It felt so good to let it out in front of my friend and the rest of the moviegoers. I even saw it twice, it affected me so much. I cried both times!
My mourning has lasted for far longer than the projected time of a year or two because I prolonged it with the use of drugs and alcohol. I did not want to feel the raw emotions, so I delayed it until my late teens and early twenties. This was the time in my life when I was forced to seek professional help in mental institutions and out of them. I will never forget writing my Dad a letter and having it read back to me by our family therapist. I cried when he got to the nice things my Dad did with us. Some nostalgia came back for this ogre called my father.
I have certainly hurt more from the loss and the sexual abuse, only to hurt less now on the other side. Many of my feelings were sent underground only to resurface many years later. The problematic consequences were and are suicidal tendencies, manic depression, a withdrawn demeanor, difficult relationships, and sexual promiscuity. I only felt guilt for a short time, but these other things, especially manic depression have stayed with me all these years. Other expressions of my denied feelings identified in Dr. Stearns book on page 61 that apply to me are moodiness, abuse of alcohol and drugs and reckless spending. I think I have had frozen emotions for a long time.
As I was said, I was forced to seek professional help in institutions starting at age 19. I was in a new town in Illinois with a boyfriend and had taken a hit of acid that did not wear off. I ended up being sent suicidal and got sent to a hospital. He was done with me. So I dealt with being insane and abandoned again all at once. I had no one to talk to about these things so I was sent back here to Baltimore and to Sheppard Pratt
So not only did I lose my love of two years, I also lost myself. That was too much crisis at one time but the murder of my father was most traumatic. I did not get the help I needed until seven years later in Sheppard Pratt.
Ever since Sheppard Pratt I have had a therapist to help me heal from the murder, and to process other strong feelings or any feelings at all. This however has not stopped me from returning to the hospital numerous times. Bi-polar is a difficult disease to bear. Thank God for medicine.
Faith learned in Alcoholics Anonymous has helped me to greatly to deal with my loss over the last seven years. I have a sense that no matter what happens all is well and will be well.
Dr Stearns book Living Through Personal Crisis has taught me to view grief in all these different ways, mentioned above. Now I will write how Hugh Missildine’s parental attitudes have also affected the perspective of my life.
Being the youngest, I am susceptible to oversubmissiveness. I am prone being demanding and impulsive. The adult traits that apply to me are as follows. I tend to have a warm outgoing winsome persuasive and charming personality, especially when I am manic. Also when I am manic and not, I am spontaneous and impulsive. If I am at home and think of a book I really want, nothing is stopping me from going and getting it right then. I smoke too much, especially when writing papers. I used to drink too much in my past. Right now due to medicine I am taking my appetite is voracious and I waste money on eating out at restaurants. I am better at not doing this now, but I have found it difficult to complete long-term goals.
I went through a 500 hour professional massage training program only to find out that I cannot be a sole practitioner. I must work with other people, on a team.
I am also fickle in relationships and friendships, but I am getting better here. I do not say no easily. I genuinely feel unloved when I am not given in to.
I have to have my way especially with my oldest sister. She gets so mad at me because of this self-will I exhibit. But I always feel belittled when she gets mad at me. I mean what did I do wrong?! I realize now I have to compromise.
Now the parental trait or reason or reason why my Mom was oversubmissive was because of my Dad being so strict and because of the sexual abuse. She was always trying to make up for that. She would buy us things and take us places impulsively. Her parents were not especially strict except her Mom. I think her Mom belittled her as a child a lot.
I must get control of my tendency to be generous to a fault, which I am. Also, I must make myself do what said I would do. This I am doing too. I must be getting better.
My tendency to form close relationships quickly and easily and just as easily move on to someone else is really hard to see about myself. I must maintain the friendships I have and learn not to get scared that they will leave first. That has always been my fear.
How to deal with it is by making myself my ideal parent for myself: reasonable; fair; loving; and firm. I have to set limits. I know from past experience that I cannot drink one beer. I would have to go out and have five more, so I set limits by not having any. That way I do not get in trouble. I also go to AA, where I learn the spiritual skills to set that limit. I compromise with my sister. When she has an idea, I go with it. This all takes self-honesty and being considerate with other people. I limit time I spend with other impulsive people. I will have to try treating myself when I do not give in to my impulsivity. I do have a certain amount of discernment that helps me read between the lines and trust my intuition
Neglect is the other parental attitude that I relate to. The adult traits are staying in destructive. I have stayed in relationships with depressed people too much in my past. One boyfriend dove into a wall because he was in a rage. I stayed with him for months after that.
I also have had low self-esteem especially when coming down from a manic high. That is the worst, because I feel on top of the world then plummet into depression and low self-esteem. That happened just in November of last year, but I am getting better.
I have always been somewhat of a loner. In middle school that was the hardest because my Dad died and there was no one to talk to about it.
I used to steal things when I had the money to pay for them. That lasted quite a while. I guess I thought that would fill my emptiness plus it was a thrill to not get caught.
The circumstances of childhood began with my Dad being a drug abuser. He took me to California to visit my aunt and cousins when I was ten. Well, we were all sitting in the sauna and my cousin started rolling a joint. So my Dad was sitting next to me and passed me the joint. I said, NO! He then said, Nothing will hurt you if you only try it once. I left saying, NO!
Then my Dad being murdered when I was twelve, as I wrote before. I also witnessed my middle sister getting caught shoplifting when I was young. My Mom had to pick her up from the police station. Whew I would not have wanted to be her!
My parents divorce is another circumstance of neglect. They were bitter with each other, especially my Mom, probably because of the sexual abuse.
Finally, my Mom has always been troubled about money. She has plenty of money, yet she is still troubled about it. She always tells me to save money because I am not too good at saving.
Coming from neglect, I yearn for closeness and intimacy but am afraid of getting hurt. Usually I get out of the relationship first. Also in relationships I have that come close/get away sentiment. I have ambivalence about relationships. What does help me is professional help. I do not know what I would do without a therapist and a psychiatrist. They help immensely.
Self-care habits also help. Eating healthy foods, sleeping enough, interest in activities, all these help. I have built some of a surrogate family but my family of origin is still very loving and kind.
The concept of self-love is apparent in both Dr. Stearns book and Hugh Missildine’s concepts. These two authors have really helped me to see where I can improve myself and get beyond my loss and the two people who raised me. There is no way under it, around it or over it, we have to go through it to see ourselves clearly. These two authors have helped me to see more clearly my life and ways to change my dysfunctional ways to functional ways of dealing with life and growing.