Ways of Healing: Sundays are Safe to be Sad Days

Tears by Kate Powell
             Tears by Kate Powell

Sundays are my sad days, mad days, stretch and sing, write and read days.

Sundays are solitude days, alone and lonely days.

Sundays are expansive, grow my mind and open my heart days.

Sundays are tiny, confining, stuck in the mind muck days.

Sundays are watch emotional porn days, Grey’s Anatomy makes me cry days.

Every other Sunday morning was supposed to be the time that I could spend time alone with my birth son, nurturing our relationship without competition with the other parents. Now my Sundays are something completely different.

With my work schedule and the challenges of managing pain after work because of Fibromyalgia (there is always pain at the end of the day), it is difficult to process the grief of losing my relationship with my son. There isn’t time or space for the twists and turns of grief, the sadness and faithlessness I am navigating, the descents into darkness that are necessary for healing. I am not familiar with this sense of utter failure and the inability to find meaning in the madness. Regret was previously unknown to me. I am covering new ground in my emotional evolution and need the space to find my way.

It wasn’t entirely intentional, but Sundays have become my sad days, my process days, my let-myself-feel-everything-hard-and-hurty days, and then see what I can do to gently move myself toward deeper healing. Sometimes that looks like reading, resting, crying, or writing a blog post, like when I wrote about how maybe resurrection isn’t for everyone. What I wrote in that post aren’t the only thoughts and feelings I have about this experience, but they are part of my truth, part of my story as a mother that needs to find voice. I am not punishing myself for my choices, but I have to be honest about the pain I’ve caused myself and the people I love most. 

I have loved ones who worry because I write about the despair, the self-doubt, and the possibility that I have done something irredeemable. I don’t know for sure if I will find meaning and redemption, but knowing my life trajectory and incredible capacity for resilience it is likely that I will. No matter what comes I have to sit with the questions. I have to honor my regret. I have to own that I made a choice that no longer feels right and yet I can’t take back.

I wish desperately that something might shift to bring my son back into my life, but I have to keep myself safe from trauma as I heal. Safety means never allowing myself to be emotionally abused again. I had to relinquish my relationship with my child to save us both from emotional harm. My relationship with my son was used as a weapon and tool of power to emotionally terrorize me over a couple of months.  I set boundaries around the adult relationship and consequently our relationship with our son was questioned, threatened, and taken away multiple times on an emotional whim, which is not at all good for a child’s heart and development. Removing myself completely from the relationship was the only way I could stop the violence against us both. And yet it continues three months after our complete removal from the relationship, as we were told “our son is happy without us” through text last week in response to a grief post on Facebook. It is this lack of respect and casual cruelty around our birth parent grief that forced us to abandon our son for our own well-being.

The best I can give my son from here is modeling resilience and living the best life possible under the circumstances. It will do him no good if I allow my despair to take over my aliveness. The best I can do is make some kind of meaning and beauty from our heartbreak, and find my health and wholeness so that I’m ready to hold him in his truth when he seeks me out some day. 

This is the wake-up call that’s come from the tragedy (and previous tragedies whose messages I ignored) – I both need and deserve to live and work in emotionally safe environments. My grief, especially as a birth mother, needs to be held in safety, grace and kindness rather than diminishment, criticism, and threat. 

ALL of Me – and ALL of You – needs to be held in emotional safety. This is why I am so passionate about safe spaces and creating belonging. 

Those of us who grew up with neglect and abuse may have never experienced true emotional safety before – a place where we can be who we are and feel what we feel without being ignored, neglected, diminished, bullied, criticized, and/or terrorized. We talk about physical terrorism all the time, but we never discuss emotional terrorism and the toll it takes on those who live under the tyranny of an emotionally violent person at home or in the office. These relationships exist everywhere. I can think of many instances of bullying and emotional abuse between friends and co-volunteers in my five years with the Impropriety Society. In the last company I worked for as well. And there were instances where I was gaslighted, where I was treated as if I was the problem for reacting to being bullied, screamed at, or abandoned to pick up someone else’s mess. 

I have been recreating and reliving violence as a first language of relationship from childhood until my relationship with Eros. I didn’t know any different or any better. He is the first partner who has come to learn how to provide me with emotional safety, and to teach me how to provide it for him. Now that I have experienced this sense of sanctuary and belonging I am unwilling to compromise it with partners or lovers, friends or bosses.  Most of all, I am unwilling to compromise it with myself. I am an emotional being and I will hold safe space for myself no matter what those around me choose.

Eros works from early morning until late afternoon on Sundays, which gives me the solitude to allow my grief to unfold. It doesn’t matter what I do to start my day, something triggers the sadness and tears. Recently it was finishing Mary Louise Parker’s memoir, Dear Mr You (which is phenomenal by the way!), and being touched by the way she wrote about her children and being a mother. Three months ago I was feeling the elation of witnessing my child’s growth and evolution into his unique personhood. I could relate to her devotion. Now I no longer have that privilege. I do not get to know who he is becoming and I do not get to express my devotion for him. I do not get to witness the milestones in learning or celebrate his birthdays as he grows. If and when he comes to me years from now, I will not know him and he will not know me. And yet I believe we will recognize that we are bonded by love and blood, by generosity and abandonment, and by a story that I hope with all my heart we will be able to give a happy ending one day in an environment of emotional safety and care.

For now, I use all of the tools I have – including the open emotional space in my Sundays – to finally heal a lifetime of trauma so that I do never accept
 being treated carelessly or cruelly again.

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