Blair is a new writer for Bleed With Me. Blair’s family was torn apart when her husband was wrongfully accused and later convicted of a crime he did not commit. The allegations were brought by his ex wife who, like so many before her used the justice system to settle her own twisted score. And she won. And this happens ALL THE TIME and we know this yet change is often a day late, a bill short… You can read more about Blair here.
When someone dies what do we do? We take the time to memorialize their memory. We gather together and share stories. We send flowers and plants to the family. We make sure that we remember what that person was like and all the good things they brought into our lives. We surround those that are grieving with support and love. We encourage them to cry and to grieve. We even acknowledge that it will take time to heal and one never recovers fully from the loss. The emotional support given is incredible and can greatly help those who are feeling such a void.
Well, I lost my husband 9 years ago. There were no flowers or plants sent my way. There was not a great memorial service to remember him by or a grave to stand over to gain closure. There was not overwhelming support, but instead a lot of judgmental words shifted my way. Instead of grieving in a healthy manner, I was swept into a cycle of grief that kept on turning. It never closed out and it never got better. It drove me to depression and finally to try and take my own life.
I have felt ashamed and angry. I had no idea how to process the grief and was depleted of support. I had no one to rely on during these times. Instead I heard things like “get over it” and “move on”. I felt like it was a betrayal if I tried to date again because in some way I felt like that would be letting him down. Here I was being happy without him.
My husband is not dead. He is in prison with a life sentence. Did you just stop feeling sorry for me? Did you think that is different than if he had actually died? It’s worse in a way because the vast majority of people immediately place it in a different category. They judge. They whisper. They spread rumors. They hurt feelings. My kids face hurt and are in their own way grieving. I face broken relationships because people refuse to understand something they have never experienced.
Psychological studies show that losing someone to incarceration has the same effect as the death of a loved one. I say it is worse in ways because there is no closure. It is like a perpetual door of hope that one holds onto causing that individual to go through the grief process many times as things in life shift and change. They experience the same stages outlined in the grieving process but in cases like mine, you repeat them over and over. There is not a support system behind you to help. Instead there is a familiar shadow, the “stigma of conviction” that follows you no matter where you go.
I have watched my children quit talking for years. I have watched them cry themselves to sleep and grow violently angry. I have watched myself struggle as I lost everything we had worked hard to achieve and repeated this several times due to the instability of my own emotions. I have tried to explain the situation to people who ask but most times I lied and just say he was dead. Seemed easier.. less talk…less judgement. I remember thinking that if only he had died.. I could stand over a grave and be done. Recently I had someone tell me how I should feel when that person had not the slightest clue how I felt. I was married for 10 years when we were torn apart. I had two children who at the time were 18 months and 6 months. I get angry when people try to tell me that my children shouldn’t be grieving and that I should not still feel love. How can anyone who has not experienced this deny the experience?
The world spins. It keeps turning. Each day I get out of bed and I try to make it one more day. Each day I tell myself I am strong because I made it and I am weak because I still cry. I am faced with memories everywhere I turn even when I look into my children’s eyes. I get calls from school counselors telling me my children are not coping well and that they are hurting. They fear I won’t ever be happy and that talking to me will make me cry. I have tried to hide my pain from them.
Maybe pretending to be strong all these years was not what I should have done. Maybe they should have seen me break and cry. Maybe they should have seen me throw the dishes at home alone and break them all. Maybe they should know the reason I left for a week unannounced was because I tried to take my life. Maybe they should know that it is okay to be broken and that they are not alone in this. Maybe they need to feel like it’s okay to let their emotions out and miss their dad. Maybe they need to know their mom misses him too. Every day, in every way.
Sometimes it feels like the grief will never heal. It will always be there. Trapped in a wheel that continuously turns. All I can hope is that it slowly gets better and that people see grief is still loss no matter what the circumstances. Maybe I won’t be as crazy one day or maybe I will find someone who accepts that my stolen husband will always be the one who lives in my heart. Maybe it is a lesson that love is unconditional. I wish everyone could accept the fact that we are all together in this crazy ride called life. We all carry burdens. We all hurt. We have all lost. It is all the same and we are all humans trying to make it one day at a time.