Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


Leave a comment

Varsity Hockey

Frankie is in his tenth year of playing hockey. Nine of those years we were anticipating finally being able to play at school. It has arrived and it is the first year that I dread going to the games and have been disgusted with the process.

A few games ago, we were at an away game and boo’d the ref a couple of times. Next thing we know, the “supervisor” for our section told us that she was instructed to tell us to tone it down. Who knew a section even had a supervisor? The real surprise was when a few minutes later a police officer was pacing behind the bleachers. I was shocked. Were they kidding?

Now that I’m paying attention, I’ve noticed that all the varsity games have police there. And I’m starting to understand why.

Image result for image of a hockey fight

Last night, we were approaching the end of the last period. We were losing by several goals so we knew we weren’t going to catch up. Once again, a fight broke out near our goalie. I would guess a high percentage of fights are around the goalie. Goalies are considered absolutely off limits. After the fight started, the circle around the players just got bigger. I saw the other team push our players from behind, another no-no. Then our players enlarged the circle again and pushed the other side from behind. On and on it goes. Frankie wasn’t in the mix, but I still felt sick watching it.

The punches started flying behind the net. It seemed to go on forever. I had a moment of panic when it occurred to me the refs actually might not be able to contain it. Literally, a riot could start before you know it. The refs eventually got it under control and six kids were in the penalty box, three from each team.

And that’s not the bad part.

At one point, I turned around to say something to our friends. There was a mother in the back row from the other team, kinda short, a little chubby. She says to me, “Did you just say something to me?” It was a bit pissy, but I really didn’t catch on at first. I just answered no and then we exchanged a couple more phrases. I realized she was antsy to start a fight with me. Hell, she would have kicked my ass. I’ve never been in a fight in my life.

Soon another parent from her team came walking by and summoned her. She was like, “Hell yes, I’ll come.” Off they went. Eventually, you hear all the stories from around the rink.

One parent from our team was standing behind the glass behind our goalie. He was trying to tell the refs a player was repeatedly elbowing our goalie in the head. He got kicked out. I’m not sure if the referee or the rink kicked him out, but you can’t yell to the referees, no matter what you are saying.

Secondly, the crazy woman from the bleachers by me was fighting at the other end of the rink with our goalie’s mother. It was something like, “Your kid was elbowing my kid in the head. I will press charges.” The other mom was like, “Bring it on, bitch” or something like that.

After a big scene on the ice, the refs and team captains take forever to sort things out. While that was happening, crazy lady came back to the bleachers. She apparently got tired of fighting with the goalie’s mom. It was time for the next victim. Next to us was the bleacher of high school kids.

I feel old when I say this, but they are obnoxious as hell. They are loud. They boo every time the other team scores. They yell every time our players check the other team. They give me a headache. But they are teenagers. It’s what they do. They aren’t doing anything bad, they are just loud and annoying.

Crazy mom starts yelling at them to stop taunting the players. The kids are yelling back but she starts threatening them. I see one of our kids say, “Are you really going to beat up a little girl?” By this time, my friend and I ran to get the cop. He saunters over which made me mad but he eventually got there. By this time, the mom was trying to climb over the bleachers and saying things like, “Come on you little bitches, I will kick your asses.”

The cop promptly kicked all the teenagers out without even asking questions. Two adults then got up and told the cop that it was the mother who was instigating. He kicked her out too.

At the end of the game, the other team’s parents were walking out laughing about their parent getting kicked out. I finally said, “It really isn’t funny for a parent to threaten a minor like that.” They just looked at me and that was the end of that.

Later, the player from the other team was laughing and asked the cop, “So where did you take my mom this time?” Yea, really funny.

I asked Frankie when he get home if he knew any of that happened. He said he doesn’t pay attention because most of those parents get drunk in the parking lot before the game.

The only thing I have to say is this:

WHAT THE FUCK?


3 Comments

Empaths

Are you hoping for a better 2020 than 2019? I can’t prove it, but I feel like every January I say something similar. Last year was tough, here’s to hoping for a better new year.

I’ve heard it described that sympathy is feeling bad for someone’s pain. Empathy is feeling someone’s pain with them. One isn’t bad and one good, one isn’t healthy and the other unhealthy. They are just two things that are distinct but closely related.

I’m definitely an empath. That is probably the single most important thing that makes me an effective counselor. I call it being fully present. When you are in my office, you have my full attention and I am empathic. But if an empath doesn’t want to sink into the abyss, they have to also know how to detach when they exit the other’s presence.

Even when you can detach in a healthy way, there is still residue. I wouldn’t be human if there wasn’t. I am aware of the good things in life. I’m not oblivious to them and I’m grateful for the good things in my own life. But I’m also painfully aware of the crazy stuff too. Not only does it make me incredibly angry, but it also breaks my heart. There is so much suffering, and there is also so much injustice. Virtually every system in our country is broken. Some have minor issues, others are profoundly broken.

It is a privilege to witness suffering, an honor when someone lets you see. It also blows my mind sometimes. Sometimes I can’t even wrap my head around it.

For example, the legal system that claims to protect children, but repeatedly favors giving parents an endless amount of chances to get their kids back. I wonder if they have any idea the havoc it wreaks on the foster or biological families that pick up the broken children month after month, year after year. The case where the parent overdoses on drugs, sometimes in front of their child, sometimes not. They can repeatedly get arrested and have literally dozens of court cases in front of them and it doesn’t matter. The kids can show every sign of regression from seeing their parent and it doesn’t matter. How do you comfort that family?

The 17-year-old son who lost his mother to cancer and then his father takes his own life? I lost my father at age 51 and I was devastated. How do I even wrap around the thought of being completely parentless, facing the rest of my life trying to figure out how to be an adult without them at age 17?

The mom who finds herself riddled with alcoholism and in relationships with men who beat her. She keeps trying to break the pattern but finds herself back in it, even when she kicks the drinking.

A step-parent who spends decades helping his adult children become more responsible humans but all he gets in return is to be berated, ignored, accused, and have his grandchildren kept from him. How do you comfort him?

The family that loses their pregnant daughter in a tragic car accident?

The parent who has a child who tries to hang himself. Another child that douses himself with gasoline and lights himself on fire. The parent finds themselves crying repeatedly and can’t figure out why because these events happened years ago.

The stories go on and on. I want so badly to help. I want to make the kind of difference where patterns actually change. Where I can make systems do what they are supposed to do. Where I can make people behave the way they should.

But of course, I can’t. Not even close. So I stay present, try to detach. And every once in awhile I just have to scream out loud because the unfairness is so maddening I literally want to rip my hair out. (I would punch things but I’m a baby and don’t tolerate physical pain so well.)

I’m NOT talking about not holding people accountable for their choices. I’m NOT talking about creating a victim mentality. But please offer sympathy to others when you can. Please offer empathy when you can. And for God’s sake, pray for these people, and pray for those of us that are empaths on the front line. I wouldn’t trade it for the world but I need to keep my oxygen mask on.


Leave a comment

Untwisting the Knife

My daughter told me recently that someone in the family called her and hurt her deeply. They said that her father would be very disappointed in her. That alone is hurtful enough. Tim died nine years ago and the grief is still felt by all of us. Telling someone their parent is disappointed in them is painful. Telling someone that when their parent is deceased is more than painful. It is cruel. And it is cowardly.

That was not all. He also reminded her that she was born out-of-wedlock. (Do people really still use that term anymore?) Basically, she was a bastard child. Now she has repeated the same pattern, the same mistake, by having a child while not married. Basically, she had a bastard child as well. He suggested she not consider baptizing her. That beautiful little girl is anything but a bastard. She is gorgeous and joyful. She will hug any human that hugs her back.

I’m considered the Christmas Queen around here. (Or I’m called the Christmas Nazi, depending on your perspective.) I watch every Christmas movie I own every year. I have to start in October to accomplish that. I have thousands of Christmas songs. I am still working on those, maybe by New Year’s? Christmas books, you name it.

I grew up in the church. I know the Christmas story forward and backward. I know every word to every verse of every Christmas carol. (I might be exaggerating, but only a little.) Today, something hit me at 52-years-old that I never thought of.

Jesus was born to an engaged woman. Jesus was technically a bastard child. I texted my daughter and told her she should remind her very staunch Catholic family member of that fact before he berates anyone else.

I sat in my pew and thought about how completely interesting and fascinating that Jesus chose to come into the world that way. The emphasis has always been on Mary being a virgin. While that is true and significant, it is also completely consistent with the fact that Jesus later hung out with the prostitutes and tax collectors. He actually shut down the church leaders of the day. He reamed them out and called out their hypocrisy. And He got baptized.

I’m proud to be THAT kind of Christian.


1 Comment

Not Fun To Write

This is not a fun blog to write and I’ve been struggling all week with how to word it. Let me start by saying that I do not blog with the intention of airing my dirty laundry, or anyone else’s. I write mostly for two reasons.

  1. Writing helps me to process what is happening in my life. It is for my own mental health.
  2. It appears to help other people process things in their own lives. Being able to identify with someone who is brave enough to voice their inward thoughts and feelings moves them along in their own growth. That is why I say all this work (the books I’ve written, blogs, my career path) are the lemonade I have attempted to make with the lemons I have been handed (mostly the deaths of the people I loved dearly).

Obviously then, the goal is to heal, not to hurt. I am completely aware that when you post anything on the Internet, you are making yourself vulnerable and subject to criticism. I’ve never been a fan of that but I understand it comes with the territory.

What I find disturbing, is when people use my writing to hurt me, or even worse my family. It has come to my attention that “people” (I don’t know who or exactly how many) have been telling my kids that I write awful things about them on my blogs.

The worst part of that is why the hell someone would do that? What motive do they have? It can’t possibly be for the good of my kids. It only hurts them to think the one that cares for them is not actually caring for them. And how could it be good to try to create division in someone’s home? The only motive that makes sense is that that reader doesn’t like me and wants my kids not to like me either. That is selfishness of the worst kind- hurting others for your own “gain” if you could even call it that. Or maybe the reader just wants to hurt me? If so, congrats! Hurting my kids is about the shittiest thing you can do. Any mother knows there is no worse pain than seeing your kids hurt.

What else sucks is that telling my loved ones that I trash them is completely untrue and false. I do write about the struggles of parenthood at times. I do write (rarely) about things my kids do that are hurtful. But the intent is not to bash, it is to learn and grow and heal from. Any parent recognizes the truth in that. When you look at the big picture of my writing, most things are positive when it comes to them.

When I was approached by one of my kids with this idea that I am “negative” about them, I responded with two things.

  1. I reminded them that a couple of years ago I had a SPECT image done of my brain. (Blogged about that, too.) It uncovered that I have “refractory depression” which means lifelong depression and also resistant to treatment. My “negative” slant in life (my ability to identify often with pain) is part of my hard wiring, not part of a plan to hurt the people I love.
  2. I read an excerpt from my PUBLISHED BOOK that spoke to the high heavens about how I feel about them and the deep love I feel for them, proving that I do not go around trashing them. It was obvious to them at that point, that the sources who were feeding them information had completely misrepresented me. Perhaps in the future, they will ask their “sources” to be silent, or maybe they will read for themselves before assuming the gossip is true.

Although I was surprised to even know that many people bother to read my blog, I do have a couple of things to say to those readers who are doing so in order to hurt my family. First, why don’t you contact me personally instead of hurting my kids? Or better yet, why don’t you post comments on my blogs and see what kind of reactions you get? Just because I share my rawest emotions, doesn’t mean it is easy to be that vulnerable for the world to see and criticize. It isn’t. So instead of attacking me behind my back, have the courage to speak up. If you can’t match my bravery, then stand down.

Lastly, shame on you. My family has been through enough heartache. Stop spewing poison. Whatever reasons you think you have, they are not appropriate. Our family may not be perfect, but we are all here together. We have been since Tim died. We have survived and we love each other. LEAVE US ALONE.


Leave a comment

A Thankless Job

Can you guess what it is? Parenting. Well, maybe that isn’t quite fair. Kids are pretty cute and grateful until about age 4, maybe longer if you are lucky. Then it turns off until in their thirties, or maybe when they are off on their own, or when they have kids of their own. That’s what they say anyway.

I’m still waiting. I’m a lot better at accepting all of this as developmentally normal when I have my therapist hat on. When I have my parenting hat on, I’m completely confused. I would literally give my life for these suckers. Don’t they see it? And if they do, how can they possibly not be grateful?

I’ve got a few of them at different ages. One isn’t talking to me, going on month five. When there are grandkids involved, the pain takes on a whole other level. The holidays only increase that disappointment by a hundred times or so.

The teenager… Is it enough to just say he’s a teenager? He’s absolutely great as far as the things that lead kids astray. No drugs, drinking, sex, violence, and so on and so on. But he truly recoils if he brushes up against me. Even when you are trying to do something nice like get him a gift, he is a total disrespectful punk sometimes. I just don’t get it.

Another one is just moody. One day you walk in the kitchen and suddenly there is no eye contact whatsoever. There is no response to even the most simple question. It’s like I’m completely invisible. Like I’m not even in the damn room. I just wonder what the hell happened from yesterday.

I just pray and pray and pray that someday it will get better. I love my children and grandchildren so much that my chest hurts when I think about them. There is nothing more valuable to me than them. As we approach the holidays, I want to say with a thousand percent sincerity, I don’t want a thing from them. Not even the tiniest object. I just want them to love me and I want them to let me love them. Nothing would make my heart soar more than that.

Stinkers. I adore them though.


Leave a comment

God and Human Emotion

Image result for images of the bible

Last Sunday’s sermon had me crying through at least half of it. I’m not exactly sure why, but I have some ideas that might have contributed to my reaction. The message came from an interesting passage in Hosea.

It’s not one of those things that is talked about very often, but God was really ticked off at “His People” and sent Hosea to tell them so. In spite of God’s consistent and constant love and provision, Israel was going through the teenage phase. (Clue number 1 to my reaction.) Yes, I know that rebellion and separation are the developmental tasks of a teenager. I honestly believed mine wouldn’t go through it the same way because there was a time when we were incredibly close. Plus, I would give my life for him. Why would he rebel against that?

Anyway, back to God. He was done with them, finished. If they cried out for help again, He wasn’t going to help them. In fact, He was going to let them go to a place where they would be “devoured.” Pastor Debi asked if we have ever reached that point with someone in our lives. She didn’t really indicate that would be wrong, just that it happens. In fact, she said that sometimes you have to protect yourself from vulnerability from those who repeatedly harm you in some way. (Clue number 2.)

She said God’s heart was breaking. He was absolutely heartbroken. (Clue number 3.) I know what that feels like, but I wasn’t even consciously thinking of myself. It genuinely made me cry to think of God in that way.

No sooner had God thrown up His angry hands when He recanted. Of course He will come to their aid. Of course He will forgive them. God’s love is persistent. No matter what.

Debi pointed out that for those folks think that God is big, out there, and so far removed from us, we are actually made in His image. That includes the full spectrum of human emotions. That includes the phase of being totally pissed off.

I have often told clients that sometimes it is not about what we choose to do, but why we choose to do it. At one point in my life, it was my spiritual growth to stand up for myself. When I was in my twenties and just entering the therapy world, I was a nightmare for my family. Every word uttered became introspection for me and I needed to declare my conclusions to the world, especially if it was about them.

Later, I realized my spiritual growth was to stop judging so much. I tried to be the next Mother Theresa. No matter what, I would respond with love and kindness. Even if that meant being a doormat, so be it. It was what God called me to be.

Now I am balancing the two (I think). I am learning to draw boundaries with people who consistently hurt me. Even if it means walking away, I am doing it. But I am trying to remain open to whatever happens if they come back to me. I don’t think it will be hard though. I’ve always been like butter if someone offers me a genuine apology. I’m emotionally learning the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation, even though it’s a concept I’ve known intellectually for years.

It’s a half-baked thought, but I wondered if the entire universe/world/earth goes through the same phases. The Old Testament God is pretty tough to grapple with sometimes. There’s a lot of events like entire armies being drowned in the sea in the name of justice. Then the New Testament comes along and Jesus blows it all away in the water. He is one big heart. His biggest beef was with the Pharisees, the avid churchgoers and leaders. He hung out with the prostitutes instead.

Anyhow, lots of food for thought. Thanks again Pastor Debi for the push to keep growing.


Leave a comment

Between Rocks & Hard Places

I’m continuing to read my own books. I’ve given in to marking them up with edits. I can’t help myself. But if I’m hard on myself about writing, you should hear what I do to myself about parenting.

Hindsight might be 20/20, but our memories of past events are also partly skewed, even for those of us that do pretty well with details. I have been surprised as I’ve been reading my journal entries, that my angst about “losing Dave” along the way started long before his teenage years.

I just didn’t realize how long ago it started. The answer startled me. As I read, my first thought was it started right after Tim died. Then I realized it actually started when Tim got sick.

Tim got diagnosed in May. I remembered that sometime in July, Dave came to me and asked if he could stop going places. He was worn out and wanted to stay home. He was only seven at the time.

A kid that young isn’t supposed to be at home on summer vacation and watch his dad deteriorate. We were also overwhelmed with treatment, educating ourselves about disease, and making preparations for our future. Oh yeah, both of us trying to work as well. People really stepped up and took Dave everywhere. Super fun places too. But that created the situation where he came to me and said, “Enough.”

That five months of Tim’s illness was when Timmy and Dave got much closer than they were already. I literally felt sick to my stomach thinking about this little kid who was losing his dad but also lost his mom in the process. My priority was helping Tim journey out of this world. I didn’t ignore my son by any means, but I was definitely focused on doing this “thing” as best we could.

I should have paid more attention to my boy. I shouldn’t have shipped him off all the time. I should have. I shouldn’t have. Damn it! This big community event that we were unfolding, maybe it was all a monumental mistake. Maybe it should have been a small, private affair where I kept my boy in a world closer to the parent that wasn’t leaving him.

But shit. Would it really have been right to not be by Tim’s side whenever possible? He literally only had five months. Was that too much to ask to be the priority? I’m so sick of Catch-22 situations and being caught between a rock and a hard place. It’s so freakin’ unfair.

Dave has always been my biggest worry since the moment he was conceived. And that has only exponentially grown since the death of his father. I thought I was relatively well equipped to handle it, but looking back, I pretty much botched it up. I won’t ever feel good about that.

I’m also aware though, that if I had handled it differently, I would be blogging now about how I pretty much botched up a different aspect of that event in our lives. Because no matter what angle you looked at it, it was an impossible situation to deal with.

And almost nine years later, I can tell you it still is.