Losing my wife’s grandmother sent me into some kind of bizarre panic. It took me until last night to make the connection. But it was weird. I didn’t understand why I was excluded, unloved, and undesired. I could see that there was a part of me that was not reacting properly and going into panic mode for no reason. But I was unable to stop it. I would be fine one minute and then panicked and lost the next. There was no reason that I could see. I haven’t had panic like that in years. It all came to a head last night when I couldn’t make sense of what I was thinking and saying and neither could my wife. I felt irrational but could not stop the panic.
After I drove away and thought through things, we tried messaging again and it was just going round and round. It made no sense. I hated how I felt but could not get myself out of it. We sort of got a place of some rational thought when I told her about the first time I met her grandmother and how it made my heart burst.
It was then that the dam broke open and I sobbed about how I missed her too and how wonderful she was. And then, this chasm opened and hot lava slid out. My favorite grandmother died in 2007 and I could not go to her funeral because I was training for a deployment. Grandparents don’t rate high enough on the grief scale to let you go home from deployments or training for deployments. I missed it. I had no choice. I could not stop thinking about how much it hurt to not be with my family and have the closure from a funeral all those years ago. There was no closure. There was just a “suck it up and go deploy.”
And so I never dealt with the pain of losing my grandmother. I only went back home one time after she died and I didn’t want to go back again. I was “too busy” with deployments and then my parents moved to where we were. I have only been back when driving to my wife’s family. We go through all of where I grew up. I have even visited her grave. But my stupid uncle still hasn’t added her death date to the gravestone she shares with my grandfather. There was money left to him for that and he did not take care of it. That upsets me. How the hell could you just not do it after all these years?
But back to last night…once I started crying, it all made sense to my wife and to me. This whole not pushing pain down is still relatively new for me and I thought that there wasn’t anything else left to actually feel. But hey, I guess when you can only lose so many grandparents, there aren’t many opportunities for pain to resurface like it did for me like it has recently. Part of me really dreads what else could be left down there. What else have I not felt all the way? And will it make me all panicked and crazy again?
The good news is that once I let myself feel the hurt deep inside. the panic literally melted away. It’s all weird to me how that panic was sort of standing in the way of the pain that was coming up like that. I was trying hard to stay strong but couldn’t because I was sort of balanced in this weird place on top of the pain. I am very (VERY) slowly learning that being strong doesn’t have anything to do with feeling pain and that you can still be there for someone even when you are grappling with your own pain and grief. Vulnerability still feels new to me.
There are so many times in my life that I can how I ran from feeling this pain by being dishonest and sometimes even cruel. It was easier to push someone away than to feel my own pain and deal with it. It’s really made me think about the unhealthy coping mechanisms I used to get by.
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