Saturday, November 17, 2012

Beauty School Dropout

I joined a grief support group given by the hospice organization which tended Flip in his last months. It consists of several women who have lost their elderly mothers and me. I know that grief is grief and cannot be compared but with all respect, it is different to lose your life's partner and best friend who was relatively young; a parent, no matter how beloved, presumably lived a full life which ended in her 90s. One of the women had a minor psychotic break because her church, the one in which we hold our meetings, forgot to mention her mother on All Saints' Day. She has mentioned her female partner many times and I wonder how she can pledge allegiance to a church which is at war with homosexuals. Of course, I can't ask.

This week a new woman joined the group and confided that she recently attempted suicide. She was laughing inappropriately, which I think is usually a sign of desperation, and I have spent many hours worrying about her and trying to think of ways to help her. i also believe that her issues are beyond the scope of a support group. Hospice asks that we commit to the entire series of six weekly meetings, but I am seriously considering dropping out because I believe this concern is impeding my own healing process. We signed a pledge agreeing not to discuss anything that occurs in the meetings with anyone, even privately with other members of the group. What happens in St. Agnes stays in St. Agnes. It isn't a lack of empathy but perhaps, that I have too much empathy which makes me uncomfortable. I left a voice mail for the facilitator explaining that I don't think I'm a good fit although everyone is very nice and she is doing a great job. She is a young family therapy intern, kind and caring, but I think she is over her head with a suicidal group member. I hope she is getting advice from her supervisor.

I wonder if I might be a sociopath who lacks normal emotions because when my mother died I cried a lot but stopped soon after her funeral. It never occurred to me to seek a support group or needless to say, kill myself. While I am not sure I could survive the loss of any of my children, we expect to outlive our parents. That is the natural order of things. I hope my children will miss me when I'm gone but not to the extent that it interferes with their lives.

The bottom line is that if the support group is making things worse, I should quit. If it were merely not helping, I would give it more time, but it feels detrimental to my emotional health. Maybe I am simply too much of a loner to benefit from this kind of therapy and might do better to spend a few hours walking on the ecology trail Flip loved, or riding my bicycle to places we visited. Listening to his music hurts but helps, too. For whatever reason, the group experience doesn't seem to be working for me.

My mother once made a bargello wall hanging of a flock of white sheep facing one way, a lone black sheep facing the other. "That's you," she said, "You're the black sheep." I was hurt and discarded her gift as soon as she left. Now I think she was just stating that our true nature cannot be changed. But with all the changes in my life, I don't have the energy or inclination to change myself. Even if it were possible. Flip's illness has been a solo voyage from the beginning. I guess there is something to be said for consistency.