So I've been in something of a holding pattern about the memorial for my father, the past two weeks or so. I've spoken to a small number of close friends here about attending, and gotten advice about whether my stepmother should be invited. I was waiting for the chance to talk to one more friend/adviser about it, to ask for help envisioning the order of service and the purpose of the service. But the schedule hasn't been easy to resolve, so we didn't sit down until yesterday -- and then, thanks to plenty of interruptions that came from both sides and were unavoidable, we really only had about half an hour to talk.
There wasn't a distinct answer or direction I was hoping he'd provide, but it was important to me to talk to him. Since the conversation was forced to be brief, I followed up with an email explaining a couple paragraph's worth more in terms of background on the other family members involved. His response (by email) was brief, but supportive -- he acknowledged that I'm reviewing a lot of personal history with this act, some of it painful, and that I've chosen to bear a burden that many would avoid. For some reason that particular phrase really struck me -- and due to general uncertainty, it also made me question the wisdom of what I am doing.
I also did some crying, and my response by email (though short) mainly conveyed my uncertainty and perhaps read as an objection to his phrasing. He wrote back later, to clarify his empathy and respect for what I'm doing, and really his opinion of this is not the issue (and shouldn't be -- I may be weighting his words too heavily.) I tried one more time to simply enunciate my doubts about all this, and I hope we're square. God knows I don't want to push anyone away from me with this line of inquiry.
Doubts: What is this is going to be too hard for me? I tend to think nothing should be outside my abilities if I just apply myself. But what if I'm just dragging friends and family into a yuckiness that does no one any good? What if the kind of resolution I want isn't possible? And, what burden have I chosen to carry?
My friend's comments contrasted my choice with that of someone who chooses to remain detached from this family pain, or chooses to avoid it. If being detached means carrying around a suitcase full of pain that is never opened, I'd just as soon lay that baggage down. Or is that avoidance? Really, I just want to let this crap go. I was hoping the memorial would bring something like closure to this trajectory.
It's more than grief over lost family members, more than grief over being denied access to the rights of full participation in the grieving process. It's also the reasons behind the denial of access -- several years of abuse at the hands of a step-parent, followed by 30 years of excommunication from that side of the family. And when my father died, we were just beginning to understand each other as adults, and maybe to approach our relationship in a new way. Other complications include the fact that my mother doesn't really know about the abuse -- my years of living with my father and stepmother were her idea, in part, though my father also suggested or strongly supported it -- and there's no reason for her to feel guilt over something she couldn't control, couldn't have predicted. And my husband has trouble hearing all of this, for personal reasons of his own, though he is trying to be supportive. These few facts are what I tried to explain to my friend yesterday.
Do I want someone to tell me it's a bad idea, this memorial? I'm not really a quitter --
-- the pain this exercise brings up from me is rather extreme though. If you've ever felt such pain that you thought you might actually have left your body a little in the process, you get the idea. It's in there though, still, and it seems wrong not to try to get rid of it.