Looking Like An Enemy

Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got-Robert Brault

I never understood the necessity to use the word “half” when describing my connection to my siblings. The fact that we have different mothers means what? That we have different DNA? No two people have the same DNA unless they are identical twins. Or is it the fact that we only have 1 parent in common? Even your own child doesn’t have 100% your DNA. When establishing paternity, the results never go higher than 99.9 % yet you never hear anyone saying this is my “half” child. You only need a drop of blood to make you related. Just one. 

As long as I can remember, this has always been my view on so called “half” siblings. I have never referred to any of my siblings in this manner because I don’t have “half” siblings. I simply have sisters and a brother. With this long-standing belief, this journey of acceptance was not about accepting my brother. It was about accepting the difference of opinion regarding our parent’s dark past. 

I can honestly say that I never blamed Eric for anything that had to do with my mother’s death. He never asked to be born or to be put in that situation. None of us did. No child should be punished for the sins of their parent.  Accepting a sibling from a different parent into your life does not mean that you accept the actions of the adults.  You are accepting a different part of you that you did not know before. Yes, a part of YOU. That same DNA flowing through your veins is the same DNA flowing through their veins. Now you can deny that all you want but, the truth is the truth, 1 drop. 

Lies, cheating and suicide was the bases for my brother and my connection. I resented the fact that my Dad and Glenn were able to tell their version of the truth. What bothered me most is that I knew one day Glenn would tell her “truth” to my brother and he would believe her. Why not? She is his mother.  The fact that he still had his mother to tell him her version of the events made me feel like he had an unfair advantage. I had to dig, investigate and connect the dots to get my mother’s side. 

So, the day I decided to get to know my brother better was the day I decided that I would never listen to his mother’s version of the events. I also decided that If necessary, I would defend my mother against ANYBODY, even though at that time I was still mad at my mother. I was not sure how my brother felt or when that impending conversation would happen. In a sense I was ready for war if I had to be.

By God’s grace, I was given time. Time for us to get to know each other outside of our parent’s past.  Time for the sibling bonds to strengthen.  Time for both of us to grow and mature before we actually had the conversation.  All of this is what helped me and my brother to be able to put that dark past aside and continue on with our relationship. 

This was the first conversation but, it was not our last. As, we grew, matured and experienced more of life, the conversation got less intense and more open on both parts. He was always willing to listen to me express my mother’s side, but I believe with age and maturity, he was able to understand my pain. I finally listened to him tell me his mother’s story. While I do not believe everything she said, I can say that I do believe that she did not know that my Dad was married. According to my brother, she found out from one of my Dad’s sisters. I also believe that my Dad was wish-washy with both women and did not know what he truly wanted. Unfortunately, our mothers ended up paying the ultimate price for it.  

I have fully accepted what happened and the role that all 3 played. I have seen Glenn in my adult life, and she has met my children. We are not “buddy, buddy” but, we are civil, respectful and able to exchange pleasantries without snide remarks. At this point in my life, I am open to having a frank woman to woman discussion with Glenn about what happened. This would not change anything but, there is nothing better hearing it firsthand.  I do not believe we would ever be considered friends but, Glenn is not my enemy. 

Your Turn to Reflect

  1. Have you ever considered someone your enemy not because of what they did to you but, because of what they did to your loved one?
  2. If so, how were you able to get past it (if you did) or What would  you need to help you move past it. 
  3. Have you personally ever been considered the “enemy” or “bad guy”? If so, how did you deal with that? 

What Siblings Do

-A Journey Of Acceptance

We were born and joined by blood, but we chose to be joined by love-unknown

Over the next few years my brother and I continued to grow closer. We talked more, and he visited more often. I even got to attend his High School graduation in his hometown. Although we stayed in constant contact, he still felt really far away. So, after discussing it with Mr. Ex, I invited Eric to come live with us. Now at this time, I was 25 and my boys were 5 and 3. We had a 2-bedroom section-eight apartment, Mr. Ex was the only one working, I was attending school fulltime for my A.A.S and we were receiving food stamps. Nope, none of that stopped me from opening my doors. Prior to that, Mr. Ex and I had opened our doors 8 times before that to various family members on both sides of our family. We were able to pull together for them so of course we could pull together for him. 

My boys were super excited to have him there. To them, it was like having a 23-year-old kid to play with. He would pick my oldest up from kindergarten and on the way home while showing him cool tricks and flips that he could do. Eventually he had the boys thinking he was Spiderman because he could flip off a tree. Eric is also a really great dancer so, he would have the boys bobbing around the living room thinking they could dance like him. 

Eric got along beautifully with Mr. Ex. Since they both are pretty laid back and easy-going guys, I never worried about them fighting. Eric also got a chance to meet my closest friends (at that time) and build relationships with his cousins on our Dad’s side. Most importantly, Eric and I got closer than ever before. We spent so many days having long conversations and nights staying up late just talking you know, just doing what siblings do. We talked about everything. With all that talking you know it was bound to come up. The unspoken words about our mothers. 

At 25 years of age, yes, I still considered his mother Glenn, the enemy (I hadn’t reached the point of full understanding just yet). Since Eric moved in, it was kind of hard to ignore her. She would tell Eric to tell us hello (still my enemy), send gifts for Christmas (still my enemy) and even asked to come visit Eric; To which I replied, “Sure, when I’m not home.” (STILL MY ENEMY!). It was pretty obvious that I didn’t care for Glenn and I never tried to hide it. However, out of love for my brother, I was never disrespectful or rude (at least not to his face, okay except for that one time when I was 15). So, during one of our longs talks it finally came up. I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner but, when it did happen, I thought I could handle it. 

I don’t quite remember how it came up but, once the conversation started, I just assumed that Eric would concede to the fact that his mother was wrong. Nope, that was not how he felt or what he said. Different households, different mothers, different stories. According to him, his mother was the innocent party and she had to move out of town due to harassment. The icing on the cake was when he said our father loved his mother more than my mother and Spring. Instant attack mode was triggered.  So, imagine for a moment, if you will, me turning into a red version of the Incredible Hulk. Yeah, it was something like that when I exploded. I was enraged and all I could see was red.

 “Lies! All Lies! Nope that’s not what happened at all!” I argued. How dare he sit in my face and slander my mother. My mother was the WIFE and she lost her LIFE behind my Dad and Glenn’s foolery.   It was obvious to me that my mother and what she went through was left out of Glenn’s story so, I felt the need to enlighten him. I told her story and all that I knew about Glenn’s role in it including the harassing phone calls. I even told him about the day she committed suicide. Then I went in for the kill, I told Eric that Dad never loved his mother that is why she was the only one he never married. 

Yep that was cold and mean just like I meant for it to be but, instantly I regretted what I said. He was not my enemy. I didn’t want to hurt him but, I also didn’t want to hear Glenn’s side. I didn’t want to acknowledge, accept or understand. In that moment, I felt that whatever negative impact that this situation had on his mother’s life was well deserved. After all, it was nothing compared to what my sister and I had endured. Praying for a mother to come save me that could never come. Images of what it would be like to have her in my life keeping me up at night. Waking up every day to the reality that she was no more. So what Glenn had to move out of town and raise her first child all alone! So what Eric didn’t have his Dad around, hell, join the club, all of his kids felt that way! At least she got to raise her child and he was only down 1 parent while I was down 2. It wasn’t fair!

Now instead of just me being hurt, he was too but, that was not what I wanted. I just wanted to protect and defend my mother’s honor as she was the only one that could not tell her side. So, as her daughter, I felt as though I had to. I had to fight those battles on her behalf. I had to give her a voice. In that moment we had to make a choice. To agree to disagree and remain respectful of each other or defend our parent and deny our sibling bond.

Years later Eric still comes to town and show the boys some dance moves. He was there for me through my divorce. From time to time, we even still have those long conversations.  See because no one left with hurt feelings that day. We said what we said and left it right there in that moment. After all, that’s what siblings do.

My Brother’s Keeper

-A Journey Of Acceptance 

Silence does not always mean acceptance-Life Diariz

Spending time with Eric was everything to me. When I say everything, I mean everything. Getting to know another sibling was exciting. Especially since that sibling was a boy. I grew up most of my childhood living with my sisters but, I never lived in a household with my brother. It was so interesting to me that he grew up in a totally different household but, he was still so much like us. He had many of the same mannerisms and was just as goofy and sensitive as his sisters. But, there was one sister that he had a little more in common with than the others. Me.

After spending several hours talking about our lives and how we grew up, we quickly realized that we both shared a dark past full of physical, verbal and mental abuse courtesy of a Step Parent. The only difference was that I was able to escape whereas this was still his reality. I listened as he told me horrible stories of beat downs passed out by his Step-Dad. No, not the normal ass whooping you get for misbehaving. I’m talking about, beat you down for breathing too loud type of abuse. He also expressed the verbal put-downs and mental games that he Step-Dad would use to make him believe that his father didn’t want or love him. Eric said this all with a straight face, no tears and bravery in his eyes. 

I knew his pain all too well. I had experienced almost the exact same thing with Spring. There is something about this kind of pain that when it becomes a norm for you, it dries up your tears. So, when I told my story to him I also did so with a straight face, no tears, and sadness in my eyes. No sadness for me but, an overwhelming sadness for him. He seemed relieved to tell someone. It seemed like it lifted a weight from his little 13-year-old mind. We continued our evening with laughs, taking and taking pictures. I continued to smile, laugh and enjoy his company but, all along I had started plotting on a way to save my brother. I just had to help him, after all, that’s what big sisters were for right? I am my brother’s keeper.

When it was time for him to leave, I was so scared for him. They weren’t even all the way in the car before I cried out for Grandma Phy. She knew of all the things I had gone through with my Step Mother and she rescued me. Surely, she could do the same for Eric. I told her everything he told me and this time I had plenty of tears to flow. 

 “Grandma we got to help him! Can’t you just make him come live with us?”, I asked. 

 “You can’t just go around taking folks kids. But, I tell you what, that M-F’er won’t get away with this shit!” she exclaimed. 

I was hype! Grandma was going to get that M-Fer! Grandma Phy went straight to the phone and called our Dad. I personally didn’t think that would do any good. For one, he was all the way in California and we were in Indiana. Second, from what I could tell from what my brother said, Dad didn’t really check up on Eric like that or else he would’ve known what was going on. This was not the reaction from Grandma Phy that I was hoping for, so I was completely disappointed.  That was until I spoke to Eric again. It had been maybe a few weeks later.  Eric told me that things were actually getting better for him at home. Neither one of us knew why though.

It wasn’t until years later that we found out that after Grandma Phy called our Dad, he and my uncles made an unannounced trip to my brother’s city that lasted one day. What happened? I don’t know but, whatever happened rescued my brother from the abuse. For that, I am grateful. 

My Brother From Another Mother

-A Journey of Acceptance 

What you deny or ignore you delay. What you accept and face you conquer-unknown

“It’s all hot and sticky out tonight,” I said as I sat on the porch with my Grandma Phy. “Um-hum, and theses got damn mosquitos keep fucking biting at me!” she snapped.
“Grandma I don’t know why I’m so nervous”
“I don’t know either, it ain’t like you never met the boy before. He’s your damn brother plain and simple okay! I can’t stand this M-F’ing biting shit. I’m going inside. Come get me when they come”.


She was right. It wasn’t like it was the first time we had ever met I just didn’t remember. So, to me, it felt like our first-time meeting and I was nervous. Not about seeing him, but about my reaction to the entire situation.
After Grandma Phy took me to my mother’s grave site, it totally altered my reality. Moving forward I had a hard time accepting things in my life. I felt like I had to check and then check again as I felt the need to account for everyone in my life. This left me feeling like an angry, hurt and confused teenager. However, I wanted as much clarity as possible and I wanted to know how my siblings felt about all of this.
Now my older sister and I have always been close. However, in our youth, we never really discussed our mother and our feelings towards her death. It was kind of like having an unspoken rule to never bring her up. My younger sister Amber was way too young to even begin to understand. Besides that, her mother Spring was wife #2 and Amber was born five years later.
Then there was him. My little brother Eric, just 2 years younger than I. I barely knew him, and his existence was hardly mentioned so I knew of him but did not know him. But, as Grandma Phy said, he’s my damn brother plain and simple okay! I wanted to know him not just know about him so, when I was ready, I asked my Grandma Phy about him. She told me what city he lived in and contacted his mother for me.
The first conversation was a bit awkward. I was talking to my blood but, it felt like I was talking to a stranger. To my surprise, he was just as interested in getting to know me as well. Grandma Phy and his mother Glenn arranged for us to meet up and hang out at Grandma Phy’s house. I was full of mixed emotions. On one hand, I was excited to hang out with my brother but, on the other I was I perplexed about coming face to face with the “enemy” Glenn.
Then they pulled up. Now I can’t remember what kind of car they were in but, I remember my first sight of my brother like it was yesterday. Walking up the walkway was this skinny little 13-year-old boy wearing a windbreaker tracksuit (don’t laugh Y’all, it was popular in the ’90s). My eyes were locked on him and I felt lost in a trance. He looked like a male version of me! I immediately felt the sibling connection.
I was snapped out of the trance by Grandma Phy coming out of the house to greet them. Glenn greeted Grandma Phy then, she did it. She turned to greet me, “Oh my gosh you are so pretty!”, I don’t know if she said anything else to me but, that was all I heard. So, what did my 15-year-old smart mouth, angry little self do? I looked her dead in her eyes with my nose turned up and replied, “thanks I look just like my mother.” Yeah, I’ll admit that was petty and I meant for it to sting. However, I never got to gauge how effective my remark was because immediately after all my attention went right back to Eric. I was ready to spend some time with him and get to know who he really was. The part I wasn’t ready for, was all the sad, upsetting stories

Through Their Eyes I See

There is power in understanding the journey of others to help create your own-unknownn

The journey of understanding can be a long intense journey. The main reason it is a lengthy journey is because of the lack of being able to relate to someone else’s situation. It’s hard to understand something that you are not standing in. For this reason, more often than not, you must have some level of empathy and sympathy to reach understanding.

Now, the old saying goes, walk a mile in my shoes. This is sympathy at its finest but, this is not an action that I would suggest. As life is all about balance, you need some level of empathy to go along with that sympathy. It’s one thing to experience something similar on your own journey but, purposefully putting yourself in someone’s situation is not always the answer. Putting on someone else’s shoes may be easy but, walking their journey can be dangerous especially if that journey leads to self-destructive behavior such as suicide.  The act of suicide is very hard to understand but, with patience, understanding and/or empathy with sympathy, you can find understanding. 

Lack of empathy and sympathy for my mother caused my journey to understanding to be one long journey. Initially, I was too young to have the mental capacity to evoke the necessary empathy to understand her mindset or the act of suicide. It wasn’t until I became an adult and heard her story, that I was able to feel some empathy for her. Then, I found myself staring down the same gloomy tunnel of heartbreak, disappointment, and despair. It was then that I was able to feel sympathy along with that empathy to gain my understanding. 

With suicide, each person has different reasons for wanting to or going through with that act of suicide. According to Clinical Psychologist Edwin Sheridman (the leading authority on suicide), there are 10 basic reasons why someone may seek suicide: 

  1. Solution: answer to an insoluble or unbearable dilemma that they fear more than death
  2. Cessation of consciousness: to end the conscious experience
  3. Intolerable psychological pain: excruciating negative emotions that serve as a foundation for self-destructive behavior. 
  4. Frustrated psychological needs: attribute failure or disappointment to their own shortcomings
  5. Feelings of hopelessness/helplessness: pessimistic expectations about the future
  6. Ambivalence: sincere in their desire to die but, simultaneously wish they could find another way out. 
  7. The cognitive state is construction: tunnel vision unable or willing to engage in effective problem-solving behaviors
  8. Escape: a definitive way to escape
  9. Communication on intention: 80% who completed the act of suicide provide verbal or behavioral clues that clearly indicate their lethal intentions. 
  10. Life-long coping patterns: people who refuse to ask for help in the past are likely to increase their sense of isolation.

In reflecting on my mother’s journey, I definitely see Dr. Shredman’s described reasonings in my mother’s actions. I also saw some of them in myself. What made a difference and how I was able to overcome is being able to know her journey and how it left those around her feeling. Also, that fact that what she did had no real effect on the situation. My brother was still born, and My Dad, Glenn, and Jim continued to live their lives. As a matter of fact, they all went on to marry new partners and have more children.  It is my understanding that helps me to know that what she did was not to affect their lives but, to stop the excruciating pain inside her life. 

I have to be honest with you, although I now have the understanding I so desperately needed, this has and will be the hardest journey I will ever share with you. Understanding does not take away the hurt of loss nor does it mean you accept it. I cried all the way through this but, I feel that it is important for me to share because somewhere there is someone out there contemplating suicide. There is also someone out there trying to understand a loved one’s decision or situation. And then, there is someone out there trying to understand themselves. 

-Unless you really understand others, you can hardly attain your own self-understanding-Miyamoto Musashi 

Your Turn To Reflect 

  1. Have you ever experienced a difficult relationship due to a lack of understanding
  2. Have you or someone you know ever contemplated suicide? If so, do you understand how you/they reached that point? 
  3. Have you ever had a hard time understanding your own decisions?

Source: Thomas F. Oltmanns, Robert E. Emery University Of Virginia, and Survivors Of Suicide 

Finding Understanding

-A journey of Understanding

 

To Love from your soul is to give too much-Manosha Gray

 

On my 23rd birthday, I felt as though I had already walked a mile in my mother’s shoes. Guess what? Her shoes didn’t fit me. I kicked them thangs off honey! Instead, I laced up my own boots. When I left the bathroom that day, I was seriously determined to walk my own path. That’s just what I did. In a family full of medical-related careers, I choose to continue in the legal field. I continued this path sometimes skipping, running and even crawling at times (especially with math).

Over the next 10 years, things at home continued to be a hit and miss. Mr. Ex confessed that he didn’t want to work at all (he was serious too). Luckily, that feeling was short lived. He eventually got over that and got a really good job. That lasted about 3 years and then it was back to job shuffling and late night hanging out with friends.

I proudly walked across the stage and received my A.A.S in Paralegal Studies. While looking for a job in my field, I went back for my B.S. in Legal Studies. I got a government job working as a Litigation Paralegal making a decent living. Child, you just don’t know how happy I was to get off government assistance and Section 8. Don’t tell nobody but, I actually cried. Then I made that faithful walk back across the stage for my B.S in Legal Studies.

My roaster was becoming full of accomplishments but, my spirit kept getting lower and lower. Constant ups and downs with Mr. Ex felt like war instead of love. I was so deeply in love with him. Where he ended, I began. I found myself looking to only please him. I secretly felt ashamed of my accomplishments because I did not want to do better than him. He enrolled in some courses but, never had the necessary passion and commitment to make it past the first semester.

 Every time I got a degree, he would tell me that he knows I am going to leave him. He even left my graduation for my B.S early and I never got a chance to celebrate. I truly felt alone and lonely that day.  I didn’t know how to make him feel secure besides to try to help him with his dreams. So, even though I started my business first, when he wanted to start a business, I set mines to the side to help him.

I walked him and his partner through everything to get started. Their business was a floor and janitorial service. Mr. Ex was excellent at getting clients. So, before long he had a roster of clients. However, he didn’t have any employees and for some reason, his partner could not work with him. I stepped up and worked for free. I worked scrubbing floors and carpets on my hands and knees, cleaning bathroom stalls and emptying trash cans at the local jail and daycares.  Meanwhile, my business still had clients calling and many I had to turn away due to working for Mr. Ex’s business.

Then after a few months of being in business, Mr. Ex just stopped working. He just stopped trying period. No working, no bill paying, no nothing. I was left being the only one working. I wanted so desperately for my business to work but, we also needed a steady income so, I got a part-time minimum -wage job. At this point, my self-esteem, self-worth and general outlook on life was very bleak. I felt like a total failure.

One day while organizing my storage closet, I came across my mother’s photo albums. I sat in the hallway looking through her albums. As I opened the last album, which was her scrapbook,  and her letter fell out. I sat the letter  to the side and began to read all the loving remarks she wrote about my Dad. It expressed a deep love that was so pure. Then I read her letter. It expressed a Love twisted into sadness and resentment.

As I let out a long sigh, my eyes unleashed a river of tears. I finally understood. I understood the difference between loving from your heart and loving from your soul. I understood how you could lose yourself in someone else. I understood how your life could feel so worthless in someone else’s hands.  And finally, I understood why she committed suicide as I was sitting there contemplating that very thing. 

As I sat there feeling defeated and emotionally drained, I just began to pray. I asked God to help me let go. To help me find the worth in me again and to help me break the chains that bind my soul to Mr. Ex.’s. After I poured out my heart to God, I wrote this letter to my mother:

 

Dear Mother of Mine,

I may not look like you but, I am definitely your child. We have so many things in common; especially our compacity to love so deep that we get lost in it. You once wrote that you hoped one day I would understand. Mommy trust me I do. You also asked for our forgiveness and I want to let you know that there is nothing to forgive. Instead, I ask that you forgive me for my lack of understanding. I now know that it was not your lack of love for us that allowed you to do what you did but, instead of your lack of love for yourself. I know how it feels to run on E because I’ve been doing it too long. You were drained and had nothing left to give anyone including yourself. Know your death was not in vain. I learned so much from your journey. I am able to understand where I am now and know to fight my way out. I can’t do this alone, so I am going to lean on God for this healing. Stay close by so I can continue to feel your motherly touch.  I love you to the moon and back and now I must learn to love me that way too.

 Love your youngest daughter,

Manosha Gray

I placed that letter in an envelop along with my mother’s letter and I packed it way and I began my journey to heal from the inside out.

 

The Day I turned 23

– A Journey of  Understanding

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Just look at me, 23, knee deep in a marriage with depression trying to set in. “Fight Manosha. Don’t let her story be yours. That’s not what she wanted”, I told myself as I stood staring into the mirror. It was my 23rdbirthday but, I was in no mood to celebrate. Instead, my eyes were red and puffy from crying way too many tears. I was scared too. Crazy huh? Who gets scared of their birthday?! Me that’s who. My life was looking too much like my mother’s life at 22 and it scared the shit out of me.

2 young kids

Husband never around

Rocky relationship

Overwhelming feelings of sadness and loneliness

To top things off, our finances had been in dire striates for quite some time. At one point we were both working and happy. Somewhere in there, me and Mr. Ex had a fallout and he decided to move out. That lasted about a week. We got past it and were back together like nothing ever happened. Looking back now, I’m not even sure what happened to make he want to leave. Once back together we planned our second and final child. At the start of my pregnancy, I was deemed high risk and had to quit my job. After he was born we couldn’t afford a daycare for the boys. It was mutually decided that I would stay home and rear the children, run the house and Mr. Ex would work. Sounds like a good plan, right? It worked for a while.

I stayed home cooking, cleaning, singing ABC’s and 123’s. I made sure to make Mr. Ex’s lunch and literally run his bath water. He would go to work every day and on payday give me money for household supplies and things for the kids. He would even buy me my favorite flowers (circus roses) and random gifts just because. When he got overtime checks, we would go out to eat as a family.

But, somewhere in between the kids and work, we both started to drift off. Mr. Ex started to get burnt out with the repetitive cycle of work, work, pay. He was spending money on the house, kids and me but not much on himself. In turn, he started to hang out more and more with his unmarried, street hustling friends. He started drinking way more than usual. Then the problems started at work. He would be late and call in. He was getting fired left and right to the point where he was constantly changing jobs.

I, on the other hand, started to feel stuck. I had my first job at 13 so sitting still and not having my own money was very hard for me. Especially when Mr. Ex’s birthday and our anniversary would roll around. I would have to get money from him to buy him a gift. Not being able to financially contribute made me feel worthless. Then watching Mr. Ex’s downward spiral made me feel even worst. To compensate, I signed up for food stamps and section eight. No matter how low the workers made me feel, I couldn’t turn down the help because it kept our family afloat.  I carried the stress of my family on my back, so they wouldn’t feel it. I felt like I was to blame, and I felt worthless. I was once told that the man’s job was to lead his family and the woman’s job was to hold up her man. So, I asked, who holds up the woman? The answer, God.  Something had to change and since Mr. Ex seemed to be unmotivated to facilitate that change, it was up to me. I had to hold him up and let God hold me.

Luckily for me, my sister and cousin had decided to go to college. They invited me to join them and I accepted. I had started my Associate’s degree right out of High School but, quit. I was sure this would give me the fulfillment I longed for and my family the stability we needed.

“Okay, Manosha. You got this. Things may be similar but, there’s one huge difference, I  made it to 23 I can pick up where she left off and write a different ending”. I told myself as I wiped my eyes. “Never let them see you sweat”. Then I opened the door and walked out of the bathroom to embrace my 23’s.

In Need Of A Mother

– A Journey of Understanding

That moment you need someone but, they’re in heaven…and so, you cry instead…

-anonymous

I don’t know what I’m doing. What if I drop it or don’t feed it right? How can they trust me to take home such a fragile being? Hell, I never even had a mother, how am I supposed to know how to be a mother? These thoughts just kept swirling through my mind. I was 24 hours into labor awaiting the birth of my first child.

I didn’t have excited feelings of anticipation for motherhood or happiness. Instead, I felt scared, sad and lonely. Mr. Ex was there of course but, she wasn’t. My mother. At that moment, I missed her like never before.

A few weeks before going into labor, I laid across my grandma Phy’s bed confessing my feelings.

“Everyone else has their mother to hold their hand and show them what to do. It’s only going to be me and Mr. Ex. He grew up without a father and I didn’t have a mother. How crazy it that? We’re going to be totally lost”.

“You’ll do just fine. The nurses will make sure you know how to feed, change and bathe the baby before you go home”, she responded.

“Your motherly instincts will kick in”.

I wasn’t too sure of all of that. I just let out a long deep sigh and quiet tears. “I need her. I want her to hold my hand and be there with me grandmommy”, I said. No response but, I knew she understood.

As I lay in my hospital bed deep in thought, and Mr. Ex catching a quick nap, she came strolling in. Grandma Phy! I was elated to see her. She was our only visitor since I had checked in the day before. She instantly took over as the true nurse she was (of course retired at this point). She spoke with the doctor and nurses to find out what was going on. I was admitted and induced the day before due to low amniotic fluids around the baby.  Since this was now 24 hours in, they were ready to break my water and get the show on the road.

Grandma Phy moved around the room like grace. Checking my contractions, holding my hand, placing cool rags on my head and lovingly pushing my hair back out of my face. Just giving me that motherly touch I so craved. After about another 3 hours, the doctor informed us that the baby was giving off stress signals so they wanted to go ahead and give me a C-Section. “ No, no, nope. You not even going to go that route. Give it a little more time. She’s young and needs to have a natural birth”, grandma demanded. “Well we can wait 30 more minutes and then we will have to take the baby”, the doctor responded.

30 minutes later, the doctor was back and what do you know, I was at 10 and ready to push. With Mr. Ex on one side and grandma Phy on the other, three pushes and he was here. My purple baby but, no cry. He was alert and looking around but, no cry. Grandma Phy was full of concern and told the doctor to make him cry. Two tries before we heard his beautiful short yell, no cry. After cutting the umbilical cord, they took him to the cleaning station.

Suddenly, there was a panic among the staff. We were informed that they needed to take the baby to Nicu to clear his lungs. Grandma Phy was disgusted. “They took too long to make him cry. There better not be anything wrong with that baby or they will have a lawsuit up their ass!” (I told ya’ll before, she don’t play). After that, she and Mr. Ex rushed right down to Nicu to see what was going on. I was left in a ball of nerves crying for my mommy.  They returned a short while later to let me know that he was okay so, Grandma Phy headed out. An hour later, the nurse brought me the most perfect little being I had ever seen. As a bonus, he looked just like me!

I instantly fell in love. All fear left and I was filled with an overwhelming feeling of protection and joy. The next few days in the hospital were bliss. I spent the time getting to know my little man and never letting him leave my side. On the day, we were supposed to check out, I noticed my baby had labored breathing. We had changed his milk a few times due to lactose issues but, this was different. I asked the nurse to check him out. After listening to his lungs, she called in a doctor who took him to Nicu to further examine him. He determined from the exam that my baby had amniotic pneumonia and he would have to stay in Nicu for a week on antibiotics to clear it up but, I could go home.

Go home?! Nope, not this lifetime. I was not even going to consider leaving my baby when he needed me, and that is exactly what I told them too. After all, they weren’t even aware of the issue until I brought it to their attention.

So, for a week, Mr. Ex and I stayed at the hospital. We left once that week to go home to shower, eat and then right back to the hospital. We spent most of the week dinning at the vending machines, drinking coffee to stay awake. Eventually, the hospital gave us a room right by the Nicu but, at this point, sleep was only for the weak. I had to be strong for my baby but, by the end of the week, we were like walking zombies. Mr. Ex finally gave in and got some much-needed sleep.

My brain wouldn’t let me sleep. I was right there in Nicu every moment that they would let me. I fed him, changed him and held his little hand while telling him how great his future was going to be. Just doing what I felt a mother should do. Each night I prayed and cried for my mother. I asked the Lord to pass messages to her. I just wanted so badly to know that she was watching over me and sending pointers from heaven.

Finally, it was time to take him home! We were so excited but, when we got home the house was a wreak. I was fine with that because I was in great spirits. I cleaned the house top to bottom, cleaned myself, cuddled my little man to sleep and finally laid down for some much need sleep. Then Bam! 2:30 in the morning, he woke up crying and so did I. He wanted to be fed and I wanted my mommy.

Shadows In The Looking Glass

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear-C.S Lewis

Death and loss of a loved one is painful no doubt. The family and friends are left the difficult task of grieving the loss. Suicide is a death like no other and so is the grieving process. One often feels as though they are left standing in the shadow of their loved one’s actions. They have to fight against the emotional roller-coaster and socially driven stigmas that this shadow cast.  Therefore, they are called survivors. This dark space brings about several feelings and emotions that can last for years or sometimes the bad feelings never fully resolves. For these survivors, the beginning of the healing process is to first acknowledge these feelings and the second is to accept that it is okay to have those feelings.

Confusion & Guilt

Confusion or guilt is usually one of the first feelings that are felt. Confusion was the first feeling that I felt about my mother’s death. I describe these feelings in Painful Truth. This feeling stayed with me for a very long time. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I started to gain some clarity. Others may experience confusion as they did not pick up on any signs of the impending suicide.

Trying to make sense of your loved one’s actions when you didn’t suspect that anything was amidst, can lead to a lot of unanswered questions. Memories of what seemed to be happy moments, now come into question.  Questions with no answers often lead to misplaced responsibility, a.k.a guilt.  The mind becomes filled with the would’ve, could’ve, should’ve. A flawed thought process that makes one feel as though their actions or lack thereof caused the suicide.

Anger

In the midst of the feelings of confusion and guilt lies anger. Anger with themselves or their loved one. Not everyone will feel angry but, some may experience this. Like many others, I felt anger towards my mother because of her actions. In Painful Truth, I talked about how I was angry because I could not understand how I was not important enough to stick around for. My anger was also combined with feelings of abandonment and rejection. Her actions made me feel unwanted and in return angry.

Shame & Embarrassment

I grew up in the 80-90’s era. During this time, there was a huge stigma surrounding suicide. Generally, anyone that committed suicide was considered crazy. In the black community, suicide was unheard of. I can’t count how many times I was told: “With all the things already killing the black community, no one would kill themselves”. In the church community, anyone that committed suicide was going straight to hell.  So, it was always easier for me to just say she was murdered as this kept the dirty and shocked looks to a minimum.

I used to be so ashamed and embarrassed to admit that my mother killed herself. The stigmas of the world only pushed belief in the need to keep it as my “secret shame”.  When I was in eighth grade, I attended Catholic school. Since my teacher was a nun, I thought it only appropriate to ask her if my mother was in hell. She told me no one knows what her final words were and if she asked for forgiveness before she died, then she went to heaven. I held on to that kind word for a long time. For some reason, it gave me peace. When I became an adult and was looking to get closer to God, the question popped into my mind again. This time, I asked someone who was helping to guide me along on my spiritual journey. They told me that no matter what she said she went to hell because the act alone was sinful. After that day, that person didn’t help guide me along anywhere, least of all on my spiritual journey.

Society has gotten better about attempting to understand suicide and its effect on the survivors. However, the stigma never fully went away. Judgment and flawed perceptions are still out there. As for me, I still hear whispers when I say how she died but, I feel no shame.

Depression

We can’t talk about the grieving of suicide survivors without talking about sadness. Sadness that goes so deep it can take you into the darkest pit of a well of emotions. Sadness so strong that it can leave you wishing for the fate of your loved one.   It’s funny how the very thing that played a role in the loss of a loved one, can cause you to feel that same hurt and pain. When I could truly understand my mother’s death, it sent me into a depression. It was like I could feel her hurt and pain. As a wife, mother and woman, I could finally understand what she felt. I described her pain in He Said, She Said. I also felt this longing to be with her, to beg for her forgiveness for my shame and anger. For many, these feelings can last for a lifetime. It can even manifest in post-traumatic stress disorder. That is why it is important to express yourself and seek help during this grieving process when necessary. It is also important to know that it’s okay to feel this way.

Your Turn To Reflect

  1. What are some stigmas you have heard in regards to suicide?
  2. Are you a suicide survivor or know someone who is?

 

Source: Serani Psy. D, D.(2013, November 25). Understanding Survivors Of Suicide Loss. Retrieved from http://www.psychologtoday

He Said, She Said

– A Journey of Understanding

People do not die from suicide; they die from sadness-unknown

My grandmother Phy (my father’s mother) is the light of my life. Whenever I want the truth, straight up with no chaser, I can always depend on her to give it to me. So, when I was ready for the raw truth about my mother, I went straight to her.

See, as I said before, I got bits and piece throughout my life. One person told me she was suicidal her entire life (this person did not even know her well). Another person told me my mother did it for attention and another said she simply gave up. None of these explanations sufficed so, I was still left seeking the truth. To this day, I feel like the closest I ever got of the unbiased truth was from grandma Phy but, before I tell you what she said, let me tell you what he said….

His story:

According to my Dad,  it started with a disagreement about their living arrangements. At the time, they were living with my grandmother Mama Lou (my mother’s mother). The living arrangement was very uncomfortable as he did not get along too well with my grandmother or my uncles. They also did not have a lot of privacy. My Dad went and found them a two bedroom apartment but, my Mom refused to move in. At that point, they split up and to his understanding, they were separated. He started a relationship with a lady named Glenn. While in his new relationship, he reconciled with my Mom. He broke things off with Glenn but, she did not just go away. She started making idle threats about exposing their relationship. Then, Glenn found out she was pregnant with my father’s child. This really amped-up things as she then started playing on their phone. This caused my Mom to accuse my Dad of a continued relationship with Glenn so, he got rid of the house phone.

On the night that my mother committed suicide, it came as a total surprise to him. There were no signs. In fact, we all had just come home from the movies. My mother put me and my sister to bed and she decided to stay up to watch the late show. This was not uncommon as she loved the late show so, he went ahead and went to bed. He awoke to a loud bang. He ran into the smoke-filled living room to discover my mother on the couch with his service pistol still in her hand. She was bleeding from her abdomen area but, she was still alive. In a panic, he ran from the apartment and started banging on the neighbor’s doors begging for help. Eventually, he went back to the apartment and held my mother while attempting to encourage her to stay alive between sobs.

When the police came he was arrested. At the police station, he was questioned and had his nails and hands swabbed for gun residue. While he was waiting on the results, my aunt came to the jail. She came to inform him that my mother had passed away. In a rage, he destroyed the cell that he was in. Once the rage was gone and sadness was all that was left, he was released, and no charges were filed.

She said:

Mama Lou remembered things quite differently. According to her, my parents lived with her because my mother was a young mother with two children and a husband that liked to run the streets. My mother needed the help. When my Dad moved out, they were still a couple and were never separated. Eventually, my mother moved into the apartment with my Dad and soon after discovered he was living a double life. She was informed by a man named Jim, that he was living with a woman named Glenn and they even had the nerves to have my mother’s curtains up to their window. My Dad denied that he was cheating let alone living with someone else. My mother had Mama Lou drive her past the apartments. Low and behold, her curtains were at the window.

My mother was upset but, stayed with my Dad. Then the calls started. My mother became very depressed when hearing Glenn was pregnant as she was trying to have a son. According to Mama Lou, my mother would come over every day and just cry for days on end. Mama Lou said she knew my Dad did not physically kill my mother but, he was guilty of killing her spirit.

She said:

The first thing grandma Phy said is that she can only tell me what she knew and observed. My parents met when High School was coming to an end for my Dad. He was two years older than my Mom. At 17, my mother became pregnant with my sister. My Dad had already enlisted in the Marines so, at the demands of Mama Lou, the two were married.

Despite the “shotgun wedding”, they seemed to be in love. They spent the start of their marriage living with Mama Lou because my Dad was in and out of the country with the Marines. When he was stationed in State they lived together. As a matter of fact, they lived together in California where I was born. When I reached the age of 1, my parents moved back home with Mama Lou. Tension rose between the couple when my Dad wanted to move out and my mother wanted to stay so she could get help her girls.

My Mom stayed with her mother and my dad left but, they were never separated. Once my Dad fixed up the place we moved in. During this time my Dad had an affair with Glenn. Glenn became pregnant and constantly called my Mom at home and work to taunt her with the fact that she was having my Dad’s child.

Grandma Phy went on to tell me that she and my Mom were close. My Mom would come to visit and sit and talk with her all the time about what was going on. On the day that she committed suicide, my mother had come to visit her earlier in the day. She was very upset about my father’s indiscretions and stated that she wanted to kill him, herself and since she didn’t want to leave her kids, kill us too.

Well, grandma Phy said she didn’t take my Mom’s threat seriously. She was talking out of her ass and black people just don’t do crazy shit like that. So, she told her if she wanted to kill someone then kill herself. That night that is just what she did. Grandma Phy said she found out from a call from one of her kids while she was at work. In those days grandma Phy was a nurse and just happened to work at the hospital that my Mom was brought to.  Before she could turn around and get to my Mom, Mama Lou ran up and attacked her. Mama Lou was saying that my Dad killed my Mom. Grandma Phy said she was confused and went to find my mom. She said she rushed to where my mother was and watched her die on the operating table.

After unloading her story, she dug in her closet and pulled out several photo albums, a scrapbook, obituary, and my mother’s suicide letter.

Her Story:

The scrapbook was put together by my mother. It had cards she received from my father when he was overseas and pictures of the two of them.

Excerpts from the scrapbook:

“We share our life, our dreams, and our love”

“He cares, I care”

“I love him, He loves me”

“He is everything I ever wanted. He made my life worth living and that’s why I love him”

“Now I and Malcolm are happily married and have a baby on the way and he is in the Marines severing his country”

“We both love each other very much and Dear me and he have a lot more than lovers have and that’s why we are very proud. I love him very much and I’m willing to spend the rest of my life with him”

To protect everyone involved, I have decided not to include her suicide letter. However, I can tell you she did mention Jim, Glenn, and my Dad. She also said that she loved me and my sister very much and that she hoped one day we would understand and forgive her.

Cindy died on March 29, 1984, at the age of 22.

I say:

She died of a broken heart….