witness and witlessness

Writing openly about my life used to be like water off a duck’s back for me.  I was Say-Anything Steph once-upon-a.  So many battles, big and small, seems to have whittled me down from feeling large to little in a twitchy, embarrassed-for-no-reason kind of way.   It aint purty!  So I’ve been consciously pulling my s___ together for the sake of … pride?  Yeah, maybe pride.  Pride goeth, I know, but there’s something to be said for sparing the world from another simpering, twitching, ever-apologetic mess.  I got down; I can get up.  Me big girl now.  *smile*

The point of this post is to share an experience I had yesterday and take solace here in the temple.  Actually, the experience has been ongoing since April when I begin what was supposed to be a year long “crisis support” program at the local hospital.  I brought them the crisis, but I’m still wondering when they’ll get to the support part. 

At the end of 2006 when I had to leave the house I loved so much because I was being abused by one of my stepdaughters I began do slide into a depression that spiralled as the events following my departure went wildly out of control.  Simply surreal, not to be believed, this is not happening to us, no way Jose kinda stuff.  The depression absolutely buried me when we buried our beloved Seanna last August, and that’s why I turned to the community care centre at the hospital for help in April. 

Every month that I have met the therapist and doctor since I started six months ago I have been asked the same questions about what it is I think is bringing me so down and why it is that I have no interest in life or plans or hope for happiness in my near future.  They have focussed on the depression but offered no grief counselling whatsoever.  In fact, they offer no “depression counselling” either; they just keep asking me over and over why I think I feel the way I do.  The psychiatrist asked me each time for the last three months why I don’t return to my regular activities, my normal life,  and why I am not content once again now that I am out of the depression.  And every time…as I have for six months…I have to remind him that my home is gone, my gallery that was my beloved work is gone, my job as Dorian’s bookkeeper is gone because he is bankrupt, my one stepdaughter (abusive as she was) is gone, and my other child, the child of my heart, is DEAD! THERE IS NOTHING TO GO BACK TO!  IT’S ALL GONE!

Barely controlling my feeling of insult – well, anger, really – that these basic facts of my life cannot be remembered, or least not gleaned from reading a simple chart or file before meeting with me again, I requested a different therapist, a switch that also comes with a different doctor.  If I end up with no “crisis support” from the hospital at all and am not allowed to go back there, I surely won’t be able to discern a difference.  Other than, perhaps, being free from the monthly insult. 

I have been embarrassed to be enduring this nonsense in my quest for solace and really should have just come to the temple once a month instead…heck…you probably would even have let me weep here once a week!  *smile*  You all are so kind that way.  LOL  But for so many years I told myself the story that I was the one holding other people together, my family, my children.  Yeah.  Such fairytales I tell myself!  And believed them because I needed to as a child needs to believe in Cinderella’s prince for a while. 

Nonetheless, here I am, feeling much better though still without any great enthusiasm for living, but I am Alive enough to have regained my sense of the necessariness of bearing witness to the witlessness that We, many of us, have to bear at times in life.  I bear necessary witness here in case someone else in Soul Food has or is being so sad and enduring the ridiculous dismissal of their entirely acceptable and understandable sadness, despondency, or simple exhaustion.

I am grateful for this wonderful temple and the solace of this place.  A place where I know words and tears and fears and questions and weariness and wonder and wishes and women are welcome to wait for healing and love and better days to come.



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I am an artist and curator at large in Hamilton, Ontario. Moreover, I am also a serious patron of the arts. It is not enough to work on my own art, though that is a vast and satisfying part of my life, I also deeply enjoy the company of other artists at all stages of their careers. Emerging artists, mid-career, and established artists all have their particular energies and visions to share that are fascinating to me. The art and literary worlds are my sources of entertainment. I spend my time and energy exploring and celebrating both.

14 thoughts on “witness and witlessness”

  1. There are a lot of insensitive, “witless” people in the world who just don’t get it. At all.

    Condolences on the loss of your daughter.

    I have nothing better to say at the moment, unfortunately. You are welcome to peruse our blog if you like.

    Ivan of athenivanidx

    also authored by Athena and The Integral

  2. Reading this will prompt me to create a group here in the Temple so that when you do call out for help you do not get such responses. I am not one to be short on words but this renders me speechless Stephanie. I will make the new group shortly and post a link here in the Temple. If the group consists of just you and me at least we will know that someone listening. I love you and am listening Stephie.

  3. Oh dear Steph, if I could reach out and hug you now I would. No one who has never lost a child can comprehend the depth of grief and pain that the bereaved fall into. We mourn our baby every day even though life goes on and new babies come. Nothing, no one can ever replace that precious life, nothing will ever wipe away her mother’s grief. Those who do not understand should at least try to do so, because the loss of a child is not something you just `get over’. What these people do not understand is love, how it can shape and fill your life to the brim, and the dreadful loss of it, never to be recovered, is not something that can be eased with a few glib words. You lost everything you loved, and are suffering something like 12 on the richter scale of grief. I can offer you no easy way to regain your faith and trust in life, but I can stand with you here and light candles for your Seanna and pray for you to find a reason for living again.

  4. Thank you very much, Gail. Your response is so shockingly different from the ‘support’ therapist’s and the doctor’s. The therapist offered no solace at all; only suggestions on how to get busy moving on creating structure in my life with new activities like exercise and volunteer work to replace the time and energy I used to spend on Seanna. As if that would fill the void. As if those things were comparable to Seanna’s presence and love in my life. And always, always when I called her “my daughter” instead of more cautiously referring to her as “my child” or “my Seanna”, they corrected me, “You mean your stepdaughter…” I have felt I’ve had my experience denied acknowledgement at every turn.

    Therein is the why of the lack of support for a grieving mother. To them, I am not, cannot be, that. My grief is, to them, surely overexaggerated. Illegitimate. I raised her nearly all her life, but I did not give her life. The loss of her life, therefore, in the eyes of an enormous part of society, and obviously in the eyes of those two nitwits, is not something I am expected to feel profoundly. My grief is neither expected nor respected. Fortunately for me, I stumbled across a handbook for crisis support workers that acknowledges this phenomenon as being common wherein the grief of foster, adopted, or stepmothers/fathers is cruelly dismissed by society as “illegitimate grief” and the sufferers are cast aside to grieve in isolation without any support.

    I was so relieved to find out it was not just me, that it was not truly personal, and that I was not really alone. I wanted to tell people that. So thanks for listening and understanding.


  5. I will always listen and understand, Steph. There is no barrier to a mother’s grief – if you love a child, you love her and that’s all there is. I hope you do find better emotional support than you have received. That handbook should be compulsory reading for all so-called support persons. The idea that a woman who is not a child’s natural mother could not grieve for that child is utterly insulting. In some cases, the grief has been greater than for the natural mother. Mothering is less to do with nature than it is with nurture. You are and always will be Seanna’s mother.

  6. I am speechless, Stephanie. I cannot believe the insensitivity of people who are supposedly in “helping” professions. May you find the healing you seek in the walls of this temple.

  7. Those idjits have all the insight and empathy of a box-of-rocks. Actually, the rocks would be better, surely one might work as a worry stone!!

    Steph love, sister of my heart, There is no such thing as ‘illegitimate grief’. Grief is grief, and every one that feels grief deserves comfort.

    There are ‘illegitimate counsellors’, therapists whose ideas are stuck tightly in their craw, and their empathy has faded under an onslaught of self-important monographs.

    Don’t expect yourself to heal within a framework, or schedule. You will heal as you are ready for each step. Remember love, there is always one of us an e-mail away.

    Love, hugs and kisses,

  8. Dear Steph,

    As a step-mother and grandmother who lost one of our grown children, I know whereof you speak, and share your hurt. You and the other commenting friends have written eloquently — I echo their expressions of empathy and support for your painful struggle. There are alot of strong supporting arms and loving hearts here.

    Thinking of you at this dark time,

  9. I’m stunned wordless…I really don’t know what to say, sorry, but I will send a big hug (((((((((((Steph))))))))))) and the hope that you get someone better, someone who has some common sense!

    Thinking of you

  10. I am so very sorry for all that you have gone through, including the loss of your daughter, Seanna. Such a very hard grieving experience to deal with. And then when other things occur, it becomes even more complicated grief. The quick dismissal because she was your step-daughter, is just another example of disenfranchised grief, where some people find it easy to have a reason to not deal with what you are feeling, as if you should not be feeling it.

    Have you checked out what support a local hospice program can offer? Most have a bereavement counselor on staff who offers private as well as group support, newsletters, etc. Our grief counselor works with anyone in the community as well as those with hospice.

    Thinking of you, Thalia

  11. I can only echo what the others here have already said Steph, adding my love and my ear whenever you need it. In the light of such failing on the part of those who are meant to support you, you show such spirit. I am here whenever you need.
    My thoughts are with you.

  12. Dear Steph,
    My thoughts and love go out to you and I wish there was some way I could be of help.
    I wish you could just sit in our yard and watch the wildlife,boats,water,trees change in the light and enjoy the moment. I have been sick all week,so have been homebound and have not seen a person all week except for Harry. Keeping in touch over the computer does help and words help, but of course in the end it is our thoughts that have to change in order to move in some direction–either forward or stay stagnant. We have to ask ourselves questions instead of letting others ask them of us. Am I going to just sit here? Am I going to make something today? Shall I go to exercise or forget it because I can lose weight by drinking green tea? Well, these are some of my own issues, but you can fill in the blanks for yourself and I do hope you will do that.
    Love, Sylvia

  13. Remember, Steph, that I am always with you…we are all with you regardless of the distance between us. Although most of us have not suffered the loss of a child, most have suffered a loss of one kind or another so although we cannot wholly grasp your pain, we can at least begin to understand. You are loved, Steph, know that and be comforted.

    Hugs, Vi

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