Having raised other mothers' kids, I understand the primal wound of being ripped from the one who carried you, to know that this person didn't/couldn't love you enough to care for herself and/or you well enough that you could stay, and to realize that you weren't really, truly loved or protected because of the mother's issues--in fact, sometimes mothers chose themselves or their boyfriends over a child.
To know that your "real" mother wasn't your real mother after all is an awful way to start a life.
This wound is more subtle than what we experienced here this summer. It seems funny to look at EG's sudden death in the past, but that is where it is slowly sliding. What the kids and I (and EG) had happen was so sudden, so intense, that it left us raw.
And we reacted to that trauma. There's the word I wanted--trauma. I never realized how that shock, that trauma, could affect people. However, time and space are giving me a little perspective, so I can see where I was.
Nash is a funny dog. He has a thing for chairs and prefers to sit in them over the sofa or floor or even a bed. He sits in lawn chairs, folding chairs, even kitchen chairs. When he was a pup, he loved to sit in one of the Adirondack chairs in the back yard. One afternoon, he got his paw stuck between the slats of the chair and screamed. I went to rescue him, and he bit me, operating from that place of pain and sheer terror at what had suddenly happened to him. I took a bath towel, put it over his head, and pulled his foot loose. He shook for the rest of the day and cried in his sleep that night. The next week, he avoided the chair.
This morning, I woke up to the realization that I have been in that place of terror and pain. I was worried about our finances, and I was terrified about raising these kids alone: would I have enough time, resources, and wisdom to get them to adulthood. I also didn't want to go on without my partner--after having the richness of his companionship, support, love, and protection, I had a huge, gaping wound in me. Like Nash, I was coming from a place of fear and agony.
People mean well, but those who have not experienced this primal wound cannot understand the mental state of someone who has. Even though I have had this experience, I cannot speak for others who have lost their spouse, as each situation is different. What I can do is realize that I can't relate and not try. Even our priest doesn't get it--I went to him for guidance about an insipid letter which was sent to my children, and he said, "That's the one thing about mail. You can throw it away." He didn't understand that I wanted these people to know that they were behaving thoughtlessly and that they shouldn't do it again to anyone and to tell them that they did not have all the answers where they were in their safe lives, intact marriage, safe kids.
In fact, they had no clue that there were questions. I have come to the conclusion that these people have so removed themselves from the possibility that this might happen to them that they can't even begin to entertain how they might feel or react.
What impresses me are the people who do understand. I have a co-worker who is a very, very nice woman. I am training her for her new job, and this woman talks incessantly about her husband. Initially, it hurt, but I have become numb to it. Thursday, a male co-worker, who is single and not even thirty yet, mentioned to me that he noticed that this woman does this. He said, "I want to say to her, 'Hey! She's just lost her own husband. Don't you think talking about your husband all the time might hurt her?'" I told him that I wanted to say something, too, but I didn't want this woman to apologize for two hours. It was easier to shut down emotionally and get through it. I did add that I was so touched and impressed: this man accepts he doesn't have any answers, knows he doesn't know all the questions, and is willing to see the pain someone else is feeling.
That can't be easy. I can see that now.