Family: They Stole My Right To Grieve
For some odd reason the moment the calendar flipped to August 1st, I began to think about, okay, almost obsess that in another month, it will be one year since my dad had passed away.
During this entire season of loss, not once had I cried, felt the crush of his absence or the natural squeeze of grief. Trust me, it’s not because I’m too tough, or that I didn’t love him. He and I were almost identical in attitude and actions, so although it caused friction at times, I loved him dearly.
Lisa, my sister-in-law mentioned grieving a while back, and it set me to consider why I had not. Almost 20 years after my mom died, I’m still pressed into an unpredictable ball of emotion at certain triggers. But, why isn’t this the case with my dad?
Swiss psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross had worked with terminally ill patients as part of her practice. She observed that not only did the patient and their family not understand the process of loss, but the medical community failed to
grasp the dynamics of dealing with eventual and actual death.
Her 1969 book, On Death and Dying introduced the world to five stages to help people better prepare and cope with loss. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance became embedded in American lexicon as the gold standards for gauging their progress in dealing with loss and grief.
I’m nowhere on the scale yet.
Family is a funny thing. I’d be surprised to know that there is a family who doesn’t argue. When you combine the reality of generations of individuals, who as they mature and introduce non-family influencers into the core through marriage, dating, and childbirth, that dynamics never cause contention.
I’m not suggesting that the core family is always solid and it’s the in-laws, or as some in my family called them, out-laws (just to be mean) were the issue. The reality is family is complex, and the introduction of external influencers such as people, money, and death exponentially increase those core challenges.
I’ve witnessed in my 25 year law enforcement career the horrible things people do to each other. I’ve also seen the petty reasons they do them. In the course of my duty, I’d say family were most often their own worst enemy. Now add a death and the potential for a profit, and like adding water to sea monkeys, they magically and tragically appear.
I went through this after my mother passed away. Immediately, siblings turned against my dad over inheritance, pieces of jewelry my mom had worn (although it was still my dad’s property) and “allowing” my dad access to what was still his.
One of them actually suggested at the time that everyone go into our dad’s house and place yellow sticky notes on each item they wanted.
My dad lived nearly 17 more years in his home. Can you imagine spending one day, much less 6,205 days with sticky notes tagging everything your kids want once you pass away?
BTW: The brilliant sticky note idea never happened.
A big problem never resolved was that since my mom’s death, the battling siblings would ebb and flow into conflict with one another over what most families fight about. But never once was our mother’s death dealt with as a family, nor was the blow up over her humble estate.
My dad devolved in his physical and mental state in the final years because of diabetes, dementia and Alzheimer’s. It was during the last days that most of the same crew who rose up after our mother had passed, were at it again. Except they had become much more skilled at concealing their efforts and the money pilfered from an ailing parent.
It wasn’t until after he passed away that bank records, unpaid loans and cash payments were discovered. Our friends in person and on social media have never once heard Leah or I mention family issues, but I felt moved to share a little insight only for the sake of illustrating the importance of forgiving to grieve.
Greater than the property, heirlooms and over $300,000 dollars stolen by two of them, is the theft of my right to grieve. It’s what my sister-in-law had mentioned months back. She was right.
None of us who are locked in the battle to right the wrongs of those who looted our parents’ property have ever taken the time to deal with the death.
I understand the need to forgive and be forgiven. God makes it crystal clear in Matthew 6:14-15:
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
And again in Mark:
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
These are but two of many encouraging verses of God’s will that we exercise forgiving others.
It’s also vital to understand the dynamics of forgiving someone who has offended you. Many believe it’s letting the guilty party off the hook. They hold contempt in their spirit with an expectation or hope of revenge or the mystical “karma” taking care of the offender.
God is also very clear about taking action against the unjust:
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Forgiving is about freedom. Your freedom, not the offender’s freedom.
Forgiveness gives you the power to break the chains that bound you into torment, anger, hatred, or the hell of victimization.
God gives you the ability to regain the power through surrendering to His command of forgiving. Some see it as weakness, and that’s an unfortunate mistake.
Forgiving is about power and control you can exercise over your life. No matter how hopeless or lost you may feel, forgiving those who hurt you gives you strength through Christ.
God is very clear that He will forgive you and bless you once you’ve released yourself from the sin committed against you by another person.
You don’t even have to say it to the offender. You must, however, speak the words aloud. Go into your private prayer closet, or take a drive around the block, but God wants to hear your words of forgiveness.
Don’t worry that your spirit isn’t in agreement with your words. It’s the first step on your path to true freedom. Hurt must be brought into the light for healing to occur. As you continue to speak the words of forgiveness, God will ease your burden and heal your hurt.
Then shall vengence be His for the taking. Yeah, that made me smile a little too.
This began by admitting I’ve not grieved for my dad’s passing. I know why I’ve not been blessed with the process of moving from pain and into the light of appreciation for God receiving my dad into his heavenly home.
I’ve prayed about it and discussed it with Leah, but I cannot bring myself into a position to forgive them. Maybe it’s because the legal process continues, as does settling the estate. I feel God’s nudge that the process will continue to remain contentious as long as I harbor the ill will toward the saboteurs.
I’ve been praying for God to loosen my stranglehold on the resentment against them for dishonoring our parents, and destroying what hope for family there was. But the truth is, through pruning I’ve gained a peace and new growth, but I also understand that eliminating darkness from the door doesn’t mean the sun is shining.
This week I begin to press the process of speaking the words, “I forgive insert names.”
I have no expectations on how long or how often it will take before I know the freedom from the sin of refusing to forgive and the blessing for surrendering my pain to Christ for His restoration.
I’d appreciate your prayers.
I do pray for spiritual healing and restoration by September 14, 2017 which is the day my dad passed away, but I also understand the timing is completely in His hands.
I also pray that if you’re locked into a season of hurt and unforgiveness that you will also speak the words out loud. I know God is anxious to hear them.
So, my journey begins, to reclaim what what stolen from me by my family – my right to grieve and my responsibility to forgive.
I Am 2nd,