Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Oh Yes! It Is Holiday Season Again...

This time of year is especially difficult for grieving mothers. It is all about family gatherings, good times, food, fellowship and lots of memories. It is a time when we stop working and we gather at each others houses and we try to put aside differences to be together for the holidays. For the grieving mother however this takes on a whole new meaning as we know we can never have our entire family together again for the holidays. The Norman Rockwell picture of everyone seated around the holiday table while mom brings in the big turkey will never happen in our lives again. We are always the one on the outside looking through the window at other families that have everyone together.

The holidays for me as a grieving mother have been especially difficult we go right from Thanksgiving into Heather's birthday on December 10th, and then into Christmas. Depression usually hits in between Halloween and Thanksgiving and stays until after the first of the year. But this year seems to be a little bit different with my new job. I think that I have been so busy working and then trying to get a jump on setting up Christmas before the  Thanksgiving shopping weekend that I haven't really had time to think about what's coming up. However something happened on Friday that shouldn't really have affected me but because of the season that it is it sent me into a depression that I am now trying to fight off. To anyone else this would not have been a big deal but, to me, given the time of year and I am a grieving mother it hit me differently then it would most people. While I am not as depressed as in years past, I can certainly feel that a small amount of Mr. smelly depression has come in and settled for the holiday season.

Last October I began preparing for an all family vacation to Walt Disney World and then a short Disney cruise. I wanted to go at Christmas because even the cruise ships are decorated for Christmas plus I really wanted to see this. I decided to go during Heather's birthday time. We have friends from South Carolina that will be joining us on the special trip. Recently it dawned on me this week when I looked at my calendar countdown that we leave on December 10th and this is really a countdown to what would have been Heather's 27th birthday. While I am extremely excited about our vacation plus all of us being together as a family and making wonderful memories it is still very difficult to know the one that is always missing won't be there. Now I have a daily reminder of just how many days it is till her birthday.

Nothing about Thanksgiving and Christmas will ever be the same and I should not expect more from myself than I can give. Currently it seems I am just exhausted between working, preparing for Christmas and grieving. Many grieving mothers work and I honestly do not know how they survived the first few days, weeks and months back after their child died. I am nearly 6 years down the road and I still struggle some days. But I am hoping that Heather is very proud of me for following my dream and hers to work at Disney. She loved Disney so much and I am extremely happy working for Disney. I really feel this is a perfect fit for me, but it is still exhausting. While this season is all about family, food and memories I am always thinking about the one that will be forever 21 and forever missing from my holidays.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A System That Failed...

Grieving mothers are survivors the moment their child dies and for the most part friends and family will say that we are the bravest strongest people they know. For me personally, I don’t feel that I am all that strong or brave, I just get up, get dressed and continue each day the best way I know how.

Being a survivor is nothing new to me, I have been one nearly from the day I was born. I have been trying to decide whether or not to write this blog, but it keeps coming to my mind. Also, writing is cathartic for me and helps me move forward one word at a time.

So here goes…I am not just a grieving mother, but I am an adult survivor of child abuse, child sexual abuse and adult sexual abuse. WOW! There I said it. It has been said recently that I feel like I have no boundaries, that I say whatever I feel and think no matter what it is and to some extent that is true. I have said that the day Heather died changed everything and I don’t care what people think of me. While that really is not true and I do deep down inside care about what people think about me, I do feel I can say or do what I want to now.

My adopted mother, Jo Beth, was a cruel and evil woman that victimized me from the time I was 3 months old till the day she died when I was 9 years and 5 months old. I was emotional, mentally and physically abuse at her hands for my whole time with her. I laugh and say I was grounded for the first 9 years of my life which really was true and I was whipped, spanked and beaten with belts, yard sticks and fly swatters. I became so nervous that I began a terrible habit of biting my fingernails of which I still do to this day. I become very nervous that I have upset someone if they do not speak to me and I am always looking for the approval of others. There was no bonding with Jo Beth and I felt there must be something wrong with me that I felt like I hated her. When I received my adoption files this was something that was watched by the case workers for 2 years that we never bonded and the home should have never been approved for the placement of a baby. So the system failed me from the very beginning.

Jo Beth worked as a school teacher and of course my Daddy, Jim, worked so that meant I had to go to daycare. My earliest memory of a daycare is an extreme argument between my parents and the Self Nursery Child Care. I never returned there. The next was a baby sitter that had two kids of her own and decided to take on a few more. One day all us kids were left in the car while she went into the old Safeway and the baby pulled the car into gear and we rolled into oncoming traffic on the busiest street in my hometown. The third and final baby sitter was very different.

At first, we all loved our new babysitter, Jenny. She was happy, made great homemade meals and we kids could play among the sheets drying on the clotheslines. We could watch her wash clothes in an old ringer washer and we had our own playroom as their two sons were grown. Everything was wonderful, until her husband came home. He was a city of Farmington employee and he came home for lunch and at about 3:30-4:00 pm each day. At first we thought he was great that he would play with us and have fun, but then it all changed the longer we stayed there.

Miller would catch me behind the sheets drying on the line or running through the house and he would grab me, kiss me and force my mouth open as he stuck his tongue in my mouth. He would also come up behind me and fondle me and force me to fondle him. This would continue most days of the week for years. I can remember his words very well as he told me that no one would believe me and he would deny it and I would get into trouble. Trouble was the last thing in the world I needed so I kept my mouth shut. Remember this was about 1969-1973 and sexual abuse was not thought about among anyone let alone talked about. So the system I had some trust in, which was adults, failed me again.

My adopted mother died in February, 1975 and I was a part of it and saw things that no nine year old, little fourth grader should ever see or hear. But for the first time I felt free, like I was released from prison. My Daddy let me run wild for that time as he was free as well. I was a fourth grader by day and then sleeping part of the nights till 1 or 2 am on ladies couches as my Daddy was off with them in their bedrooms. There were several women, but the most memorable was Wilma. I walked in to see her naked with my Daddy when I stayed the night with a neighbor and came home early and then her high school aged son repeatedly sexually molested me for several months. He told me that my Daddy would be mad at me and send me away. I had no one else in the world but him so I kept my mouth shut. Remember I was nine years old at this time.

My Daddy remarried and my life as I knew it changed and changed drastically. The friends that we had were gone, I had to change schools and I also had two step-brothers. My freshman year in school my older step brother took a nice interest in me and tried to have sex with me. Of course this made living in the house together real fun. I was never treated like I was a sister or a new daughter by my step mother. I wasn’t abused but I was ignored and made to feel like I was nothing. Again, the silence makes me feel like I have done something wrong and I began to have explosive moments of anger. My older step brother lived at home for a really long time and was still there when I came to announce I was getting married. There was an argument between me and my step mother and it ended with my step brother pushing me up against the wall with his first ready to hit me. 

So fast forward…I got married when I was 18 and thought the past was behind me. What I didn’t realize is that my past shaped me into who I was and am. I was a survivor of a horrible, horrible childhood. But now that I was married and began having my own family all that would change right?? The only member of my in-law family that I felt close to was Bill’s mom, Margaret. She actually taught me how to cook, bake and I have modeled my decorating at Christmas and parties after her as well.

My Daddy, Jim, died when I was 7 months pregnant with Wendy at the age of 24. The only living person that had my past was gone and of course I have only my memories of my past no real hard solid witness. It was my need to belong and fit in that made me search for my birth mother. Of course I found her and I wish I never had. I was the product of a 2 ½ yearlong affair she had with a married man in a small town in Iowa.
She got pregnant on purpose to force this man to marry her and when he didn’t she dumped me. Once I found her she was filled with lies and trying to make herself look like the victim. Now I know that she was both the instigator and the victim. My birth father was a very, very, very good manipulator. After years of trying to create a relationship I broke my relationship off with my birth mother. I wanted to feel special and loved for once by a parent, a mother. When my Heather died, her granddaughter, she sent me a generic card and never has had the nerve to call me.

I have no idea why, but I just could not leave well enough alone and I had to find the nagging answers to my identity questions, so I found my birth father. I am a very good judge of character and I can spot a fake and a phony 10 miles away. I can get a gut feeling about someone and 9 times out of 10 I am usually right. However, I allowed this man to become part of my family and I loved him and he used that to his advantage. In the middle of our relationship Heather got cancer and then died and my world as I knew it was upside down and inside out. Honestly, I did not know what way was up. My birth father told me he didn’t feel like he wanted to be my dad, but he wanted to be my lover. I  tried talking to him, but the final straw was to wake up with him kissing me and trying to crawl into my bed one morning during one of his visits form Iowa. Yes, I called the police and we tried to pursue charges but he was very good at abusing women. Once again I was a 5 year old little girl caught in the bed sheets, he victimized me but he did not win.

Recently I learned that I am to blame for lives being a total mess and that Bill should have completely walked away from me and our 32 year marriage instead of working things out and continuing together. This is not the reaction that should be coming from so called “Christian” people let alone “family.” While I am a forgiving person I am not one that forgets and I certainly can be pushed too far. Once I am done with you, I am done and there is nothing you can do to regain my love and respect. I have enough respect for myself to not cast my pearls before swine. Just because you are blood doesn’t mean a thing to me anymore. The system that I trusted and believed in failed me my whole life.

I am a survivor!! I have survived and I will continue to survive. Being a grieving mother just adds to the mounting emotions and the things I have had to endure in my lifetime. I will say that having Heather die was the big one, the worst one and the one I wish I could make go away and never come back. I stated once that women, especially mothers, are like teabags, they don’t know how strong they are till they are dipped into hot water. I have endured a lifetime of hurts and events that no one single person should have to survive. These events make me who I am and I think I am pretty terrific and I have the most amazing husband, daughters, granddaughters and son in laws. It is your extreme loss not to have a relationship with me and my family. While that is a choice you can make sometime the choice is made by me to protect the ones that I love.

So why this blog and why now…there have been so many news stories about child abuse from Brooke Shields and sexual abuse at the hands of Bill Cosby. I wanted to share my story to show that you never know what a person might be keeping to themselves or what events shaped their lives in the past. The most “normal” people can be the ones that had the most horrible past events. I share my story to say abuse of any kind can and does happen to children and adults. Being a grieving mother just makes me more vulnerable because I so want to be understood and loved and accepted.