Saturday, January 29, 2011

Grieving Lost Dreams

I always wanted to be a mommy. A wife.  A homemaker.  I did have interests for a career outside the home if necessary, either a nurse, or a teacher.  But I really wanted to be a mommy.  I wanted to build memories of laughing and playing.  I wanted to teach my children to be creative and to take care of them selves, and their own families some day.  I wanted to teach them, and to have some kind of home based business so that we could earn and learn together.  To create a home community that was nurturing, and fun.  I wanted us to have family and friends that we could have backyard BBQ's with, and camp with in the summer, and spend the holiday evenings with.

I'm afraid that I let that desire, that mental picture, cloud my decisions as a young woman.  I made decisions that took me on a fast track to what seemed would be that end, but as we learn as we grow older, things that happen quickly often do not have longevity.

Now, to be fair.  There is much of this dream that came to fruition!  I have three beautiful children, that are now grown, and my daughter is married to a wonderful young man with a healthy family of origin.  I was able to homeschool my kids for 8 years, which was a wonderful experience as far as I am concerned, despite my many mistakes, and high stress approach at times.  All of my children could plan and cook and clean-up a basic meal for the family by the time they were ten years old, and to this day are all wonderful cooks.  They can all sew, knit, & crochet.  They can all run power tools, and do home repairs.  They can all change the oil on their own cars, and do many vehicle repair and maintenance jobs.  Now, not all of that is my teaching specifically, but what I did not know how to teach myself, there were plenty of people in our circles that could fill in the gaps!  Including their father, at times (more on that later), and grandfather, and uncle.  There are many wonderful memories.

But due to the choices of another person, these life-styles had to change, and rather rapidly, and I ended up in the mainstream work force, and my kids were in public school.  We tried to make the best of it.  Tried to be flexible, and just roll with it.  And many good and wonderful experiences came of that time as well.  There were also many deeply painful trials for us to grow through, and that will always be the case.  We learned a lot as a little family team.  We had to rely on each other, which had the effect at times of both bonding, and driving a wedge.

I did not at the time, have the liberty of really recognizing that I was deeply grieving the loss of my dreams.  Described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, the 5 stages of grief have become relatively commonly known, and as we as a culture have come to understand these stages of grief, we also have come to see that they apply to many different types of loss, and not just as related to physical death.  I recognize now that I became stuck for years at a time, and sequentially in the first 4 (DENIAL, ANGER, BARGAINING, DEPRESSION) of the 5 stages (the last being ACCEPTANCE).  What a relief it was for me to finally reach acceptance!  There are more current writings and understandings that suggest that there are 7 stages of grief: 1. SHOCK & DENIAL, 2. PAIN & GUILT, 3. ANGER & BARGAINING, 4. "DEPRESSION", REFLECTION, LONELINESS, 5. THE UPWARD TURN, 6. RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH, 7. ACCEPTANCE & HOPE.

So many years later, I still have short pangs of anger, and depression when memories spring up in my mind.  But I can see them through clearer eyes now.  I don't have to hold onto that pain any more.  It does not stab as deeply into my heart as it used to. I no longer feel so much guilt for the choices I made.  I do still feel sadness for the lifetime of "issues" that my children will have to carry, and deal with in their own lives, but at the same time recognize that we all have childhood issues that we have to learn to accept.  And since my children are of good character in their souls, I can expect to watch them grow and mature into wonderful adults, despite the efforts of their childhood upheavals.  I believe that we will be better people; more empathetic, more thoughtful, more resourceful, more generous, BECAUSE of what we have experienced as a family!

As you think about the things in your past that have shaped you, and your children, and your families; let the grief run it's course.  Honor that process, and allow yourself to grow from it.  As the line from a song in "Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang" says, "Up from the ashes of disaster, grow the roses of success"!!

Live and love your life, because of, not in spite of, the challenges you have been through!