I promise you and myself that the subject of this blog won't always be tragedy and sorrow. But I've strived to be honest with my voice, both in my life and with this blog. Pain invades our lives and tries to remain a stubborn presence in this fallen world. Sorrow can be a suffocating blanket. Even when the dark clouds roll in, temporarily obscuring the Son, I am trying to keep my eyes fixed on Him. He alone is steadfast and true. Dependable, with arms reaching out. Thank You, Jesus.
When I lost my mom a month and a half ago, I also lost my family. Then again, maybe I never really had them. To lose.
I thought I was a part, even tried desperately for years to squeeze myself into the frame of belonging. If I worked hard enough, supported and encouraged and tried to fix things, then maybe...I'd fit in. That was my refrain growing up. Then, a fierce independence set in. I won't need. I'll figure it out on my own and find my place in this life. With Jesus' help, I soared. But even as I crossed the country and then the ocean into another land, I wondered if my absence was really felt. Even a little?
A poignant and telling photo from my adolescence shows the family sitting around an outdoor table, enjoying a picnic lunch with relatives. There's no room around the table for me, so I sit forlorn and removed. In the family system, name calling was permitted. Who cared about what a stranger would say in reaction to my childhood skin condition when there was enough ridiculing from within the system? But it gave me compassion and understanding for the misfortune of others, and I've not allowed the condition to define me. Within the system, it was permitted for me to be beaten. Until one day I was big enough and strong enough to stop the hand from grabbing my hair, slapping me, kicking me and launching me off of the front porch. And the system adapted by permitting the silent treatment, where other members of the system were forbidden to acknowledge me for long periods of time.
But with Jesus I persevered. WIth His help, I kept working at overcoming the sense of loss and rejection, trying to walk out forgiveness and grace. Even while navigating the tightrope of the system that enforced the withdrawal of support if I displeased the system. At any time. The response I received after the birth of my first child was a berating message on the answering machine...the system got itself offended because I focused on my labor vs. meeting the demands of the system. The un-communicated demands of the system. Whatever.
The system is warped. I've always known that. And many of my choices have been to remove myself from the system, while trying to maintain any healthier aspects of relationships with members of my family.
The period prior to my mom's passing was still. Quiet. We upheld and took care of one another. We even came together in a supportive, loving way the evening of the day she left us. We talked and shared our feelings and cried together. It was amazing. And so comforting. I was hopeful...
The cracks started appearing the next day and soon escalated. Even beyond grief, the behaviors reverted back to the familiarity of the system and were hideously wrong. Yelling, screaming, mean-spirited, ugly behaviors including a sibling acting as a bully, deliberately hurting me by gripping my shoulder in a painful, controlling hold and continuing while I demanded it to stop repeatedly. The other members of the system remained mute in the face of it. There can be no relationship with a blatant boundary abuser, especially one who is not repentant. No one has the right to put their hands on me.
I have not healed from the initial days of grieving my mom's passing in the night and waking up to being screamed at and talked to in demeaning ways. I found myself trembling constantly the week leading up to the memorial service, knowing that violence could erupt at any time, because it often had. And one incident had already occurred. Though an adult having stood against the system for so many years, in the mix of grief and the unexpected escalation of things, I felt small, powerless, and lost.
God was still with me in the midst of that awful time. I'll share of the numerous ways He showed Himself to me in the midst of all of this in a follow-up post. Though I wasn't able to escape the situation entirely, God does continue to speak to my heart with the promises that He turns all situations around for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
I share some of the raw details because I know I'm not the only one who has gone through these kinds of experiences. After years of hiding behind a "put together" mask, the loss of my mom together with the ugly events that occurred have left me a little fragile, a little vulnerable, unable to continue with the previous status quo of appearing pulled together and oh-so-very competent. I'm not and I can't be right now. And I'm okay with that. I am at a more honest and messier place. It's a part of my story. One that I want Jesus to use to reach others and one that He will be glorified in.