face the world

Betrayed by the In-Laws

Edgar Allan Poe

One of most hurtful moments in my spouse’s passing, was the betrayal by his family that followed. My spouse died by suicide. This changed me. I was 23, young, and shocked. I didn’t know how to respond. My natural instinct was to be as transparent, honest and kind as I could about everything that happened. Part of being transparent was telling his family I had wanted to get divorced. The only thing I remember lying about was positive things my husband had said about his family members. I wanted them to hurt less.

I didn’t see it then, but during the funeral his family didn’t acknowledge me as his wife. Instead, I was the cause of death. I became the scapegoat. In their eyes I must have known he was going to do it and even pushed him to it. I look back know and realized they wouldn’t have let me talk at my own husband’s funeral if I hadn’t pushed and my parents hadn’t been present. It wasn’t until I saw the police report openingly saying his mother blamed me and receiving a letter from his mother’s lawyer demanding I give them everything of his, that I understood how I wasn’t a part of his family. I should have known this when they didn’t even come to our wedding. Instead they slandered my name and drug me through the mud while accusing me of trying to steal his life insurance money from them- none of which I received (also if any of you know anything about SGLI this is ludicrous and completely impossible). They left me with all the primary next of kin responsibilities of closing out a life. I was left with shutting down his accounts, from social media to financial. I was left to pay off all his debt (I never fail to see the irony of this since his family received his life insurance). I paid for his funeral and fought for his legal rights after death. I informed his employers, his friends, everyone. I was left with the painful process of closing the remnants of his life while his family took all the moments of closure. They talked at his funeral and took the flag from his casket. They did his temple work (religion) without even acknowledging me or receiving my permission. They put a tombstone on his grave without my input, permission or providing the option to be next to him, to be together when I die. The hurt and deliberate infliction of it were endless. Never in my life did I realize or understand how death brings out the worst in people.

I am sure I made mistakes and wasn’t always the kindest person, but I didn’t expect the unadulterated hatred and animosity pouring from his family. I had never experienced being blamed for someone else’s actions as much as his family held me accountable for his. It made me physically ill- it still does. The accusations and slander were heartbreaking. Even to this day I won’t go to his grave because his family was so hostile and going to visit him would be going to a plot they own. I’ve considered moving his body, I have the rights to his body, but the reality is it’s not worth the hurt it would cause to me or them. Instead I’ve settled for laying flowers where he shot himself.

His family is dysfunctional. To survive they need someone to blame. They would be destroyed if they had to take responsibility for any part of his action. To acknowledge that they had some part in it- we all did, but in the end it was his choice and his alone. Understanding his family’s dysfunction helps me understand my husband’s pain and in part his decisions. It doesn’t make it hurt any less or justify any of it, it just makes it more sad. In the end blaming someone simply causes more hurt. Being angry with someone only causes more hurt. Yet, we can’t control how someone else feels and reacts. We can only control ourselves. Holding others accountable for someone’s actions doesn’t make anything or anyone better. All we truly have in this life is relationships. Spending time making them miserable isn’t worth it. Love, forgive and move on.

“You should be over it”

Brandon

“You should be over it” I can’t count the number of times someone has said this to a grieving person. There is nothing more frustrating than this comment. Whether the intent behind it is kind or not- this comment is absurd.

Grief is complex. What makes it so fascinating to me is how everyone grieves differently. There are those who cry instantly for months and others who can’t force themselves to shed a tear. Others who talk nonstop for months about the pain of their loss and others who don’t say a word. Some become manic and others stop functioning. The reactions are so spread and diverse that there is no set “this is how to grieve” or this is “normal”. Everything is normal. Grief can take years to recover from. There is no “set” time.

Another comment that seems to be commonly repeated is, don’t do anything rash, you aren’t in the right frame of mind. I have found I have never been more sound of mind than when my world came crashing in. Dealing with death provides value in life. A friend recently had a brother die and her response was she wanted to go do something with her life. She felt she needed to do more, but everyone kept telling her to stay at her job and don’t do anything rash. When I talked to her my advice was this, “If you feel the motivation to do more do more, if you want to quit your job, quit. Searching and pushing forward, helps provide closure. I am not saying quit without a back-up plan and no way to pay your bills, but listen to yourself. If your mind needs more, go out and find it. What’s the worst that will happen if you quit your job and put your focus to something new. If in a year you are still lost- the opportunity to go back and do what you were doing before will still be there. Allow death to let you live.”
I am positive  I could make a list a mile long of absurd comments people have made, but instead I’ll stick to these two. If you have any comments people have made or advice you’d like to share please put them in the comments.

Bitterness

AfghanistanI don’t typically consider myself a bitter person. However, I got a massage the other day and as the masseuse was moving over my body we talked about the knots, tight and swollen parts of my body.  I enjoy the process of learning about myself through my body and others’ eyes. The masseuse explained what each painful body part was associated with for emotions. Muscles hold emotions hence physical healing can equate to emotional healing and vice versa. A lot of what she told me were things I already considered and thought about, but bitterness caught me off guard.

My masseuse suggested I start writing down when I can remember being bitter possibly starting with the first time I can remember. My first instinct was to say I’m not bitter. I have made peace with my life and forgiven, but then I started to think. And here I am.

The first times I really remember being bitter is 5th grade. I was probably bitter before then, but can’t recall. I wanted to play on a competition basketball team and the coach had put a team together without me. I don’t know if it was so much bitterness or simply questioning why they wouldn’t pick me to be on the team. I wanted to play. Eventually I did. Eventually I became really good. Eventually I got over it.

The next time I can recall being bitter is in 7th grade when teenage girls were teenage girls. The typical ‘one day we will speak to you, the next we won’t’ or ‘ we are all friends except with her today’ drama. Again I feel like this exclusion caused more hurt than pain. Pain potentially turned to bitterness. I am friends with many of those same girls and I don’t think this really caused any bitterness or animosity.

Maybe the first time I felt turn bitterness is 8th grade when I kissed a boy for a dollar on the bus. He was pronounced amazing and a stud. I got called a dollar-whore. The double standard of men and women’s roles in society had never been so real or prevalent until that kiss. This is when I learned there is no such thing as equality. I am bitter over this.

The next thing I remember being bitter about is when my best friend convinced me to dump the boy I had been in love with for years. Because she didn’t like him. The next week they were dating. I’m also bitter my first true sexual experience. I was used and discarded by the group of guys I had been really good friends with for years. I was the girl in the group and not one of the guys like I thought.

I remember walking with Amber to meet a guy and some friends during the summer. I looked at her and said please don’t leave me alone with this guy. We had met him the day prior and he scared me. She left me with him within minutes of meeting up with everyone. He took advantage of the situation and raped me. I’m not bitter over the rape. I am bitter over the fact  I asked my friend to stay with me and she abandoned me without any thought or hesitation.

I was bitter as a freshman basketball player when I rarely got to play Varsity. I thought I was better than some of the Varsity girls and I wanted to play.

I remember being bitter that I never fit in with the girls I played ball with. I was never pretty enough, feminine enough, I was never the “it” girl. I wasn’t the girl the boys were interested in.

Being bitter over never getting the recognition I deserved for sports. Always being the person in the background.

I was bitter over how the guys in college treated me. I was never their equal and they would create drama for fun between the girls. I remember putting in hard work and being shit on for it. Come to find out later the guys got away with things by doing the professor’s papers for graduate school.

I am bitter my husband used me. He manipulated the situation and treated me like a bank roll rather than someone important. I always worked harder and did more to help us. I am bitter he died by suicide.

I am bitter that my in-laws got his life insurance and left me with all his/our debt and the cost of his funeral. I am bitter his family treated me like shit and then his grandparents went on a mission. They had the audacity to do his temple work without informing me or getting my permission. I am bitter I am held accountable for his actions. I am bitter I am damaged because of him, I am hurt and cautious.

I am bitter I never meet guys who are interested in me that are what I want. I am tired of being treated like I’m unvalued and unimportant. I am tired of being a peice of ass that hasn’t been loved. I am bitter I have loved endlessly while not being loved back. I am bitter I can give so much of myself to others and receive nothing in return.

I am bitter I have to fight for common sense. That stupid people are allowed to take command and make poor decision without repercussion. I am bitter I am punished for having values and morals.

I am bitter I have to wait patiently and feel incomplete, unwhole.

I am bitter.

Widow vs. Divorced

onewayDSCF4475Alot of people try to empathize and show their support when you are a widow. One of the easiest ways for others to relate is through divorce. While this seems harmless, the feeling of someone trying to compare the death of your loved one to their divorce can feel insulting. People will do this, try to think of it as their best intentions: people are trying their best to relate to you the best they know how. Unless someone has lost their significant other they just can’t.

An analogy that a friend told me was divorce is similar to breaking your arm while being a widow(er) is having an arm amputated. Loss and emotional trauma happen in both situations. While the break might seem minor compared to the amputation, they both have a major impact on life. I’d like to break down differences and things you can expect to have people compare and potentially give you a chance to think about how you could respond to these incidents. Keep in mind that each divorcees and widow(er)s experience is different.

Psychological

Many divorces end in conflict. Many deaths happen unexpectedly. This difference leaves a different psychological effect. I’m not saying every widow had a happy marriage, but it was ended by death not by a contract. Widows had no negotiations regarding possessions and children. They were left to take care of everything. Regardless, both end up hurt, in pain, and have a feeling of loss. While divorcees might relate to a feeling of loss, it is different because there is still the potential for a rekindling of a relationship with someone who is alive. It is not a contest for who feels pain the most, but there is loss and pain for everyone involved in both situations. Be kind; you know what loss feels like to an extreme level, but that doesn’t give you the right to discount others loss.

Children

Children are affected by both divorce and death. Differences may seem obvious, but some are not. In both situations the child went from dual partnership to single parenthood. While divorced parents may have to pay alimony, split the time with their ex, and live in a specific state due to court decree, widows often feel they have to be both parents. They might feel responsible for finding a suitable “new parent” to help take care of the kids and have a role model. They are now the sole parent and have all child raising decisions. This can be overwhelming and difficult. Also the child might remind the parent of the deceased; thus the relationship can end up more connected to fear of losing the child as well.

Physiological

There is no chance of touching the deceased again. They are gone. Their physical presence in the world no longer exists. Both Widows and divorcees go through a sense of grief. Everyone responds differently. Some lose weight, others gain weight, some physically stop functioning. Both can suffer from depression and stress. Both take a significant toll on the body.

Getting back out there

Divorcees might be excited to get back out there and start dating, though that is not always the case. Widows usually are a little more cautious. Feelings of guilt and cheating on the deceased are not uncommon. Dating can be very uncomfortable and awkward. However, both haven’t dated in a long time, will struggle, and be awkward for the first little bit. Validate and support each other.

The main point is yes, they are different, but it is unnecessary to need to one up the other. Support and validate each other. Everyone has gone through pain it is not a contest. Just be aware that people will try to compare. When this happens try to understand where they are coming from and have an open minded conversation about each others experience.

The Hard Truth

Sometimes you need someone to not consider your feelings. They need to tell you what you don’t want to hear. This person is going to tell you to stop feeling sorry for yourself. They are going to tell you it’s time to move on. They are going to stop treating you like a wounded animal and expect things from you.

You are going to be angry. You are going to be hurt by this. You are going to scream about the injustice and how you can’t. What they say and expect will seem impossible. You will shout back that they don’t understand. That they can’t understand. You will mutter curse words at them under your breath. You will complain about what they said to others and others will comfort you and tell you how they shouldn’t have said anything.

The hard truth is that the person who told you to stand up, held you to an expectation, asked you to do something is the person who actually cares about you. They see you’re hurt, but they will have known you long enough to know its time for you to start taking baby steps to self-care.By telling you what you don’t want to hear they force you to focus on something else. While you are cursing them, you can’t feel sorry about your loss. Your focus for a moment is off your loss and on something/someone else. This person is no longer going to do nothing. This person is the best friend, family member, or acquaintance you have, Don’t be too angry at them for giving you a little push. The best people are the ones willing to tell you what you don’t want to hear.

Now my one caveat to this whole statement is that you know who is close enough to you to tell you what you need to hear compared to a complete acquaintance who barely know you. If someone who you barely know and are not soliciting advice from tries to tell you that you need to stop moping around and feeling sorry for yourself you have every right to be pissed and tell them to mind their own business.Perspective

God is Cruel

Bodies of PompeiiI looked at my phone and pulled up a note I had written when I first started going to back to church approximately two years ago. The title is My Truths, and the first note simply reads “I do not believe in God, or if he exists he is cruel.” I believe in God, therefore he must be cruel. I have just reasons for believing God to be cruel, though my reason now is very different from what it was– Sometimes the best way to be kind is to be cruel.

Now you might argue God is all loving and kind; therefore, it is impossible for him to be cruel–it does not make sense. Let me stop you there and point out, he sacrificed his son- our brother- in the most excruciating way possible. Jesus suffered. The bible is rot with trials and pain. Constant stories of prophets and people asked to do unimaginable acts that bring much suffering. We are here to suffer. If you say otherwise I want to ask you what puts you above Christ that he may suffer while you do not?

You are probably wondering what someone like me– full of bleak ideas of God– is doing in church. What have I been through, at such a young age–28, to give me such a devastating view of our Father, God? A lot of hurt, pain and suffering. I think if I have been given such a handful at this age I do not want to know catastrophic events I have been prepared for in the future. At the same time- I know I am capable of surviving whatever comes my way and that is key.

The things we suffer force us to grow and become resilient. They strengthen us. Last testimony meeting, I had an individual revelation, per se. As others bore their hearts about how the last year, last month, last week had been the hardest in their lives. I realized the last year has been the easiest I have had in over a decade. The last year has been trivial in the scheme of my life, It has created room for me to breath, process and heal. I have had the opportunity to reflect and approach painful memories.

As I reflect, I realize I have had a very different path from most of you. I have suffered and paid dearly through discrimination, bullying, harassment, physical and mental abuse.  I have been hurt repeatedly. What I have had wrong to this point, is this does not separate me, but gives me more in common with all of you. It allows me to be more empathic and understanding. It allows me to listen without judgement to culture, stigmas, and stereotypes.

What is hard for me to overcome is the anxiety of connections creates for me. I am well aware that I appear intimidating and unapproachable. I use this to my advantage to keep my distance. It has kept me safe from further pain and hurt. However, this last year has allowed me enough wiggle room to slowly open up and create small cautious friendships. I have slowly become less defensive. While I still have a massive wall in place and am very closed off I am slowly allowing others a ladder to see into my safe space.

Where does God come into play? God has allowed me to suffer for my own development. Life was not meant to be easy. If it were, we would have followed Lucifer’s plan of salvation, instead of Christs. We suffer so we may have empathy for others, we may feel joy, and have understanding. We suffer that we know we can overcome the next trial in our life because we have suffered something much worse before and if we have not, when we make it through our future will be easier. He has been cruel to be kind.

Finding Out

I still remember the day I found out my spouse died. I know what I was wearing. How my hair was. My plans. The day was going ordinarily according to plan. Then it completely changed. The moment doesn’t just take your breath away. It completely knocks you off your feet. The acceptance, denial, anger, hurt, the word to describe the emotions doesn’t exist. Its a combination of so many thoughts and feelings in a split second as half your heart is ripped from your chest.

Please share how you found out and how you feel or felt in the comments.

This is how I found out. Hopefully it gives you something to relate to.

It was Saturday, July 17, 2010. I was cleaning the house and getting ready to go out for the night when I got a phone call. It was from my First Sergeant (1SG) (for those of you not in the military and have no idea what military rank or terms mean I’ll put a civilian term of equal status next to it for you. A First Sergeant is a manager). I answered and he ask if I was going to be around for a bit because there was an issue with a soldier. I said yeah and didn’t think much about it when I hung up. This was not out of the ordinary. I was a Platoon Leader (supervisor) and had approximately 30 soldiers (employees) under me. I was use to getting phone calls about personal issues at least once or twice a week. I went about doing my thing and getting ready to go out with friends later that day.

I was halfway through curling my hair when I heard a knock on my door. It was about an hour after I had received the phone call from my 1SG. I went to answer the door and saw my Commander (boss), 1SG, XO (work peer) and Chaplain. I was really confused at why they would show up at my house. It didn’t click. I had a dog with two puppies at the time so I asked them to give me a minute to put them away before I let them in. I put the dogs away completely clueless as to what was to come. When I let them in. They ask me to sit down. I knew something was wrong then. I didn’t sit, I told them I was fine. Then My commander said “They found a body.”

I didn’t need him to say anything else. I knew it was my spouse and I knew he had killed himself. I was shocked, but not surprised. I knew him. I loved him. He was my best friend and he was gone. I felt the tears come. I took a deep breath. I was in the military I had been to training about informing someone if their spouse died. I was suppose to be on the other end of this conversation. At the same time because I had been to training I had thought about how I would react. The thought came back to me and I followed them. I didn’t know what else to do, but I knew there was stuff I needed to do. I looked at the four men around me and asked what I needed to do.

My spouse had died in Utah. He was there to finish school. I had to call the detective. He told me what happened and what would happen. He told me they had a friend identify the decayed body. I gave him contact information for my spouses family. Then I sat helplessly while my command took care of finding the first flight possible for me to go home.

Again please share your experiences by linking what you have already wrote in the comments or leave a comment.