Grief as a child, and it’s effects in later life

Grief for me started at 10. My mother passed after a long battle with cancer. She was 43. My dad tried all manner of things to create a sense of normality, but he neglected to just be a loving attentive dad.

Then he went at 67, 24 years later.

I never realised until recently, but have lived my entire life unable to allow myself to connect and be fully devoted in love. Unbeknown to me I was taught that life will take away the things you hold dearest, and to fear unconditional love. My subconscious does not allow it and the passive fear makes me push people away by slowly taking them for granted, undermining them, discrediting their value… It’s a silent and stealthy defence mechanism, that actually does the opposite of what you need.

I discovered this at 46, as my marriage began to fall apart in the shadow of a recognition that I’ve done nothing but fail to value my wonderful amazing wife for 16 years. We have three young boys.

So although my wife is very much alive, this is in effect now my fourth loss. The thing that destroys me is that: I didn’t want to be like that, I didn’t ask for any of it. I wasn’t in control of any of it. I had no choice.

I am currently coping by learning about psychotherapy techniques, specifically Transactional Analysis. I chose this because I needed some method of working towards finding reconciliation and understanding about what is in effect a lifelong catastrophe.

What this has taught me is that we emotionally exist between three basic emotional states: child, parent, adult. And when grief bubbles up and becomes uncontrollable upset (as a child looking for consolation and comfort) how to learn to move myself into my “parent” to provide my own reassurance. Additionally where the child/grief need is too strong to do that, to be in my “adult” and focus entirely on the here and now.

It has also allowed me to accept that I have lived as an ambivalent self, and allowed me to become my true self. It may be too late for the person I wanted to grow old with, but at least within myself I can finally be somewhere near emotionally whole.
My family may still be imploding, but I am a profoundly different person. For once in my
life I am open to unconditional love. And I can see the irony of it all.

I have also found mindfulness, and with it, am enjoying the benefit of meditation.

I must remember to be kind to myself.
I must remember to allow myself total permission to feel however I need to feel.
And I must be be patient with myself.

One day, maybe, my wife might come back to me. One day she may understand that I am not who I was. One day…

Hi. JonP. Your post raises so many questions that we all have to face. From the moment we are born our ‘tape recorder’ is switched on. We take in the views and opinions of those around us, teachers, parents, siblings, outside people, and it’s all stored in the unconscious. It’s not until, as in your case, you begin to question this ‘authority’ in your mind that you begin to realise the falsity of most of what you were told. The unconscious dictates our actions. If our parents were racist then the chances are we will be too, unless we begin to question the validity of that idea.
TA and mindfulness can be very useful in therapy. I am a believer in TA.
‘I’m OK, you’r OK’ An adult to adult relationship which is how it needs be for a good relationship to work. Mindfulness too is helpful
I admire you for the effort you are making to change your way of thinking because that’s what it comes to in the end. The word ‘repent’ comes to mind. But this is not a true translation of what is in the Bible. The original Greek is ‘change your mind’. Now this is very difficult for most of us who are stuck in old ways of thinking, but no matter how old we are we can still change. The ingredients for change consist of four things. Love, Compassion, understanding and empathy. That’s all! But how difficult during bad times when we may become self centred.
When I read your post I realise how you have stripped yourself bare emotionally. This is real and sincere change. You have stood and looked at yourself and found yourself wanting in all respects.
‘A lifelong catastrophe’. Yes indeed and that applies to so many of us. You want to be emotionally whole. Well, you sure are on your way and good luck to you.
The last three sentences in your post apply to us all.
‘Be kind to myself’. Very important.
‘Allow myself permission to feel however I need to feel’ Absolutely right. Emotions will come, give them permission to come.
‘I must be patient with myself’. Patience is so difficult in bereavement. We want to feel better as soon as possible, but it doesn’t work that way. If we make mistakes own up to them in our minds. Avoid resentment and anger, replace them with forgiveness. Negative emotions can cause damage to our minds, and often long lasting ones. Any change takes effort and effort is energy. We must take it slowly and with care. Trying too hard can cause mental and physical exhaustion.
My very best wishes to you. Thank you for a really forthright post. I’m sure if you keep on your present course you can only win.
Very best wishes. John.

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Thank you for such a thought provoking insight to loss and grieving. I found it extremely thoughtful in your part and beautifully written.
Sandra x

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Dear JonP, I have just said to a dear friend that I have no idea how to respond to your post and I don’t. So I am simply going to say that I truly hope everything works out for you in the way that you would wish. xx

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:cry: so do I Kate, and thank you.
I did not choose to be who I was, and my losses were a long time ago.

Yet now I am a devoted and unconditional person, I cannot repair her feelings about me. I would be the most comprehensive happiness in her “forever-after”, it simply does not have to end this way…and this is the grief that consumes me.

Much love to you.

Jon, I often refer to the saying:

‘It will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end.’

Sending love xx

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Thank you for your compassion. I wish my wife could read your reflection. She does not understand and why would she - it’s not her fault that I had a 1-night stand. She didn’t deserve that either, she gave her heart and soul to me, and I abused that trust.

My “script” has changed. I can only focus on me within that. I will forever work hard to consolidate my new understanding of loss and how it should never be allowed to affect current attachments.

And I might add that in forgiving others you forgive yourself. ‘Go thy way and sin no more’ Words that echo down the ages. Best wishes. John.

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