Monday, October 28, 2019

In Grief: When Current Losses Trigger Past Abuse

[Reviewed and updated November 7, 2022]

The human race tends to remember the abuses to which it has been subjected rather than the endearments. What's left of kisses? Wounds, however, leave scars.  ~ Bertolt Brecht

A reader writes: The first anniversary of losing my beloved cat Abby was last month, and the first anniversary of losing my beloved Cleo is just five months away. I still feel totally lost. I still forget they are gone. To make matters worse, my father is in end stage of Alzheimers. All three of these losses have somehow triggered some old historical abuse issues. I just thought I was further along in this journey of life than I actually am.

My response: I'm so very sorry that you are having such a difficult time in the wake of these losses, and with your father's serious illness, I can certainly understand how challenging all of this must be for you.

I don't know what, if any, resources you've explored to help you deal with your father's deteriorating condition, but for what it's worth, I want to point you to what I think are some very good ones.

Are you familiar with Jacqueline Marcell's book, Elder Rage or Take My Father ... Please!: How to Survive Caring for Aging Parents? (This link will take you to Amazon's description and customer reviews of the book, to give you a sense of what it's about.) See also Jacqueline's Voices of Experience post, How to Survive Caring for Aging Parents, and visit her website, Elder Rage.

If you go to my post, Caregiving in Alzheimer's and Dementia: Suggested Resources, you will find a number other sites and articles related to this topic as well.

Since you're struggling with "some old historical abuse issues" you might also want to visit some of the sites and articles listed here: Coping with Traumatic Loss: Suggested Resources.

As for facing the anniversary date of your beloved Cleo's death, I want to gently suggest that you don't make the mistake of letting that day sneak up on you. Why not plan a special ritual of remembrance for that day? You're limited only by your own imagination, but for inspiration you might want to look on my Memorializing A Pet page for some ideas. At the very least,you could light an LED votive candle for your kitties on those special days.

You said you thought you were further along in this "journey of life" than you actually are, but I'm not sure that is the case. It may help you to read the following piece, taken from my Comfort for Grieving Hearts page:
It may be quite possible that we are not necessarily undergoing 'unresolved loss' when a past death comes up for us. Instead, this could be our opportunity to experience the older loss in a different light, one with some perspective and yes, even wisdom. Even if the feelings that come up are quite painful, this may not mean that you didn’t do the ‘grief work’ right the first time! It may just be that now is the time for you to experience that loss and your current one at a deeper level, given who you are today and what you now know about yourself. Many of us still have parts of our losses that may remain on some level ‘unresolved.’ However, a more empowering notion is to recognize that triggers of prior losses may mean that we can re-grieve, healthily and holistically. We may still be asking sometimes unanswerable questions about older losses, but perhaps how we ask them has changed significantly. And perhaps we have a greater comfort level for these questions being unanswered. And perhaps, we have a greater tolerance for ourselves in not having all the answers. 
~ Joan Hummel, Bereavement Magazine, March/April 2004. Reprinted with permission from Bereavement Publishing, Inc.
If there were some way to protect you from the pain of all your past losses and all the losses yet to come as you continue living your life, dear one, I'd be the first to tell you about it. But if I have learned anything in my own life, it is that loss is an inevitable part of living, none of us is immune from it, and we all need to find our own ways of coping with it.

I've also learned that grief is very hard work, and it helps if we don't try to handle it all by ourselves. So I invite you to join and participate in our online Loss of A Pet forum, because I think it can be a valuable source of help and support for you, and I think in turn it helps you to know that you have much to offer others who are hurting, too.

In any event please know that I am thinking of you and holding you close in my heart.

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below. If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing NewsletterSign up here


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