My first major depression happened after my husband of 6 years left out of the blue. The only explanation I ever received was, “I want out.” I’ll never forget what my friend said after the reality set in:
“It would have hurt less if he’d have died.”
It goes without saying that I didn’t wish that on him- but there’s an extra sting to the blow that’s dealt when a family member disappears intentionally. Round 1 of pain in my adult life goes to abandonment. However…
The worst day of my life was when my mother died.
She was only 55 and suffered much. She didn’t want to die, and her last few days were traumatic. She was terrified; we were all terrified. We had no idea how to help someone who was in the clutches of death. When she passed I felt robbed- robbed of my sweet mother, robbed of a grandmother for my future children, robbed of our budding friendship. She was robbed of her retirement and golden years, and of a peaceful end to a long life. Round 2 goes to death. And yet…
Much of the pain I carry stems from someone still living.
My father has lived in another state since I was a teen, and visits are rare. There have been countless birthdays, holidays, births, disasters, inside jokes and boring Saturdays in front of the TV that have happened without him. Most of his time and energy is spent on those in the nearest proximity to him, which causes me to question what I could do to earn his heart and attention. Writing a book hasn’t done it. Having two beautiful children hasn’t done it. Offering to rebuild a car together hasn’t done it. Round 3 goes to abandonment. But still…
The pain of the death and abandonments I’ve faced is entwined.
It is possible that Mom’s death would’ve been easier to bear if my father, who had shared many of the same memories, would fondly look through her pictures and mementos and want to celebrate her life. Had Mom lived, I may not need what my father doesn’t know how to give, I may not have noticed that he wasn’t giving it. If my first husband hadn’t left, I may have skipped my second “teenager” phase that I used to reform my adult identity. Perhaps it would’ve spared me the guilt that I carry over wasting Mom’s last precious years in self-pity.
Comparing forms of grief and loss is futile, whether I examine my own heartbreaks or lay them down next to someone else’s. There are no winners when pain is involved- it’s a draw. But there is something to be gained from being able to say, “I can relate to that,” or “I’m so sorry. I’m broken too.” Pain gives creditability, creates experience. Death and abandonment can beautify.
My pain and my purpose are interwoven.
If my heart was whole and unbroken, my love would not flow out through the cracks onto others. The death and abandonments in my life have been equally heart-crushing, but have also equally contributed to the person I am becoming.