This Christmas, I am gifting myself the gift of grief.
I wrote a song on this particular theme because I’m so sick and tired of all the positive messaging I’m constantly bombarded with. Everywhere… Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn … like… highlight reel allergy much.
I’m not a cynic, but can I just get an honest (though not necessarily pleasant) word in now and again?
The world we live in is fucked up…and COVID has made it worse over the past two years.
As Pastor Joseph Prince likes to say “Can I get an Amen?”
I mean, all this false positivity, especially around the Christmas season makes my skin crawl.
I recently got in touch with my sadness and grief in a much deeper level than I had before. It is a time of loss for me. Yes, in many ways it’s been enormous season of growth and renewal – having left an abusive relationship of 10 years – as another trauma survivor once shared with me, “the healing starts immediately when you leave an abusive relationship.”
It’s been 11 months exactly to the date I was assaulted by my ex – January 25th 2021. The sheer violence of it and his subsequent refusal to face up to and take responsibility for the full extent of what he had done to me made the divorce inevitable.
What made the divorce worse and extremely painful was his subsequent victim blaming, his minimizing of his assault on my body and his disgusting final money grab – he didn’t stop himself from helping himself to my late father’s inheritance. When confronted about it (by a mutual friend) he said that it was legally his too because I had put it in a joint account.
He knew my father had told me on his deathbed that he was always worried about my safety and that the money he’d left was for me to buy myself a safe place to live.
When my father contracted pancreatic cancer in 2015, and died within 6 weeks of his diagnosis, I was staying in Crenshaw – a very rough neighborhood in Los Angeles. If you look at the safety rating on Google maps which ranges from light green to dark green to orange and burgundy to bright red, the gated community I lived in is a scarlet pimpernel.
As I worked as a musician and tutored high-school mathematics on the side, my income was unstable. My husband then worked a job with a very modest income, so we couldn’t afford living in a safer neighbourhood, especially as LA rent prices had sky-rocketed.
There were many difficulties I faced as a musician working from home in a rough neighbourhood. I dealt with rowdy neighbours who blasted their music at all hours of the day and late nights to early mornings, multiple pest-infections which resulted in angry red welts from bug bites all over my body, gang-fights on our street, gun-shots and helicopters flying overhead scouring for felons on the run.
The weight and meaning of my late father’s inheritance was not lost on my ex, yet in the aftermath of his assault on me, he saw it fit to force his way into the inheritance.
It’s frankly sickening, disgusting and shocking.
You may wonder why I am going along with it. Well, I decided that it would be better to “pay him off” and get him out of my life than drag out this sordid affair in a court case that would last 1-2 years.
To me, time is ultimately more important than money, and basically, I believe I will be able to earn back all the money that I am throwing in his direction to buy myself a new life.
In the Bible it says “Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.” Proverbs 13:11. I truly believe God will not prosper a dishonest man, so no matter how much money he gets from from me, I know that God will exact justice in His own time.
I have decided that while it hurts to let him have money that my dying father had asked me specifically to use to buy a safe place, I’m many ways, I’m honouring my late father’s wish by buying myself safety instead of getting entangled in a legal battle.
The analogy that I have used to explain my position to many others who don’t understand why I’m doing this is that of pest-removers. In order to get rid of a pest infestation, you have to pay the pest-removers to get the job done.
I would be lying if I said that I am not emotionally affected by this though. Philosophically speaking, though I am saving myself more stress and heartache in the long run by parting with my father’s money, the injustice of it still bothers me on a very deep level. I do believe if my father knew about this he would turn in his grave, even while silently acknowledging that this is the best play I could have made, given the hand of cards I was dealt.
I never considered once that the one person I trusted with my life would be the kind of person that would stoop to this level of cruel and loathsome behavior – well I guess you learn new things everyday.
There was one day when he got his lawyer to send me a bill for things I had put on the joint credit card. He included the cost incurred for my seeing a doctor after the assault.
The depth of betrayal and confusion I have felt and had to process over the past year has been monumental to say the least.
I had hoped though, with all the counselling I’ve been going for as well as all the books I’ve been reading on psychology and trauma that I would have almost fully recovered by now.
However, healing sometimes involves more pain on the road to recovery. The layers of reality are slowly being peeled back like layers of an onion, and the more I peel, the more my eyes tear up.
Coming to terms with the reality of my situation is difficult – I wanted to have a loving marriage, I wanted children, I wanted to have a stable income, I wanted to have a happy and quiet home life and did everything in my power (within my conscience) to make that happen. I wanted a relationship that lasted a lifetime …
Unfortunately life doesn’t always turn out the way you want and maybe what you had hoped for was not realistic given the circumstances. You cannot make a happy home (a truly happy home, not a fake Pollyanna-ish family system built on lies and enablement) when your partner is an abusive narcissist.
The New York Times recently published an article titled “Grieving Our Old Normal” highlighting how it is necessary for us to grieve considering how COVID has wreaked havoc worldwide, claiming the lives of many and leaving devastation in its wake.
I know I am not alone in my grieving.
As the author of the article wrote, “Forget resilience. Forget silver linings. Right now, it’s time to decide: How do we mourn everything we’ve lost? Once we do that, hopefully at some point, we can attempt something even harder: moving on.”
I thought I had moved on, but sometimes as they say, it’s one step forward and two steps back. There are nights when I feel so sad and desperate that I call up SOS to find some much needed reprieve and emotional support. The last person that I talked to on SOS made me promise to call back whenever I needed emotional support and a safe space to talk.
In the early days after the assault I called up AWARE and SOS to get the emotional support I needed.
I was severely traumatized and it was very hard to get the right kind of emotional support as most people do not know how to talk to trauma survivors and often re-traumatize survivors due to their insensitivity, ignorance and lack of empathy.
Things got better after a while when I started seeing counselors, and I didn’t need to call those helplines for many months.
Unfortunately, with the holiday season my therapy has staved off temporarily, and I have had to seek out other forms of emotional support.
One thing I know for sure though, I am on the road to recovery.
Yes, it is taking a little longer than I thought it would, but as the old Chinese proverb goes, to move fast you need to know when to stop. (只有知道如何停止的人，才知道如何高速前进)
After all…the most beautiful rainbows I have ever seen have only come after long spells of rainfall.