Itís good to know that there are shoulders out there for me to lean on, and that I have my cyber friends to turn to. I havenít updated this much since I started an online journal five years ago. If it werenít for all of you, I think I might fall apart.
Donít get me wrong Ė Iím getting tons of support from family, friends and co-workers. Last evening, my sister, Pat, and I were treated to one-hour reflexology sessions, a generous and heartfelt gift from My Friend the English Teacher/Department Head/Writer/Reflexologist/Reiki Master. It was incredibly relaxing, and, as I told her, it felt good to have something feel good.
My massage therapist called to let me know she was thinking about me, and my hair stylist sent a card. I already mentioned that the English Department at work gave me gift certificates to four restaurants. Iíve received other phone calls and notes and kind words and warm hugs that have touched my heart.
Daniel has been wonderful. I am so grateful for his compassion and understanding. He knows how crushingly sad everything is right now, and gives me the space I need to deal with this in my own way. He is also there when I need comfort. His back rubs help me to fall asleep at night.
The trouble is that Iím not good at vocalizing my feelings. I hold so much inside, and thatís not healthy. When it comes to personal problems, Iím more accustomed to the role of listener. Opening up about my feelings requires taking too big a step outside my comfort zone. Somewhere down the line, I learned to clam up and keep it in.
But this is eating away at me. It is affecting my ability to function. I keep shutting down, mentally and physically.
A few days ago, my cousin strongly recommended that I contact our local Hospice. I was surprised by that suggestion because I thought hospice was for the terminally ill. My cousin explained that hospice also offers grief counseling for the bereaved, and told me how much help she received from a New Jersey hospice during her fatherís illness and after his death.
I decided it was worth a shot, and made the call on Friday. While I was describing the situation to the woman who answered the phone, I started to cry. In the middle of that, she put me on hold to take another call, which I found rather upsetting. When she came back on the line, I somehow managed to finish what I had started. She then transferred me to bereavement services, and I had to tell my story all over again, choking back sobs all the while.
The result of this phone call was that I was given the number to a crisis hotline. Thatís it.
I have been in a state of paralysis. It took an enormous effort for me to make that call. I was hoping for a referral to a support group or counseling service that deals with ambiguous grief. Instead I got the bumís rush. It left me feeling like a fool for seeking help.
Thatís not the only example of insensitivity Iíve been subjected to. Last week, the dog groomer called me at work and yelled at me about Ellie needing to be brushed routinely. I assured him that I do brush her, but have not been able to for the past couple of weeks because my brother has been missing, and is presumed dead. I told him what happened, and explained that I have been too distraught to concentrate on anything else. His response was like a slap in the face of my anguish, and it literally took my breath away. He snarled, ďWhat do you want me to do?Ē
I wish I had told him what I REALLY wanted him to do. Instead, I slammed the phone down. Then I went in the bathroom and cried. Needless to say, we wonít be returning to him for future services.
Another thing that has been hurtful to my family is that many people feel the need to ask us certain questions. One is: ďDo you think Mark just got fed up with things and took off?Ē Um, no. We donít think Mark could be so callous, and knowingly put his family through such misery.
Markís identical twin, Mike, came up with a good answer to that question: ďGee, I donít know. Would YOUR brother/sister do that to YOUR family?Ē It stops people in their tracks, and makes them realize how much pain that kind of question causes.
The other question is: ďIs it possible that Mark committed suicide?Ē Would he have bothered to clean the ducks he had hunted, and struggled out of his jacket if it was his intention to kill himself?
Even if those were possible scenarios, would you ask those questions of grieving family members? I know I wouldnít. And I am so thankful that none of you have.
This journal has really proved to be a godsend. I might not be able to speak about my problems and feelings, but I can write about them. So this is where I come to let some of it out. Bless you for listening, and for caring.
By the way, Doug wrote a beautiful entry about the subject of supportive online friendships. I encourage you to read it.