My husband’s mother died last week after a few months of illness. I’m not handling it well, but it’s a weird grief.
I was not close to her, really. I loved her as my husband’s mother, but even he was not “close” to her. He did love her. (And here I want to add “Whatever that really means. Who knows. I sure don’t.)
I find myself feeling sucker punched. I was not able to go to the funeral because it was several states away and I had to stay home (sick) with a sick child and another who needed to do important things at school. I’m glad, because my feelings seem way out of proportion to my actual feelings for my mother-in-law. I do feel bad that I was not there for my husband, because I was not there at the funeral when his father passed away either (I had a 5 day old and was not recovering fast enough for that).
I burst into tears for “no reason.” I’m not missing my mother-in-law, I didn’t know her well and hadn’t seen her in years. Again, I cared about her — just want to make that clear — but it’s not like we had some tight bond of mutual give and take. It was more like mutual respect for each other as people and for our position of mother of my husband and wife of her son.
So I’m crying for no reason, and I feel tired and dead inside. I’m thinking I’m being triggered into needing to deal with adoption grief that still hasn’t had a real voice.
I hurt for my husband. He was also not “super close” to his mother but loved her. I think he feels something like that untethered feeling I’ve had all my life and particularly now in mid-life. Both of his parents are dead. He’s not chained to the living world by them, he’s kind of floating. I actually caught him playing on Facebook at work yesterday, something that he NEVER does and mocks when others do it. I *knew* he was out of sorts then, and needed humanity and not work. This is how he grieves.
How I grieve? Apparently I stuff it down, and stuff it down, until some practically random person dies, and then I fall apart. I felt like someone had killed my best friend when Robin Williams died. I feel like I’m walking around in a fog now that my mother in law has died. But I don’t miss those people, I barely even knew them.
I think I might be fearing abandonment, at least emotionally and mentally, by my husband right now also. Twelve years ago when his father died, like I said, I had a 5 day old. My husband got the call that his father was dying on my birthday, and he rushed off that night to be with him and his family, leaving me recovering from childbirth and exhausted with a newborn, 3 year old, and 5 year old. With a snowstorm coming, right after a blizzard. I had no help or anything. My husband *needed* to go, it was right of him to go, but I needed someone too, and there was no one. Leaving on my birthday was just the icing on the “kick in the gut” cake. When my husband returned, he was not the same (of course, he was grieving! He was allowed!). I felt totally abandoned. It was a year before I got over that, for the most part. It still stings. I’m having flashbacks and bracing myself for having that year repeat itself.
I think adoptees in general are done a huge disservice because there is no ritualized way to grieve like when someone they know has died. My husband’s parents died, and they all gathered for a funeral, and wake, and dinner afterwards. They all headed back to his mother’s house, together, to talk, reminisce, laugh, and cry. They were *together* in a well accepted ritual to claim their new space in this world without their mother and father.
The adoptee has no such thing, in fact, are usually told, “What are you talking about?” and “You should be thankful,” when they try to talk about their pain in public with others. How horrible. If I ever become rich I’m going to have spaces around the country where adoptees can come and have “funerals” and rituals and invite other adoptees and accepting persons to be together with them in grief…I’ll hold workshops and teach people the right things to say and do to support the adoptee, no matter the age.
I apologize for this disjointed post. I’m going to publish it anyway, because this is as clear as my thinking is getting right now, and I really need to say it.
Editing to add: We had to give our guinea pigs away last week as well (a day or two before my MIL died). I really miss them. I feel like a horrible person that I miss them more than my MIL. How awful is that??