Evidently I’m Human
Just a quick update so as not to leave anyone in suspense. I saw the Boundary Ninja yesterday and it helped immensely, although I am now aware that I am grieving. So much for numbness. I walked in and pretty much exploded all over his office and covered the emotional spectrum: love, hate, pity, grief, compassion, anger, sadness, hurt. You name it, I think I felt it. As it was with my father, losing male members of my family seems to be the perfect definition of ambivalence. From the way I exploded once I knew I was with BN (I started sobbing at the beginning and couldn’t manage to talk for at least several minutes) I think I needed to really feel safe, the kind of safe I really only feel in BN’s office in order to allow myself to feel.
Interestingly enough, near the very beginning of the session, I told BN that it felt like I wasn’t entitled to have any of my feelings. It also turned out that in five years of rather intensive work together, I had never really spoken about my brother. So I spent a bit of time giving him the background and timeline of our relationship (he hasn’t taken that many notes in a session in a long time). He listened and asked the occasional question but he mainly just made it clear that anything I said, felt or did was acceptable. Digging through all of my feelings led me to two major realizations.
The first was that no matter how much you tell yourself hope is gone in terms of repairing a relationship or finally having the relationship you longed for, you don’t really let go of it while both of you are living. I haven’t been in regular touch with my brother in longer than I can remember and haven’t had any contact at all for a couple of years. Yet, one of the things I was feeling was the loss of hope. Hope that we could acknowledge and repair what was between us. That died along with my brother.
The second, which was tough to get to, was tied into my sense of self. I found myself wanting to ask BN if I was ok? Was I still ok with him? The feelings were coming from a very young place. When I told him I was feeling that way, he asked if I could tell him more about that. I started talking about how I had been treated by both my father and my brother, as something they could use. What was wrong with me, that the men in my family treated me that way? (Just for the record, NOTHING… my treatment by them says very little about me except that I was young and vulnerable.) What I finally managed to work my way through to saying (tremendous amount of shame surrounding all this) is that I had so badly longed for my father and brother to be the men I thought they were. My brother was seven years older than I and I was in awe of him as a child. So there was a long time where I saw my father and brother as an ideal, men who deserved to be looked up to and admired, whom I could trust to love and protect me. And neither of them turned out to be that. They had not cared for me as I deserved and I had been anything but protected. BN asked how I felt about having said that. And I told him sad, but also freeing. Accepting that a loss is a loss can make such a difference.
The more I expressed, the more grief I was able to feel. There is compassion mixed in. At one point, BN asked what my brother’s relationship was with my father. I don’t remember much, but what I do remember wasn’t good. My brother may have been another one of my abusers, but he was also another one of my father’s victims. I told BN that my family was like a war zone and no one got out alive. And that in some ways, I’m struggling with survivor’s guilt, that I was able to heal but my brother never did. And now his life was over and he never would.
Near the end of the appointment, when I was struggling to calm down so I could leave, BN returned to something I had said early on in the session about how losing my MIL was painful and hurt but was simple. I loved her, she loved me, I missed her. BN told me that coming from a situation like mine did make it very complicated and then very gently said to me “you’re human, AG and these are all human feelings.” Then he told me this was a good time to practice a lot of self-compassion. And being the wonderful man he is, he told me not to hesitate to call if I needed to. Which is good, because I’m feeling very small and may need to run home. I am, as (almost :)) always, grateful for BN. He cannot make the loss disappear but gives me a safe place to acknowledge and mourn it. He has also taught me what my father and brother should have been like.
So I am sad and feeling worn, but I am at least now present. Complicated grief is even more tiring than the straightforward stuff, but I know I’m going to be ok. Thank you to everyone for your kind thoughts and words, it’s helped more than I can express to have people who understand and who care so much despite never having met me.