I must admit (again) she’s good.
It was one of the areas I didn’t want to go to but she sucker punched me and knocked me there. I didn’t even see it coming. We started with a meander though work related chat and career aspirations and then we took a subtle detour.
When you were a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I remember blinking and hearing the sound of a scratched record in my head at this point. Looking back it was an obvious ploy but done so sweetly I didn’t suspect what lay behind such an innocuous question.
A career aspiration heavily influenced by a parent and clearly not seen through. There had to be a reason behind not seeing it through.
And with artful misdirection she managed to get me to drop my guard for long enough to get behind my carefully constructed defences.
What followed was a whirlwind tour through family history as she sought to understand (and get me to understand) what trauma lay beneath the unresolved grief.
Trauma sounds like such a grand word. Let’s call it rather a series of unfortunate events. I hadn’t even twigged the significance of the word ‘series’ in this context at that point until the events were laid out one after another.
I didn’t want to go that place. I’ve spent more time than I ever wanted to there and it never ends particularly well. Where once I was sure of my memories a new piece of information surfaces and distorts and twists certainty into doubt.
When it all seems fine and I’m pain free / Jab another pin, jab another pin in me
In a flurry of mixed metaphors I likened it to having a memory made of jigsaw pieces. Someone kicks it over and then hands you new pieces to fix it. The pieces don’t fit, the picture no longer resembles the one on the box. What was once familiar and reassuring is now an unsettling haunting mess.
The term is complicated grief. But it’s not complicated is it?
A series of unresolved losses forms a poor basis for resolving the grief of losing the boys. All the activities in October led to me questioning the foundation of my fragile state of acceptance. I had an uneasy truce with my furies on the basis that what happened was an unfortunate accident of probability. That there was nothing that could have been done to change the outcome.
— Reflections by R. S. Thomas, No Truce With The Furies
Immersing myself in the stories of others and hearing the echo of my experiences in their own turned that rock into quick sand.
“There are but three furies found in spacious hell / But in a great man’s breast three thousand dwell”
None of this should have been a surprise. I had clues from an earlier session. What was surprising was that I thought that I could deal with the loss of our sons without having to consider the previous losses of various types and the affect they had on shaping my response to loss, trauma and grief.
I’m tired of having so much shaped by events over two decades old. There is no redemption, any fool can regret yesterday. There can be no resolution, no closure, no Hollywood moment of tearful reconciliation as the music swells around us.
What there can be is careful strategies to dance around the wounded, bleeding elephant in the room. Gentle steps elsewhere to try and make amends for casual acts of unintended cruelty and silence and actions taken with the best intentions on dubious assumptions.
And all of that before I can attempt to live with the grief over our sons? It makes me angry that I can’t even grieve them without having it tainted by my history.
I was naive to think otherwise.