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sarabeth35

bad relationship with deceased mother/ complicated grief

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My mom died back in Feb. during a rotten snow and ice storm. It was due to weight related health problems (heart disease and diabetes) and she struggled painfully as she died over the course of 18 hours, eventually resulting in a heart attack, but she had a DNR, so when her heart stopped the following morning, that was it. 

We had a horrible relationship that only slightly improved after she got sick the first time. It always reminds me of Bill Cosby's joke where he is explaining to his children that their grandmother is not the same person that raised him, that she was now an old woman trying to get into heaven. Pretty much sums up my mother. When she fell ill the first time in 2008, she ended up bedridden for the next SIX years, and during that time she became very kind to me.

Before her first illness, she was mean as a snake. She was not the same with me as she was with my brother and sister. They were spoiled and made over heavily. I am the oldest and I am sure that I was conceived as a way to a) entrap my father and as a way out of her own problem home. My father is a good catch and to this day I still feel like he deserves sainthood for tolerating her abuse. She did not neglect me of things like physical care like a good mother should, but she treated me like she hated me, and spoke to me in a vile manner. I also believe she was jealous of the attention my father and grandmother gave me. She had serious psychological issues that I was exposed to and a victim of while I was a toddler. I have memories of her trashing the house out of anger and scaring my brother and I. He is 2 years younger, and at the time was only about a year old so he doesn't remember this episode, but I do. I also remember being in the back seat of my parents car while my mother had taken off walking after one of these episodes, and my father was trying to get her back into the car and take her home. I remember her scaring me and threatening me when I was little for unreasonable things, like getting spanked for crying when I was sick, or telling me that she was going to tear me up for playing with my brother. One time my brother got injured and she screamed at me to get away from him because she thought I did it. I thought I hurt him for years until my father and I were talking about T's scar, and how he was playing ball in the house. 

As I was growing up, I was not allowed to behave like a girl or be interested in feminine things like make-up, cheerleading and clothes. She cut my hair short 3 times despite me telling her that everyone made fun of me. When I was a teenager she would not let me have a boyfriend or wear makeup. When I tried to do things I wanted to do I was only allowed to do them on her conditions. 

When I was about 13 she started behaving in a munchausen by-proxy kind of way when I caught Mono, and was diagnosed with Lyme disease. She obsessed about my illnesses and talked about them incessantly to family. She isolated me from school TWICE by demanding the school send a homebound teacher out. She told me to quit feeling sorry for myself when I became clinically depressed. She could not speak to me without being verbally abusive by cussing yelling or by her degrading tone.

So when I was 16 I got pregnant by the first guy that paid me any kind of attention and left home. Of course she made herself the victim on that one as well. And subsequent years when I was trying to be forgiving and become closer to my family, my children became her scape goats as well.

So when she fell ill the first time, I had to give consent for life-saving treatments; a trach for a breathing tube. When she came out she was immediately kinder to me. After so many years though, I had grown numb to her, but I tried being a friend to my mother rather than having a mother/ child relationship. One big barrier was our religious beliefs. She was a very religious person, and I am atheist. When I tried to come out to her about that as well as being bisexual, she said, "oh surely you don't mean that" and ignored me. 

She treated my father even worse than she treated me.

I am so angry at her. She tried passive-agressively to make her abuse right before she went. I needed her to be a good mom for a little while and just be kind to me. Instead I am left with all of this guilt for not being able to forgive her. I resent her for leaving her damage to me unresolved and being so cruel to my father when he was so kind to her. I resent her for loving my siblings but not me. I am going to need so much grief counseling and therapy for this. I am mourning for the fleeting moments she was pleasant in the few years before she died, and the stupid little things like being able to call her to brag about the kids. Even though she was a pissy mother to me, she was a great grandmother. 

I don't know how to respond to people who say things like, "I'm praying for you" or "She is with you/ Looking down on you". It's BS. IF I believed heaven was a place that existed, she would not be there. I have often thought that I was just a hypersensitive person as well because no one but my father and I saw that side of her. I don't know where to begin with it because when my brother and sister were able to cry and mourn for her immediately, I couldnt cry. I was and still am in a way so numb. So here I am 3 months later crying in private, over and over because I never got the chance to be close to "good" mom like they did, and I need her.

It sucks. I have been impatient with my children and vicious toward my fiancee. The grief and depression is so severe that I have been suicidal, and thought about just getting in the car and driving to where no one would find me and od-ing with a note that my ex husband has to identify me (paybacks for being an abusive husband and wasting 17 years of my life). I firmly believe that my mental health failure is something more significant than just normal grief and don't know how to get away from the pain. Is that what complicated grief is? Sorry this post was so long, we had a very complicated relationship. Any suggestions or a pov from someone who has dealt with a similar relationship is welcome.

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Hi sarabeth,

 

I'm sorry for all your years of pain and the loss of your mother :(

 

Grief and loss are horrific already and I can only imagine how much more difficult it must be to have experienced the violation of trust you have experienced from your mother from early in your life.

 

To quickly answer your question about complicated grief, as I understand it, complicated grief is what they are calling the situation where someone is unable to function due to the loss of someone longer than 6 months after that loss.

 

In my opinion, just because we 'do' things, doesn't mean we're functioning :)

 

I really want to point out your strength and your adaptability.  In your message, I see evidence of your humour.  I deeply apologize if I am incorrect in my reading of your message but I felt some of what I would describe as 'mercurial' emotions.  The ability to face your deep emotions and your confusion and the ability, the next moment, to create a humourous connection.  I felt this when I was reading your message and, if I'm reading it correctly, it is really important for you to understand that this ability is a gift for you.  It's going to allow you to create the space in yourself for the healing and the learning and the grieving that you need to be able to have movement and understanding for yourself over the next months and years.

 

It's also really important for you to understand that what you're feeling and experiencing is very natural.  With the history you have shared, what I think of is that I might even have a terrible time not becoming insanely resentful of anyone who had a good relationship... with anyone else, let alone their mother.  I can see where all the pent up frustration and no-answers to "why you" and no way to resolve it - at this moment - can be interfering with your other, healthy relationships.  When we have no avenue to express deep anger and frustration, it slips out in other areas.

 

What I have found to be very helpful is learning to understand and accept my emotions, regardless of what they are.  I have learned that accepting our emotions gives us the opportunity to learn what we need to heal.  Each of our stories is very different and no one can say a particular thing will be able to help all.  Even in counselling, it is explore and try different methods of accessing our real feelings and helping ourselves through them.  But that journey of exploration is required in grief and the process of grief will usually force that exploration and processing upon us, whether we know that it's happening or not.  It is an odd thing, to me, to understand that while someone is alive, we seem to be able to ignore much of our difficulties with them but yet after they die, the difficulties we had them them basically rule our life until we deal with them.

 

Along with you, I am positive that your mental health failure is more than just grief.  I experienced grief and was on my knees for a year and a half after my sister died but that was a good relationship that I had, the best.  You have much more going on.  You have a bad relationship, abuse, and the sad, scared, angry, desperate little girl who just wanted her mom to love her inside you and no more mom to make it all better.  You have the disparity between siblings, the confusion, the questioning plus the normal devastation and questions of loss.

 

But even though the grief you're experiencing isn't the straight-forward rip-your-heart-out grief, what you are experiencing is still  natural because of everything you have had to handle in your life.

 

And if it were me, this is where I would start: being ok that I'm crying in private, understanding that I have years of pain, being extremely gentle with myself for anything and everything I'm experiencing, not judging myself on how I think I should be feeling and just letting myself feel.

 

And the next thing I would do is find a counsellor to help me in my explorations and learning.

 

It is very, very clear to me that your psyche is going to make you deal with what you have been numb to.  As you start to understand it, you will be able to help your fiancee understand what's happening for you.  I don't know how old your children are but it may also help you to help them understand.  I am a firm believer in honesty in grief, no matter how hard it is, because all people are going to feel it some day and will only benefit by seeing that the pain is real and there is ways to deal with it even though it is the hardest thing a person has to do.

 

It is natural to feel crazy in grief.  It is the accepted insanity.  Be understanding of all your different parts and give them the hugs and the love that they missed.  They don't want you to give up, they don't want you to drive away, they want the love they couldn't have and it's now time for you to give it to them.  But they are raw and torn and feel no hope and will likely flinch at the smallest kindness towards them so please be very, very gentle with them.

 

Be very, very gentle with yourself, sarabeth, allow yourself to give the love to yourself that you would give to a hurt and wounded child before you.  Because that is what is happening now.  An extremely wounded child has lost her mom, one that was mean to her but the only mom she knew, and now she's hiding in plain sight begging for your love and not understanding what's going on, wanting to run away, wanting to scream, not knowing anything.  Hug her.  Let her feel your love.  Let her scream and cry in your arms.  Stroke her hair and tell her it's ok, feeling like this is ok, being her is ok, that she did nothing wrong.

 

Being that gentle and tender with yourself and finding a counsellor to help you guide your confusion and exploration into understanding will help you be who you want to be to your fiance, your children and you.

 

<3

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