On Grief

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Losing someone you love is one of the hardest experiences you’ll have. While all the guests at the wake say what they believe are comforting platitudes, inside, you feel numb. Maybe you cried. Maybe the decision of life or death had been in your hands.

Every grieving is different. IDGAF what the psychologists say about the stages of grief because I’ve had too many rides on this merry-go-round. I offer you my take on how to grieve.

  1. Do it your way. Grief is messy and disorderly. Cry, scream, tell morbid jokes, or laugh hysterically. You don’t have to conform to what society thinks is the “proper” way to grieve.
  2. Don’t put a time limit on your grief. Expect at least three years to grieve. At first, you’ll drown in enormous waves of sorrow. Eventually, it will become bearable and then it will become a normal part of your life. “Getting over it” is not an option.
  3. Make time for self-care. The last thing your loved one would want is for you to fall ill or abandon living. Eat well, sleep deeply, and go to the doctor when needed. Treat yourself from time to time. Imagine each triumph as a gift from the person you lost.

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Experiences to Anticipate

Things will be said or done that will cause a host of chaotic feelings. Here are the top four scenarios I’ve experienced that left me bewildered.

  1. Relationships with the living will change. If the death is traumatic, this will be especially true, but it happens after every death. Some will make the death about them or about you. Some will feel guilt and ghost. Some will hang around for the beginning and disappear. Some will stick around. Sometimes you will be left alone.
  2. You’ll forget the sound of your loved one’s voice. You’ll begin to do things that don’t include your loved one. You’ll build a new life.
  3. You will learn things about the life lived by your loved one. Some will be good, and some will be unpleasant. Each revelation gives you an opportunity to rewrite the past and find closure for yourself.
  4. When a person’s illness consumes month to years of your time in caring for him, or if you wished that she would die so that her pain would end, guilt and relief are healthy responses to the stress of prolonged illness.

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Top Four Worst Kinds of Losses

I’ve experienced all four of the losses to one degree or another so I think I can rank these deaths with some authority.

  1. Death of a child: there is no title for someone who has lost a child. Think about it: widow/er, orphan, and – there is no word to describe this kind of grief. Even miscarriages take their toll.
  2. Death of a significant other: your entire life changes. Your closest relationship, outside of the one between mother-figure and child, is gone.
  3. Death of an abusive parent/partner: the guilt of feeling relief and anger is worse than the loss itself. Coming to terms with this kind of death confuses but also frees you.
  4. Suicide, homicide, and sudden deaths: there is no rhyme or reason to these deaths. They mug you in broad daylight and tell you it’s your fault that you didn’t see the signs.

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Grief is your heart’s way of telling you that a part of how you defined yourself is absent. How you experience each loss is different each time. Whether the loss of your parent or child, or the death of a role model, grief has many faces. Each face is real and valid.

Find a way to be okay with your feelings, even the icky ones, and be kind to yourself. Be kind to others, even if one of them lands on the coffin and cries hysterically, even if it is for attention. You grieve your way and allow others to do the same.

And if you haven’t lost someone to death yet, buckle up for the ride. No one is exempt.

©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Images may be subject to copyright.

Narcissists: A Dime A Dozen

I was in a“relationship” for six or so years. He was temperamental, demanding, and unreasonable. It never occurred to me that I was reliving the original relationship with my mother, only with someone who could fuck like an animal.

Everyone on the outside would shake their heads and give me advice. To no avail, because there were lessons in the relationship from which I couldn’t be saved. But I was drowning, and the life-savers thrown would sink into the abyss of my own self-destruction.

I shudder when I think about the abuse I allowed. That’s right. I was a grown-assed woman and I allowed the unwarranted insults, the crazy accusations, the breakups, and the addictive reconciliations. I was on an emotional roller coaster that I had built for myself.

Everyone on the outside would shake their heads and give me advice.

Others saw it as my wasting six years of my life. My mother hated him with a virulence I’d never witnessed. She would withdraw from his presence in revulsion. She left a bar-b-que because he was there and blamed me. I discovered then that narcissists hate each other.

Let me explain what I know about narcissism based on my personal experience. They hate themselves. There is none of this “I love myself, and that’s why I only think of myself.” People who love do not engage in self-aggrandizing, self-serving behaviors.

Narcissists hate themselves. They never feel like they are enough. They tear down the people who embody what they want to be but don’t know how to achieve. They crave attention to validate their existences. And it’s never enough, because their methods and successes are hollow.

Narcissists hate themselves.

I almost learned the lesson in the first month of the relationship. He had “broken-up” with me, and I had walked away with no regrets. But he called. He wanted me back. He abased himself. I thought it was because he “loved” me.

I roll my eyes now, but then, his pleas were a huge stroke to my ego. I didn’t know that I would play a part in the dynamics of a text-book case of narcissism. I didn’t know that I would suffer an abuse that would destroy everything I believed about myself.

All the signs were there. He was sweet and desperate in the beginning, as if I was the only woman in the world. Then he would push me away.

I didn’t know that I would play a part in the dynamics of a text-book case of narcissism.

I’m one of the most faithful and loyal people I know. It sounds self-congratulatory, but this is my strength – and my weakness. I am an immovable foundation in my relationships. Loyalty, love, family and in that order.  It’s a principle that I adhere to because it’s something that I haven’t experienced even though I’ve always tried to embody these qualities.

I’m the kind of person to whom narcissists gravitate because I devote myself to making my partner happy. He turned this strength against me. His jealousy was unfathomable. A man would look at me and it was my fault. I was a lying whore because I had friendships with men. I thought these abominations were a sign of his “love,” because that was what he told me when he would “apologize.”

So, I took him back into my warm, loyal embrace. I would overlook his excuses, his absences, and his cowardice. I held onto the debris of every shipwreck thinking this “rescue” would be different. I tried to make this parody work. I lavished him with my love and affection always wondering why I wasn’t giving him enough to be happy.

I am an immovable foundation in my relationships. Loyalty, love, family and in that order.

I used to wear my heart on my sleeve. If you wanted to know what I was feeling, all you had to do was look at my face. I found it difficult to hide my thoughts. I felt deeply and still do, but in that “relationship” my feelings were used as a weapon to stab myself repeatedly.

I was susceptible because I was reliving my relationship with my mother in a never-ending cycle of self-loathing. As I look back on my own life, memories as early as the age of two reveal a pattern of push-and-pull. I had been “set-up” to despise myself as a lying, attention-seeking whore. By my own mother. As a toddler.

It’s true what the experts say. The narcissist will use every weapon to hold onto his victim. The phone calls, not only from him, but from his family, were incessant. I would arrive home to his truck at my curb; his cologne on envelopes contained three-page letters upon which he poured out his “pain” and “remorse.” He even wrote upon the concrete walk-way that led to my front door. In children’s sidewalk chalk.

I had been “set-up” to despise myself as a lying, attention-seeking whore.

When I left him, I felt hunted. I trembled for three months: mind, heart, and body. I changed my email addresses and my phone numbers. In the aftermath, I discovered that he had done things to hurt me that would only become evident weeks and months after the “break-up.” He wanted to make sure I’d feel his presence like a menacing shadow to the point of destroying my only haven.

I believe his addiction to me was genuine, but he is incapable of love. I should hate him, but I don’t. I know how to love, deeply. He couldn’t understand this depth if he wanted to and I pity him.

I believe people can be kind. Narcissists know how to be sweet and charismatic that first month or two, so I give everyone the benefit of the doubt. But the moment I smell a whiff of manipulative behavior, I disengage. It’s almost comical to see his or her face right before I disappear.

I trembled for three months: mind, heart, and body.

Today, I cry for the child I had been. I cry for the child stuck in a body that “adulted” on automatic. I also amaze myself. I love, deeply, despite it all. Loyalty, love, and family allow me to rebuild my haven.

This foundation within me has always been unshakeable and if it seemed contrary to my behavior in the past, it was only because I had given away my power to another.

The lesson learned? No one can take power from you. Only you can give away who you are.

©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.