It can be hard to identify the line where grieving ends, and your personality begins. Do I have a quick temper because of all I’ve been through, or because I naturally have a short fuse? The people who care about me tend to err on the side of caution: everything goes back to my father. Out of guilt, I counteract this by assuming the opposite: I’m a terrible person. I know this isn’t completely true, but when others perceive grief as so black and white – this person gets “x” amount of free passes on their behavior – it can be hard to excuse yourself.
It may not surprise you to hear that I consider myself a bad communicator. My friends are wonderful people, but I only open up to them about my pain when things are bubbling over. Sometimes, I come to the conclusion that I don’t open up because I don’t want them to open back. It’s easy to talk to strangers, because I’ll never see them again, and much harder to invest in the baggage of someone I interact with on the regular. It’s not wrong to share your pain with someone else, and if I thought it were, I would be a massive hypocrite, regardless. Instead, I feel that I’m too damaged to properly handle the pain of others – I shut down on contact.
Maybe, in light of that, it wouldn’t surprise you to hear that I consider myself a bad friend. I have a grumpy demeanor, and I fixate on little things to be pissed about. I’m also a poor listener, far too preoccupied with myself to feel for others. I’m the Grinch who stole grieving.
If I were satisfied with a lifetime of emotional isolation, these things wouldn’t bother me. Alas, I’m not anymore. I want to be a good person, and I want to heal. In trying to contextualize my behavior, I realized: all of the negative traits above are subconscious mechanisms to push people away. It’s not that I don’t want to care about my friends. On the contrary, I don’t allow myself to, because I’m terrified that they are going to die on me. All of that caring, transformed into all of that pain.
To provide some context, at least once a month, I experience a devastating dream; either my sister or my mother dies. Have you ever cried within your own dreams? Have you ever gotten on your knees and sobbed? Tried to wake up and found that in the morning, you were still mourning? Well, you don’t arise feeling too awesome, and your eyes are also itchy.
I call my mother every day, because subconsciously, I’m afraid that she won’t pick up. I frequently check my sister’s breathing in the middle of the night, because I’m scared that her heart will just stop.
If I don’t let anyone in, then I have that many less funerals to attend, that many less death beds to sit beside. The more silly reasons I invent to stay angry towards friends, to not trust people, and to keep acquaintances at arm’s length, the safer I am. I feel perpetually guilty at how under-appreciated my companions are, but I also feel as though I’ve reached an emotional stalemate. It’s so hard to care more, when every part of your body wills you to separate. I can only add that in my defense, losing my father hurt so much. I never want to cry like that again.