I Didn’t Know How

It’s not that I didn’t want to believe it. It’s more that I didn’t know how.

I’d had plenty of “Believe this and figure out how to live with it” challenges up to that point. I really had.

Years earlier my first pregnancy had ended in a complicated miscarriage that landed me in the Emergency Room. The graphic nature of the loss was jarring and disconcerting, to say nothing of the accompanying pain, both physically and emotionally. The grief was intense and stayed with me for what seemed like a long time, even though my son was born a year later.

But there was a mental file cabinet for that, helping me to make as much sense of it as possible: Miscarriages happen. This isn’t the first time in history, and life can move forward from here. It really can.

Eight years and three kids later my first marriage came to a devastating and difficult conclusion that landed me in my first therapy session. The surprise nature of the circumstances caught me more than off guard as the truth of my husband’s infidelity and willful departure from the family we had created together left me wounded, but wiser.

But there was a mental file cabinet for that, helping me to make as much sense of it as possible: Marriages end. And I will take this chance to learn and grow, and figure out ways to make more prudent decisions in the future.

Nine and a half years after that, my six-and-a-half-year-old second marriage came to a heartbreaking end when I was widowed, landing me on my own once more. The life changes were monumental, to say nothing of the heart changes that I had to face.

But there was even a mental file cabinet for that, helping me to make as much sense of it as possible: None of us will go through life untouched by the death of someone we love. And among the many gifts my late husband gave me was the fact that he believed in me before I was able to believe in myself. And so I knew that to honor him well, I would have to learn to live a new life without him next to me. It would not be an easy thing to do, but it would be the right thing to do.

Fast-forward about a year and a half, when my fifteen-year-old daughter began a supremely intense wrestling match with life, with herself, with all of us. And then she began to cut, to carve her beautiful porcelain flesh with sharp objects, leaving blood stained sheets and pillow cases, tender scabs that became fleshy scars, and an absolutely terrified and bewildered mother.

There was no mental file cabinet for this, nothing to help me make any sense of it at all.

It’s not that I didn’t want to believe it. It’s more that I didn’t know how.

 

© Monica Simpson and Help To Hope, 2013

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6 thoughts on “I Didn’t Know How

    • Yes, you said it quite well, it’s very hard to know. I think if we don’t understand much about self harm, we immediately think it’s a suicide attempt, especially if we’ve seen a change in behavior.

      I think it’s fair to say that both those who self injure and those who care about them … they are all in pain and confusion. I so appreciate hearing your thoughts and perspective.

  1. Thanks for your openness. So many others can relate to your shock and confusion. There’s really no way to be prepared for the slow but imminent threat of losing someone we love.

  2. Thanks, Amy. I think that in many ways, not knowing if you will lose them or not – the unknown – can be even scarier. It leaves so many possibilities wide open, oftentimes each one scarier than the one before. And then of course, we can lose those we love to many other things besides death, can’t we? Thanks for reading.

  3. Pingback: In The Beginning | Help To Hope

  4. Pingback: Responding to Your Teen’s Self Harm | Help To Hope

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