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I Don't Have a Grief Problem - I Have a Family Problem

One of the uglier parts of grief (not that any of it is nice), is that it uncovers issues that have nothing to do with the death of a loved one.  The anniversary of Nathan's death is approaching. This time last year, he was in and out of the hospital, but I thought he would get through it as he always did.........unfortunately, the last time he didn't and he died on May 19th, 2013.   I'll freely admit that even though I've been doing ok for the last few months, I've been in a bit of a funk since the beginning of April. 


The only child Nathan and I have has four paws, whiskers and a tail.  So I've had to lean on my birth family for support.....therein lies the rub.  While certain members of my family have tried to be supportive, others just seem to want to add to the pain.  I know its probably not conscious or intentional, but for some members of my family compassion seems to take a back seat to "being right" or "telling someone when they are wrong". 


The last and most painful incident happened on Sunday.  My sister yelled at me and said that my pain is too painful for other people to see and is pushing people away.  She went on to say that my pain is killing my parents.  That threw my pain levels back up to where they were when Nathan first died.  After talking to a friend, she pointed out that I don't have a "grief problem" that it sounded like I have a family problem.   


I started thinking about what she said, and she was right......all my life, its always been about my sister.  First it was that she was the baby, then it was that she had the husband and finally it was that she had the kids.  I realized that I was always the one who made the effort, while she never reciprocated.  I was the one who always had to travel 60+ miles to see her.  If I called her, she never called back or even acknowledged the call.    I realize that when I was at my lowest points, my sister picked a fight so she could tell people that she tried supporting me, but that I was pushing her away. 


In many ways, though upsetting, the realization is freeing. Its not about me and how I'm "grieving wrong".  Its about her and no matter what I do, she probably would find a way to criticize and pick a fight.  I still need to find a healthy way to address it - I guess voodoo dolls are out :-) But I can stop beating myself up over the fact that if I were a "better" griever than she would be there.


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Comment by Ange_l on May 22, 2014 at 8:32pm
Some of husband's family went to a lawyer to see if they could contest me being named his beneficiary. He was the love of my life. I was beside him, caring for him, through horrific complications with his illness during the last few years. When he wanted to die at home rather than in the hospital I was there so it could happen. My heart was already broken... Thankfully my family has been supportive.
Comment by AEDforever (Ali) on April 29, 2014 at 8:45pm

Oh, i say the voodoo dolls ardin!..way in!  And i repeat my refrain..fuck them.  You should not have to "shield" other people from being "uncomfortable" with your grief.  Thats just straight up bullshit!

Comment by Lucy on April 24, 2014 at 5:00am
It has been two years since Den died. Sadly, I've learned that I have to stay away from most of my siblings for my own sanity. I now realize how much my husband helped me tolerate their selfish, unkind behavior. I always had him to debrief and laugh with after spending time with them. Now, I don't so I am choosing to skip the family get together this Memorial Day for my own sanity. We have to take care of ourselves.
Comment by cec on April 22, 2014 at 12:18pm
Get the voodoo's worth a try...sorry
Comment by only1sue on April 16, 2014 at 2:48pm

It is hard when your siblings are no support, my sister is like that, but then she always has been self-centered and I have learned to let her know about a problem but to expect no acknowledgement. Her family is the same. It is sad that for me my support has come from some older ladies, all widows, at my church who support me because they do know what it is like to be a widow and I appreciate them for doing so.

I am 18 months out and know it is now time to build myself up to give out to others as they have given out to me. Because remember what comes around goes around. And as for those who show no compassion I know in their time of need very little is shown to them.

Comment by NZJGirl2009 on April 16, 2014 at 7:01am

Thank you all for your comments.  They really helped me.  Part of the issue is that they are not grieving Nathan.  They see him as mine and as someone only peripheral to them and thier lives.  My sister and her family seem to empathize more with celebrities than for those that they love.  The guy from "Glee" died a few months after Nathan and I heard all about how bad they felt for his girlfriend.  When I said "unfortunately I know exactly how she feels", I got blank stares.   I've gotten exponentially more support from the people I work with.  Some of who knew him years before he and I even met, others who never met Nathan, but who do have compassion and care about me.   

I've been going to a psycologist. When he called me yesterday I told him what went on and his words were something to the effect of "doesn't anyone in your family know what campassion is?". 

Phyllis, you're absolutely right that grief has a way of teaching you what's important.....and who's important.  And betrayal is a great word for it.  I was treading water and she pushed my head completely under.  That's a betrayal to me. 

This incident made me realize that I need to rebuild my own life and recognize that not only will certain members of my family not provide support, but that they would crush any foundation that I start to build. 

Comment by Phyllis on April 16, 2014 at 3:37am

NZJGirl, if nothing else, grief has taught me what is and is not important.  A supportive family member is important; a self centered family member is not.  It has taught me to trust my instincts because now that's all I have. We don't have our husbands to keep us real when our family members made us crazy.   You have put up with your sister's me me me attitude all these years because she was not your prime focus; your husband was.  Now that he is gone, you need to be your prime focus.  And if she is hindering your grieving process and ultimately your ability to enjoy life again (it will happen eventually), you need to continue to acknowledge her negative influence on you.  You don't have to stop loving her; you just have to keep her betrayal (maybe too strong a word) in mind. 

Please don't think that "doing ok for the last few months" is wrong.  There have been times that I felt guilty for feeling the same thing and we shouldn't do that to ourselves.  It's been 20 months for me, and I have found that anticipating the anniversary date (each month and year) is worse than the actual day.  I think I poured all my emotion into the anticipation of it being horrible till there was nothing left.  So being in a funk now would seem to me to be normal.

Take care and continue to do great.

Comment by Choosing life on April 15, 2014 at 4:18pm
NZJGirl2009. --- I am so sorry that you are having to endure all of this with your family. Why is it that the people you think will be your support end up being so hurtful. And I am SICK of family members who always have to make it about themselves!! Like all of us here wanted to be the center of attention by losing our spouses. And it is not a contest to see who loved them more, or who can post the most touching statement on Facebook, or who has the best memories of them. I can tell you who loved them the most --- their grieving widow (or widower). You just hang on --- you are not grieving wrong --- they are not supporting you. Sometimes I would like to put the smack down on these people!!!!! Stay strong --- you can't see me but my hand is reaching out for your hand. Wishing peace for us all.

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