Today’s Stream of Consciousness

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I feel ill. My stomach wants to heave. Thinking about my kids, my heart hurts. When will the pain stop? Will the pain stop? I hope the pain stops. My lamp went out for a bit. Hoping it’s coming back on. Just when I feel like it’s beginning to shine again, I remember and once again feel ill and alone. The house is quiet. The cats are sleeping. Only the sound of the aquarium pump and the refrigerator hum and the tap tap tap tapping of typing. I feel ill. My head hurts. My eyes are dry. The grey skies match my mood. The clouds obscure the sun. Obscure the Son? I wish I still had the faith to see me through these times, but I have no faith in faith. No faith in all things working for good. No faith in a benevolent Father who would never allow me to feel such devastation. God does allow pain. If there is a god. Which I now sometimes question. I used to have FAITH. All caps! Now I have doubt. Lower case. And pain. Was faith just a means to find relief from overwhelming guilt? What do I do now with overwhelming grief and pain? How do I survive day by day until that day when He wipes away my tears? What if that day never comes? What if all I have is now and now’s pain and now’s grief and now’s emptiness? I’m so alone. Not forgotten, but hated. Not ignored, but reviled. Not set aside, but forcefully put away. Dolls and toys have more meaning than I do. I am the beast that haunts their dreams and discolors their memories and stands in the way of them remembering their happy childhoods. They were happy. We were happy. Why can I remember but they can’t? Father God, you promise to bring all things to our remembrance. Could you bring the happy times to the remembrance of my kids? They have wiped their minds of any feelings of love for me. They’ve colored their past and rewritten the narrative of their lives. Of our lives. Rejection. A lifetime of rejection. Rejection at school. Again and again. Rejection of friends. Of husband. Of family. Of church.  And now this ultimate rejection by the very lives I brought into this world through my own blood and pain. Do they want me to bleed forever? My eyes are no longer dry.

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Every time … but it never is


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Every time … but it never is.

Every time a car slows by the house,
I run to see if it’s you.
Anytime my phone rings,
I hope it’s you.
When Facebook says I have a message,
I pray it’s you.

But it’s never your car.
Never your call.
Never your message.

Every time … but it never is.

But it is always … sadness.
Always pain.
Always grief.
Always tears.

And every time …
it is always

alone.

Bodily Effects of Estrangement


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I thought I’d take some time to practice mindfulness in the midst of one of my more difficult moments today being overwhelmed with grief.  I’ve been having quite a few of these overwhelming moments this week.  I focused on what my body was doing and took inventory of my bodily reaction to the current bout of emotional turmoil.

Here’s the list I came up with from today’s grief event and things I remember from others (I’m sure there’s more):

  • stomach muscles clenched
  • stomach queasy, sometimes to the point of vomiting
  • tight chest
  • clenched teeth
  • gasping for air, feeling like I can’t breathe
  • crying
  • sobbing
  • feeling like I’m drowning in my tears
  • doubled over
  • head and neck tight
  • muscles throughout my body tight
  • toes and feet curled and clenched
  • trembling, shaking
  • dizzy
  • poor balance when walking
  • stuttering
  • closed eyes
  • I bite my lips
  • I hide face behind hands or clothing
  • I suck and chew on clothing (shirt edge usually)
  • aching all over
  • sometimes the crying triggers my asthma

And when this happens, all I want to do is crawl into bed and sleep … for a thousand years.

One benefit of mindfully taking stock of my body’s reactions, allowed me to make other choices to help myself feel better.  When I noticed my clenched teeth, I made an effort to relax my jaw.  When I noticed muscles that were being held tightly, I took some time to focus on releasing those muscles as much as I could.

It didn’t take care of everything, but it made a small difference in how I was coping.  A small difference right now can be the difference between life and another stay in the hospital on Suicide Watch.

This has been a bad, bad week.

 

Acute Stress Disorder and Estrangement



I’m currently working my way through the book, Done with the Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, by Sheri McGregor, MA and sharing my thoughts and responses as posts on this blog.


In the first part of the latest section I read in the book, McGregor suggests that parents experiencing estrangement from adult children shouldn’t be hasty in making major life decisions.  I believe this is much like the counsel that’s often offered after someone experiences the death of a loved one:  Don’t make major changes like quitting a job, or moving, or beginning a new relationship, or getting a new pet.  Anything that would have long reaching repercussions should be delayed until the initial shock and pain dissipate.

McGregor says that in the early weeks following an estrangement, many parents — if they sought professional counseling — would be quickly diagnosed with Acute Stress Disorder (ASD).  ASD occurs in the first weeks following a traumatic event or major loss.  Being suddenly estranged from an adult child (or children) definitely constitutes a personal trauma and loss.

As I thought about my own early days following the estrangement, I experienced the following ASD symptoms:

  • numbed, dazed, detached
  • haunting memories
  • vivid dreams
  • difficulty concentrating
  • avoiding reminders of my children (people, places, photos, etc.)
  • uncontrollable crying
  • sleep difficulties

During the first few weeks, whenever I attempted telling someone what was happening with my children, I would experience an anxiety attack.  My heart would race, I would start shaking visibly, I would stutter severely (if I could get words out at all), and I would feel like I couldn’t breathe.  Writing it down doesn’t sound so bad, but what I experienced was truly debilitating.  It was almost like I’d seize up into a shaking, quivering, crying, stuttering, gasping ball of grief and shock.

It was awful.  Truly awful.

McGregor also states that in the aftermath of a trauma people tend to do one of two things.  They reach out to others for support, or they retreat off by themselves.  She compared the people who retreat to someone with a bad burn who would avoid others to avoid being jostled and causing the pain to worsen.  She said neither reaction is right or wrong.  Both reactions are normal and understandable.  Sometimes a person may switch back and forth between the two reactions.

I did both.  I reached out to people (my counselor, my pastor, a good friend), but I also retreated into my home where I could cry and shake and emote without fear or embarrassment.  I definitely felt as if my pain could be intensified by the jostling of well meaning people and their often unhelpful and unintentionally hurtful comments or reactions.

And the fact that the initial weeks of my estrangement from my children happened at the beginning of the holiday season didn’t help.  Acute Stress Disorder and the holidays don’t mix well, I discovered.  Probably had a lot to do with why I ended up in the hospital on Suicide Watch over New Year’s.

The Early Days of Estrangement


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What follows is my response to the questions and exercises in the first part of the book, Done with the Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, by Sheri McGregor, MA.  I’m going to start working my way through the book in the coming days and sharing my thoughts on this blog.


51cRtf49Q8LMy estrangement from my three adult children began after a misunderstanding on Thanksgiving night. The timing was awful.  For nearly the entire month of December I was in shock.  How could my children desert me at the holidays?!

I was so alone, so sad, so shocked.  In Done with the Crying, McGregor states that the initial feeling most parents feel when an estrangement begins is shock.  That was definitely the case for me.

Unbelief, confusion, helplessness.

I waited for them to call or email.  I wanted to talk and help clear things up.  I wanted to listen.  I tried to contact them throughout the holidays, but was met with silence.

When I asked if we could meet with a neutral third party (a counselor or a family friend who’s a pastor) to begin some sort of communication, I received a curt email response that said, “We’re not ready for that.”

That was six months ago.

Will they ever be ready?

Without any sort of communication, we can’t even begin the process of reconciliation or understanding.  They’ve also cut off all contact with my dad.  My dad said yesterday on the phone that he doesn’t even care at this point about reconciliation with them, but he’d just like to see us all have a civil relationship so we can all attend family gatherings and holiday events (and even funerals) at the same time.

Pain.  Isolation.  Silence.  Abandonment.  Betrayal.  Judgement.  A broken heart.  Loss.  Anxiety.  Fear.  Powerlessness.  Defeated. Devastated.  Depressed.  Suicidal.  Numb.

Like walking through a thick fog.

This was the new hurtful reality that suddenly presented itself.  I couldn’t get my mind around it, no matter how hard I tried. And as a single mom, I had no one who shared these feeling with me.

The first month was so overwhelming.

I felt like I’d lost my identity.  I’d never realized how much my personal identity tied into the idea of being a mother.  Now that I didn’t have that relationship with my children, I felt so lost.  I suffered a major existential crisis in addition to the grief and shock.  The pillars of my life had been knocked down and shattered under me.

The pain was so great, that each night during December I self-medicated with alcohol.  I couldn’t bear going to bed and being alone in the quiet and the darkness with nothing but my thoughts, my misery, my memories, and my tears.  So I would drink until I could just lie down and pass out on my bed.

Every morning when I woke up, my first thought was, “Wow.  That was the worst dream ever.”

And then I’d remember.  It wasn’t a dream.  They really were gone.  They really had cut me off.

I really was alone.

~ The Estranged Mom