I became a widow at 30 years old. My husband was an alcoholic. He was never a "drunk" so no one ever knew he struggled with alcoholism. Even I didn't until it started to affect his health- body and mind.
In the midst of being newly married and navigating the ups and downs of marital unity, I had to become a caretaker. It brought on a spew of challenges on top of an already challenging time in any newlywed's life. We were in and out of the hospital for various reasons and I watched my husband deteriorate and disappear before my very eyes. For over a year and a half he slipped farther and farther away from me. It was if I had my arm stretched towards him and I felt is hand slip out of mine. Our marriage became impossible to manage. My idea of who he was as a husband and partner and my idea of how our life was going to be died. I mourned the loss of him and our relationship far before he passed away. The grief I felt for a man who had not died felt like boulders sitting on my chest. When he died, those boulders were lifted.
It was not as if I was glad he was dead. That could not be farther than the truth. I still held on to hope alcoholism would not take him from this earth. He had gifts that the world needed him to share. He had laughter to create. In my eyes, his work here was not done. I felt guilt and shame. I felt sadness no thirty year old should feel. My mind knew it was inevitable. My heart held on to hope.
When someone dies, they cannot come back. When someone is alive, they just might.
Mourning the dead, I feel, is much easier than mourning someone that isn't, who is still alive, breathing, thinking, and living their own life. As morbid as this is to say, the reality is that when a person is dead, there is no chance they will come back. They are no longer breathing, thinking, and living their life. You cannot stalk their Facebook page to see what they are up to. You will not walk pass them in a store and feel your heart sink to the ground. You cannot sit by the phone waiting for the chance they may call. They are dead. The relationship you had with them will never resurface. The life you had envisioned with them will never come to fruition. The hope you once felt is gone. They are dead. You are only left with memories and material things. It adds a sense of finality, making the acceptance of them and the relationship being gone easier to achieve. They are dead. Realistically stated.
Mourning the undead, the ones who are alive and well, who are living their "best" lives without you, who you still hold on to hope for the relationship that once was to return is a whole other ball game. It is pain I never thought I could feel.
Emotional pain can mimic and feel the same as physical pain.
Managing the pain, for me, is not an easy task. Even with years of therapy and my overabundance of self-help books graffitied in highlighter, I do not feel like I have a grasp on how to deal with it. Some loss of the undead I have dealt with better than other losses. Some I have accepted closure, others remain in limbo. We all have made friends, lost friends, had breakups, and fallouts. Some hurt in a way you could never be prepared for. Personally, I think the shock and awe is what exacerbates the pain. The longing for the relationship that once was and the intimacy with that person can feel like your insides are ripping apart.
I forgive you for not being the person I needed and wanted you to be.
God. This forgiveness exercise suggested to me by one of my dear clients has helped me tremendously. It does not dull the pain and it does not make me understand why the relationship is no longer. What this exercise has done for me though has allowed me to show myself grace for feeling how I feel and to let go much of the resentment. It has been more of an awakening of understanding. This exercise does not hold an attitude of pride, but of congruence of your authentic self. You will continue to love them but with another perspective, from another level of understanding, comprehension and awareness.
I know what I know. Let me remind me. I have read what feels like every self-help book. I am almost a decade deep in therapy. I have a sick obsession with bettering my growth and understanding. However, I still hurt. My heart is still broken. I still have needs unmet and relationships I so wish were different.
Recently I have experienced mourning the loss of the undead, the loss of people who were the closet you could ever be. I still am mourning and grieving and living in my emotions of pain. My heart hurts and tears run down my face as I even write this blog. I toyed with the idea in even doing so more times than I can count. I know the ones who I am mourning may possibly read this. Maybe that is why I am even writing it. I am also trying to not have expectations if they do but I am human. I know the risk I am taking in showing all of my vulnerability and broken bits. I know I cannot expect someone to do the same. It hurts because when you love you expect to be loved the same.
I write this entire blog for others to not feel alone but this one, I am writing so I do not feel alone. Losing someone you love is one of the hardest situations one can go through. Mourning the loss of the undead is a beast that we all will have to fight off time and time again. I am here, fighting the beast with the small weapons I have. I am in pain and anguish.
The best analogy I can link it to is feeling like I am on a deserted island. I am alone in sweltering heat and being eaten alive by bugs. I am starving and thirsty. I am waiting for the search and rescue team to finally find me. They will bring me back to safe shelter.
You feel alone. It is an unfamiliar feeling when you were once so enmeshed with another you became one. You anxiously are waiting for them to come back to you in the way you need them. You want the hurt to stop. You want and need the love and support you are so hungry for. You thirst for the acceptance and inclusion. Your expectations are high. You hold on to hope that they one day will be able to offer such. You hold on to the hope you will feel "enough" to them.
Right now, I am trying to swim to a different shore- one with more food, fresh water, less bugs, and human beings to connect with. I am treading water.
It is the most difficult thing I have had to do in my life, and it will also be the most important lesson I have learned.
Stop being linked to those who are not ready to love you.
Stop having difficult conversations with people who don't want to change. Stop appearing for people who are indifferent to your presence. Stop giving your love and energy to people who are not ready to love you. Stop looking for food in barren places.
I know that your instinct is to do everything you can to earn the good graces of everyone you can, but it is also the impulse that will steal your time, your energy and your sanity. I have been most guilty of this.
If I hit "x" level of success, I will be recognized.
If I show "x" amount of love, love will be reciprocated.
If I have "x" amount more chaos and problems, I will be shown support.
If I am just "enough" for them, they will change.
When you begin to be in your life completely, with joy, interest and commitment, not everyone will be ready to meet you there. That does not mean you have to change who you are. It means you have to get away from people who are not prepared to be with you. If you are excluded, subtly insulted, forgotten or easily ignored by the people you spend most of your time with, you are not doing yourself a favor by continuing to offer them your energy and your life. If what you offer them in terms of love, care, support, or attention is not reciprocated, you are depleting yourself.
I depleted myself.
I am currently reading that last paragraph over and over in my head, so it becomes engrained in it. It is imperative that I eat, sleep, and breath this. It is what will keep my afloat on my journey to my new shores. My integrity cannot hold if I allow others to deplete me. I stand by my values, beliefs, and standards. I preach living authentically, showing vulnerability, and empowering oneself and others. My integrity if I do not practice all in which I live for will deplete me. I am expending energy on people and the idea of what the relationship should be when my energy could be spent on living my life for me, purely and authentically, and surrounded by those who love and support me.
The truth is that you are not for everyone, and they are not all for you. That is what makes it so special when you find the few people with whom you have a genuine friendship, love or relationship. You will know how precious it is because you have experienced what is not. You will live your most authentic life more fully as you have once starved. But the more time you spend trying to force someone to be with you when they are not able, the more time you will be depriving yourself of that same connection. The longer you mourn the loss of the undead the less open you are to welcoming new life. It's waiting for you. There are billions of people on this planet, and many of them will meet you at their level, with the vibration of where they are, connect with where they are going. They will feed and clothe you in the love and support you need and desire.
I have stayed involved in the familiarity of people who use me as a cushion, a background option, a therapist and a strategist for their own emotional work. I never had boundaries set in fear I may lose them.
Maybe if you stop showing up, you'll be less loved.
Maybe they forget you completely.
Maybe if you stop trying, the relationship will end.
Maybe if you stop sending text messages, your phone will remain dark for days and weeks.
Maybe if you stop loving someone, the love between you will dissolve.
Maybe if you set boundaries and stop being who they expect you to be, they will cut ties with you.
This is not love. This is attachment. That doesn't mean YOU ruined a relationship. It means you love you enough to set boundaries. (Please read Codependency No More by Melody Beattie.)
The most precious and important thing you have in your life is your energy. It is not your time that is limited, it is your energy. What you give to each day is what will create more and more in your life. What you give your time is what will define your existence. When you realize this, you will begin to understand why you are so anxious when you spend your time with people who do not contribute to you. You will begin to realize that the most important thing you can do for your life, for yourself and for everyone you know is to protect your energy more fiercely than anything else. Protect your boundaries, values, beliefs, morals, and your authentic self.
It is going to be hard. The work it is going to take to alleviate the sense of loss and stop mourning the undead will feel just as excruciating as the pain the loss feels. The outcome will be more rewarding. It will be uncomfortable, but it is a must- for your sake and all of those around you who truly love you.
Make your life a safe haven where only people who can care, listen and connect are allowed. You are not responsible for saving people. I repeat. You are not responsible for saving people.
I'm yelling it.
You are not responsible for convincing them that they want to be saved. It is not your job to appear for people and give them your life, little by little, moment by moment, because you feel sorry for them, because you feel bad, because you "should", because you are obligated, because, at the root of all this, you are afraid that they will not return the favor and that is not to love as love is to release those you love and are not ready to be with you so they live what they have to live while you move on to find someone with whom you'll be able to share the reciprocity of healthy love.
Hello. Are you hearing this? I am rereading this over and over. What we are trying to avoid is what we are ultimately creating by allowing others to treat us in such ways.
It is your job to realize that you are the master and lover of your destiny, and that you are accepting the love that you think you deserve. Decide that you deserve a real friendship, a true commitment and a complete love with people who are healthy and prosperous. Mourn the loss and move on. Swim to the island of authenticity, vulnerability, acceptance, and love- for yourself and filled with others who want and reciprocate the same.
I will miss you.
I love you.
I forgive you.