This past weekend Ryan sold his mother’s car. It has been sitting at our house for well over a year. I’ve been trying so hard not to nag him about it but I have wanted it gone for a while. Selling it means we don’t pay insurance on it – it means money toward our student loans. But it’s also an AWD car we own outright – I just don’t like it, I’m not comfortable driving it. Apparently this car is all about me.
One of the happiest summers ended rather poorly to say the least – 2013 – we’re buying our first house. Dad’s blessing, diamond on my hand, we are moving forward. Everything is looking up and we are excited! To plan our wedding, buy a house, start a family…Ryan’s mom died late into the evening on a Saturday in October.
That summer while we were planning a trip to Texas, He was planning a proposal, his mom was quietly talking to her boyfriend about hospice – we didn’t know. We didn’t know that when they took off for a week to Myrtle Beach it was because the doctor told her that 7 years of being one step ahead no longer mattered. It was back, and it was there to stay. She didn’t tell Ryan.
Death changes people – certainly changed me. The blessing behind all this is the opportunity that had presented itself to me. I had to be Ryan’s rock. I couldn’t ask him to be one. But how does someone grieve when they are being strong for someone else – I found this article about the silk ring theory and it helped me. Ryan was the inner circle, this was his mother, I couldn’t lean on him when I got mad, or upset. I needed others.
Sitting at her house after we left the hospital I texted my sister, I told her the news and I said I’m going to text you all the things in my head and I need you to not judge me. She didn’t judge me. I said some really nasty things to my sister I was mad. I was selfish. I was pissed. I made it about me when I texted my sister. But the last thing I should do is make it about me when Ryan was ready to grieve.
People would ask me, how’s he doing – is he okay – has he grieved? That’s a silly question, I didn’t know how to answer. Has he grieved? No, I don’t think so? Because, I was only looking at his grief the way I looked at mine. I cried. I yelled. I said rude things but only to the listening ear of my sister who hugged me and said it was okay. But, Ryan doesn’t grieve like I do. Ryan doesn’t cry, Ryan rarely yells… Ryan also had to be the rock to his half sister – the estate fell to Ryan, probate court, lawyers…
As with most self growth I slipped up at some point – I made it about me. Why wont you talk to me – why haven’t you cried, I’m here to help, let me help, why won’t you let me help?! Simply not leaning on him was help enough I found out But not with out a fight in there. I was making it about me. I was expecting him to grieve, like me. I was expecting him to be mad, like me. This was probably my most selfish moment. I made his mother’s death about me. (and look, I’m still doing it with this blog post!)
Ryan was mad – but he’s also his mother’s son. And his mother always taught him not to let the emotions drive you. Emotions fix nothing. When he was a kid playing with a knife and it cut him he’d cry to his mom. “Does crying fix anything?” she’d ask – and that’s all that needed to be said. When she was first diagnosed he asked “Do I need to be worried?” “Why, what will worrying do?” She’d respond. Yes, Ryan was very upset but being upset didn’t change anything. It didn’t bring her back, it didn’t handle the estate.
Being helpful often means you stay out of the way. Being his rock meant letting things go on as they usually do. Leaning on my family and my friends when I needed to cry. This wasn’t about me. This was about Ryan getting the support he needed at the time. I supported him by not pushing his grief. I supported him by letting him make it whatever he wanted to make it. I continue to support him while I struggle to accept that not everything is about me. I never knew I was so selfish until his mother passed on. I never saw how easily I could make something about me. I still do it – but now I can watch for it. When you know you have a flaw you can be on the lookout to stop it.
When we drove home that night – I offered to drive and he said “No, I need to drive.” I just took his hand. The drive was quiet because neither of us knew what to say. He broke the silence. “I wasn’t done making her proud”. Ryan makes me very proud, but it isn’t about me.