Sometimes life just slips in through a back door
And carves out a person
And makes you believe it’s all true
(Lyrics from my favorite song right now, She Used To Be Mine by Sara Bareilles)
If you are meeting me for the first time I will catch you up on my story: Two years ago during this time I was in a relationship with a man (whom I love). This man is not a problem but he has a lot of problems and he took those problems out on me. I am a survivor of domestic violence (I hate those words. I am not sure if I am ready to use them, have them written down. Makes it more real. But it is real. It really happened. It is now part of my story. And so I am going to leave them there. And not erase them. Although I want to. So badly) and I am still in recovery.
During that time in my life, two years ago, everything was stolen from me. I was stolen. Coming out of the abusive relationship, my recovery has been harder for me than the abuse itself.
“It is important that one recognize that loss and grief are not just tied to death. We must consider the many other losses that occur that people must grieve and yet may not be socially acknowledged as a significant loss. When this happens, the griever may feel isolated and alone with his or her grief and the lack of support that often accompany readily acknowledged losses such as a sudden and unexpected deaths.”
When I was in the relationship no one knew what was really going on, including me. And in all honesty -including him (my abuser- I hate referring to him as that:my abuser. But words are important. There is great power in giving things their proper name). Months later, when I was able to see things as they really are/were I called his mom. Oh my gosh. Scariest thing ever. I almost threw-up. I reached out to his mother with the intent of letting her know what happened between her son and I. I wanted to share this with his mother because I felt it was my responsibility to let someone who was permanent in his life know. My biggest fear (and still is today) is that he would harm himself or someone else. I don’t want that on my hands. And so I called his mom. I expressed how much I love her son and am on his side. That I was hoping to meet with her to talk about what happened. She wanted nothing to do with me. Part of me doesn’t blame her. How would I react if someone called to tell me that my son abused them. When I mentioned “abuse” she flat out asked me if I was talking about physical abuse as if any other kind of abuse doesn’t matter. I told her no. Which was a lie. But I was scared and totally intimidated and freaked out. She didn’t ask any more questions or want to hear any more details.
I was so devastated. To this day I try oh-so-very-hard not to judge her. And I wonder if she thinks about me. That day. That phone call. I know I am not a mother, but if I were- I cannot imagine not wanting to know more, so I could help my son, so I could help the woman.
My therapist told me that I deserve a mother-in-law that will listen if I come to her with something important.
My grief is intense. Over the loss of the relationship. The loss of the beautiful man I love. The loss of myself. I wrestle with ambiguous loss and disenfranchised grief.
Ambiguous loss: When someone is physically absent but psychologically present (think of a parent in a nursing home, a military personal on deployment, a child in a coma, a father in prison, a former spouse in a divorce). Ambiguous loss can also be the opposite: Someone who is physically present but psychologically absent (someone with mental illness, TBI, depression, struggling with addictions).
My guy on a Buffalo is still alive but there is no contact. He is not physically in my life. But he haunts my days with dangerous flashbacks and also sweet longings of when things were “good.”
And I know many of the people I love have felt the loss of me over the past two years. I am physically here but often my struggles of depression and PTSD that accompany my recovery have made me psychologically absent. I am sorry for that. I wish I could change things. I am working intentionally on my healing every day. I am coming back, slowly. But not as the same girl I was before.
“Ambiguous loss is difficult because there can be confusion and difficulty identifying the problem. There may be uncertainty which prevents people from adjusting to the ambiguity of their loss. People may be denied the rituals that ordinarily support a defined loss.”
Disenfranchised grief: A loss that cannot be openly acknowledged, publicly mourned or socially supported. There are three kinds of disenfranchised grief: 1. Relationships that are not recognized or socially sanctioned (think the gay community, people who have abortions, those who give a child up for adoption, affair partners). 2. The loss is not recognized as significant (miscarriage, pet loss, employees at veterinarian offices, hospital caregivers, any type of caregiver, me and my abusive ex-boyfriend). 3.The griever is not recognized
I love my abusive ex-boyfriend. To this day. I love him. I miss him. I am grieving him. I have been asked how I can be so upset over the loss of someone who did terrible awful things to me. And that is a legit question. How can I? And how can I not? I grieve the loss of who he was to me. The loss of his own mental health. The loss of the relationship. The future we could have had. The loss of his dog (my dog). Oh how I miss that sweet animal. I miss who I was with him. I miss who I was before him. I miss my naivety. My innocence. My easily trusting nature. I miss and I grieve. Time has made things different. And in many ways I am healing. But today I am grieving.