I’ve been thinking about grief today. Which wound up being ironic, as I end my day questioning what grief I have a right to. I shall explain.
I’ve had this weird little thought in my head for many years now. “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to believe.” <—-I know. Not the quote you’re used to. But it’s always felt more apropos to me on a personal level. I am not one to deceive, but…against my training and better judgment…I am almost always one to believe.
I believe in people long past them proving to me that I should not. I believe that I matter long past some people proving that I do not. (This isn’t a pity me thing…we’ve all been there.)
But…believing is what leads us to later grief. It’s TOTALLY worth it to believe in people and things…but if that thing is taken from us…it’s the fact that we believed that we had it that hurts the most.
If we have never believed we were loved, we are less likely to grieve feeling unloved. If we have never believed that we matter to someone, we don’t even consider grieving not mattering to them. To put it in the simplest terms…I think of it like I think of being rich. Y’all. I have never been rich. I have never believed that I will ever be rich. I will never grieve the fact that I am not rich. Because why would I grieve something I never expected to have? Now…let’s say an incredibly wealthy person becomes a pauper. He believed he’d always be rich. He will, rightfully, grieve that loss. Because he can’t survive without riches? Nope. But because he truly believed that he would always have those riches…and he struggles to wrap his brain around what life is supposed to look like without this thing that he truly believed would always be there. That loss of something he believed would always be in his life leaves a hole that is scary.
It’s legitimate grief.
So, yeah…belief is what tends to lead us to grief. Again, worth it. But…it DOES make belief scary. Especially when you’ve lost a lot in life. Because every time you believed…and every time you lost what you believed in…it became scarier and scarier and scarier to believe again. You started to feel like, “It’s going to hurt so much more when it’s gone…if I just don’t believe in it, it’ll be easier…”.
Hopefully, you continued to believe anyway.
But, for real…there are days when I am paralyzed by fear of believing in the future that I can’t control. There are days when just NOT believing feels so much safer.
If I don’t believe, I don’t have to grieve.
Now. That’s where my anxiety-riddled mind was earlier today. SO…WHAT DOES SHERI DO WHEN SHE’S ANXIOUS?!?!
Yup. When I say dumb shit…WHY IN GOD’S NAME do I always choose my anxious days to Google my little brother, my mother or my stepfather? WHY?!?!?!?!
Because I’m an idiot. That’s why.
So, Idiot Sheri…decided today to Google her little brother to see if he’s still staying out of jail. Apparently, he’s doing well there so far. But when I spied on his FaceBook…he had a public post…asking his dad to pull through because he can’t make it without him.
My heart stopped.
My stepfather…is the most confusing pain I hold in my life. He was the first man to break my heart. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve fully trusted myself to ever really be loved by anyone since him. That man was my everything when I was little. He was my daddy. He was my protector. He was my friend. He taught me to love music. He taught me I was beautiful. He taught me I was cherished and loved. He taught me to believe in myself. He taught me that, no matter how anyone else felt about me, I was the world to him.
Until one day I wasn’t. One day…when it turned out he wasn’t my daddy…he was my abductor…when my world was ripped away from me…I still believed. I still believed that my daddy loved me even if he wasn’t my daddy. I still believed that I was worthy. And then he told me I wasn’t. He told me that my accepting my real father hurt him too badly. He told me that my allowing things to change, in any way, made him hate me. He told me that looking at me made him sick to his stomach.
This man that I had loved SO much. This man who was the basis of every positive belief I had about my world…took it all away. I wasn’t enough to still love even through the trauma that he had helped force on me. I wasn’t enough to still believe in if I couldn’t do things exactly his way.
He broke my heart. And…my belief in him…and the belief that he had taught me to have in myself…I’ve grieved those every day of my life since then.
Every now and then I would try again. I would try to mend this broken relationship…because I HAD to believe that somewhere…deep down…he really had loved me enough not to turn his back on me.
And…every time I tried…he destroyed me.
So…when I saw that post on my brother’s Facebook today…I felt like I’d been stabbed.
I started (guiltily, because I’m supposed to hate him) Googling like crazy. Did something happen? Did he pass away? Was there an obituary? Is he ok? Is he gone?
So many questions. No answers. And I have nowhere to get them.
I’ve always known that when something happens to either of them (him or my mom)…I will probably find out many years later during one of my Google searches. No one will tell me. No one will say a word. As I have not existed to them, I will not exist to anyone who knows of their passing.
And I thought I was ok with that. I thought, “I’ll never grieve them after everything they’ve done to me.” I still believe that about my mom.
And here’s where I’ve realized the difference is.
I never believed my mother loved me.
I was never able to forget the memory of the time I believed that he did.
Do I even have a right to grieve? Maybe. Maybe not. I have no idea. And, at this moment, I’m grieving thoughts and memories…not reality. For all I know he stubbed his toe and my brother is a giant drama queen.
But…tonight…the memories…the not knowing…on top of a day where I was already on that anxiety train…
I grieve. Because I believed.
One thought on “We Grieve What We Believe”
Your writing really makes me think. I read this last night and spent the evening (and a bit of this morning) thinking about it. I think you’re right about the believing and the grieving. As I think back a number of years to some dark times in my life, I can see that the worst of the grief I had came from the realization that certain relationships weren’t what I believed they were.
Maybe, though, that’s because I believed in people who didn’t deserve that level of my faith in the first place? I’m not mad at God – I don’t feel like He let me down. But my ex, parents, former church family, former friends…I’m still furious at them and still grieving those losses years later.
It makes it hard to believe that in new relationships things will (or can) be any better. It’s a real struggle. You’ve put some words to my frustrations. Thanks for that.
The details in our stories aren’t really similar at all, but I know what it’s like to Google people and wonder; to look on social media and see if they’re happy or not; to hope they’re miserable and then feel bad about that; or to hope they’re miserable and not feel bad about that.
I don’t know that I can offer much encouragement beyond a reminder that you’re not alone in your struggles. Those circumstances and details in our stories are different, but you aren’t alone in your struggles. I hope your day today is better than yesterday, and that your tomorrow is better than today.
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