Processing pain is an ever changing landscape. Everyone is different. Some of us filter it through jokes and odd humor. Others of us mask it in anger and rage, lashing out unintentionally at those closest to us. A lot of it is affected by how the pain was inflicted. Physical pain is vastly different than emotional or even mental distress.
In the last 18 months I will have lost 5 grandparents. I am not even sure how to process the number, let alone the intricacies of each person.
What makes it the hardest to process is the utter lack of relationship with all but one of them. While my husband has fond memories of playing with his grandparents, I do not. I know many people who can’t wait to go to “nana’s” house for Easter or Christmas. They get cards in the mail, phone calls on the weekends, or trips to their house for no reason at all. Even as an adult, these tokens of love and deep relationships continue.
These are not the types of grandparents I inherited.
Instead I inherited grandparents that haven’t spoken to me in over 12 years. I inherited grandparents that didn’t even speak to their own children for the last 12 years. I inherited grandparents that when they did speak to their children, words that no mother or father should even utter aloud, were spoken into their ears.
How do I process the pain of the absence of a void? Because that is exactly what I have now. An absence that will never be filled. A permanent void. What do I do with the realization that these people who didn’t cared about me, didn’t cared about their own children, will never again have the chance to tell me they care? That lingering hope of a relationship is forever lost. That tiny speck of waiting for them to decide to include in me in their lives is forever unattainable.
Even still, how do I sift through the pain and grief of knowing there are others out there that did have a relationship with them? What did they have that I didn’t that made them worthy of what should have been mine as well? I feel as though it is unallowable for me to be angry at people that they love. And yet, I know this to be untrue. These people choose to ignore me, cast me out and turn their backs on myself and my family. The fact that they choose to not do so with others does not cancel out the real pain and longing they created in my life.
I find myself sobbing over the broken relationships scattered throughout my family. Parents and children pitted against each. Children’s hearts hardened by bitter and cruel parents. Grandchildren being kept away from grandparents. Grandparents ignoring grandchildren. Families scattered across the country with no attempts made to keep contact alive. How did it all come to this? How did these relationships get so far broken that they became forever severed? And why did God choose this brokenness for me? Why did He choose to put a deep longing for big family in my heart and the set me down in so much turmoil?
For now all I can do is make peace with the fact that I could have done nothing to change the status of our relationships. They made their choices and what’s done is done. What is left for me now is to live my life in a way that is worthy of the one grandfather who did love me and cared about me. It is time for me to live my life in such a way that I leave a legacy of grandparents behind for my own children. I can move through my pain, acknowledge it, and have it grow me. I will allow it to teach me a valuable lesson: that all relationships are sacred and worth holding onto. I must choose love over prejudice and selfishness. I must be willing to set aside my bruised ego and pride and understand that a lot of relational pain comes from my own unspoken and unrealistic expectations of others.
For the cycle of brokenness to stop, it has to start with me.