Healing is a messy, unpredictable, incalculable, and random process. As stated previously, losing my son has been one of the most life-changing events ever happen in my life? Thus far in my healing journey, I honestly did not like the “shitty person I became because of my pain.”
Today we are going to talk about “Displacement!” According to my friend, google, displacement is a defense mechanism at which impulses (usually aggression) move onto a powerless substitute target. The target can be a person or an object that can serve as a symbolic substitute. For example, someone frustrated by their boss at work may go home and kick the dog. We use defense mechanisms to protect ourselves from feeling uncomfortable emotions. Ironically, defense mechanisms operate unconsciously, and we are often unaware they are in action.
While self-reflecting, I was getting ready for work and pulled out a T-shirt, and it read, “no mask, no cape!” The statement made me think about how often “ME the COUNSELOR” sat in therapy with a mask on. I know HOW IRONIC. I sat in therapy week after week, dancing around the elephant in the room. I spent hours and money complaining about my husband, the doer, and fixer because he could not support me after our family experienced a tragedy. All the while, forgetting neither of us was equipped to dealing such pain. You know the saying “hurt people hurt people!” I was living proof in the most literal sense. After Earl’s death, the “strong,” “powerful,” “unbreakable,” “INDEPENDENT” person I had always been was now powerless, helpless, and lost. My husband had no idea how to comfort me, and I was MAD, and my anger almost ended our marriage.
So, where does this displacement fit, you may be wondering? The displacement showed up and showed out, and quite frankly, I felt an array of emotions “OVER IT!” WHY EVEN BOTHER!” “THIS MAN DOESN’T GET ME!” But, in REALITY, my husband was not even the person I’m angry with!! I was angry with my son Earl! THERE I SAID IT! I was hurt he was gone. I was PISSED he was speeding! I was angry with God because I prayed for him to cover him. I was experiencing indescribable pain, and nothing was easing the hurt. Then, I was mad at myself because somehow I had to be the blame. The GUILT, how dare you speak ill of the dead. Therefore, my husband became a safe target for my anger. All the while, I was not feeling good enough; I had to make him feel inadequate! Naturally, I made him feel as he couldn’t do anything right.
Let’s remember, grief is messy. Finally, I realized I was bleeding my pain on the person closest to me, “my husband.” My husband was accustomed to me being a strong independent woman that was now fragile and a walking time bomb awaiting her next explosion. My husband desperately wanted to provide solace and comfort, but I met him with hostility. I was using my pain as an excuse to be angry. I mean, anger is a part of the grief process, right?
Anger is part of the grief cycle but staying in a constant state of anger was not healthy. SOOOOOOOO it was time to remove the mask!!! OH BOY. I had to begin addressing my pain and stop avoiding uncomfortable emotions. I’m going to share a few strategies that have been helpful for me.
· #1 I am a therapist with a therapist (Period.)
· Find you a safe person to talk to (between therapy sessions)
· Tell your loved ones how best to support you! Unfortunately, they cannot read your mind, and we often have unspoken expectations (we’ll save that for another blog….).
· Spiritual guidance. Search your bible app for devotions surrounding your present concerns (invite a friend and discuss the topic)
· Nature therapy. Hiking has been the best therapy for me. At the top of the mountains, I talk to God, my Earl, and dad!
Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim by Vicki Harrison.