I’ve been thinking of funerals, and of course I am, my mother has recently passed on. Death is a big thing in trauma/addiction recovery, truly any event that brings a lot of emotion forward is a big event, but death is definitely one of the biggest ones. And the death of an abusive/estranged parent is the biggest. Needless to say there are a lot of mixed emotions involved.
With the news of her impending death I found myself in constant prayer that she would seek repentance for the harm she put out in the world. I found myself waking early in the morning already engulfed in prayer that somewhere in my mother she realized the harm she had caused, and was honestly repenting. I have longed for her to show me remorse over the years, to acknowledge she hurt me worse than any other human being was capable, but the last week of her life I wasn’t interested in her remorse, I just wanted her to repent before she died. (Mathew 18:6) I don’t know if she did, and I suppose I won’t know until I pass on myself.
I am grateful I had almost two and a half years of mourning before she passed. I am grateful I had a chance to begin healing, to create a life where she wasn’t the chaotic center of it, to find some peace and belief in myself, and put myself in God’s hands and trust Him completely with my fate. I will always be grateful for the time. In the beginning I separated myself simply because I had no choice, my body had revolted. And I will be forever grateful the nightmares, flashbacks, fear and trembling, anxiety and panic attacks came before she died, because if they’d happened afterwards I don’t know if I would have survived it.
Therefore I’ve been thinking about funerals, and being the youngest on both sides of my family I’ve been to a lot of them in my years. Funerals tend to be highly emotionally charged events, and perhaps because death marks the end of an era, funerals tend to bring people to seek resolution of one long-held issue or another. Funerals are triggering, and I can’t think of a single funeral I’ve been to that didn’t bring an eruption of chaos during it, or quickly following it.
When my own father buried his mother he went to the funeral carrying his gun. The tension in that funeral home was like nothing before or since, the factions were aligned with their perceived righteousness and indignities of how my father had failed his mother, and although no shots were fired, or blows thrown, that event left an indelible memory. Then there was the funeral where a cousin went after an uncle and had to be physically restrained. And the one where one mourner worked diligently to turn everyone from another mourner with accusations of an earlier unwanted sexual encounter, or yet another funeral where there were divisions with claims of domestic abuse.
And of course there was my own child’s funeral where several people targeted me, trying to engage me into some kind of upset. One followed me through the funeral home mocking my words as I spoke to mourners, another tried to draw me into an argument because she felt she had been treated unfairly, and yet another sought out to resolve an issue from years earlier. All this occurred while I was attempting to say goodbye to my only child. Why did those people choose a funeral to address long-held upsets? I don’t know, but I do know that it’s not uncommon to use that ritual as a tool of harm.
Grief is not a spectator sport, nor should it be used to gather more fodder for the gossips. If the last two and a half years have shown me anything it has been that I can only rely and put my trust in God, not man, not family. I suppose I knew what would happen when I stepped back to mourn my own losses and begin to heal my own injuries, and the events happened in a textbook fashion, the lines were drawn and people chose their side. I didn’t ask anyone to choose, and although I may have desired understanding and compassion, I did not expect it, and I wasn’t surprised when I did not receive it. I was hurt, though, just one more hurt piled on top of the others, and I was gossiped about and condemned far and wide.
I have stated over and again that I abhor gossip and fully agree with the Bible in this point, it is destructive, it is sinful, and it is where small and evil minds gather. My mother told me many times in my life if I didn’t do as she requested then people would talk about me, ie., she’d get that ball rolling. Luckily for me after being warned, gossiped about, and experiencing the awkward hush that comes over a room when I stepped inside, I was prepared for what followed. What I won’t do is feed that gossip machine any further.
My mother has died. There are so many losses to be mourned, so many. As her only surviving daughter I have the right to mourn as I see fit, I have the right to soothe my own pain in Jesus’ peace, and not be further fodder for the gossips.
All this is my way of saying I will not attend my mother’s funeral. Experience has shown me that funerals aren’t a safe place to let down my guard and open up my heart. Experience has shown me that the only benefit to be had by my attendance would be to deepen the coffers of the gossips, and to further a divide that may never be bridged. I know where my mother will be buried, I’ve spent a lot of time in that cemetery in my years, and I will go and visit the grave on my own, when I am ready.
Sometimes in this life you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t, and I am mightily tired of being damned by people who do not know my story, and mock, lie about, and dismiss what I have survived. She was my mother too, and above all else I pray that she repented for the incredible pain she caused in her life.