Grieving In A Toxic Environment

There is something those of us in grief become so much more conscious of, it creeps around us like a lion among sheep. We may be weakened and seemingly helpless after our tragic losses but don’t be fooled, our senses are intact and perhaps even heightened. We can smell the toxins. We can taste the bitterness that exudes from poisonous people. We hear your nasty, hateful, hurtful rhetoric. We see through you. You are not who you claim to be.

Those that cause the greatest harm are not always casual acquaintances. Those we trust and open the door for may very well create the most damaging emotional turmoil. Yet we drink it up because we love them, we care for them. We hope beyond hope they will change, see the light of their ways, the path of destruction left in their wake. But no, instead they cast blame, seek attention and we stand on the sidelines shaking our heads wondering what we did wrong.

The big news story recently had been of a teenage girl who encouraged her boyfriend to commit suicide. You know the one, I will not mention her name here. He was in his truck while it was filling up with carbon monoxide, although he had talked about killing himself for years he became frightened and he got out of the truck, she told him to get back in. He died. Instead of offering kindness and loving support she encouraged him to get back in the truck and kill himself. How different would things have turned out if she told him to go home where love was alive and waiting? They both suffered from mental illness yet she lacked basic empathy and compassion to save someone she claimed to love.

Questions filled social media. What the hell is wrong with her?? Why did she do it?? How the hell was she raised?? Is she sick?? How many times has someone you know told someone else to go “kill themselves.” A phrase meant to hurt thrown by one who could care less or just words spoken in anger? It happens more than you think.

For the most part a simple emotion is missing from people like this. Empathy. I don’t know what happened to it or how it became absent from them. Perhaps something in their emotional makeup, childhood trauma, genetics. Mental illness is a factor. Is this emotion too complex? What becomes to those of us that continue to feel everything whole-heartedly? Empathy is not something others can experience vicariously through others. How will they understand it?

I bring this story up because I think those who suffer from mental illness or a personality disorder lack certain emotions necessary to maintain healthy personal relationships in society. Living and sharing your life with an individual with a mental illness or personality disorder which leaves them lacking empathy is chaotic and difficult. Communication is never going to reach a resolution when it lacks compassion and understanding on their part. Unfortunately this is something they are incapable of.

They are blinded by the illness they possess and deaf when it comes to attempts to help them. Their strength is in their voice and their words and they are never afraid to use them. The verbal assault from their sharp tongues can be deadly. The venom they spew is far from the truth but they do not know this to them their lies are their truth. They seek attention for themselves through social media using these lies to make themselves look wonderful, in fact nearly super-human and will cut anyone down who dares to challenge them.

In grief our minds and hearts are not yet healthy enough to handle these individuals in our already weakened state. Even if they have experienced the same suffering you have they do not and can not feel it the same way. It’s not in their genetic make-up. In our suffering an individual will attempt to bring about guilt and question why you continue to grieve when “you weren’t around enough” to continue to talk about the person that passed away or grieve the way you grieve. They shout angry words about you in an attempt to make that grief seem insignificant and they question it’s validity. All in an effort to gain attention and admiration to themselves, while making you into a sham.

Without a doubt the lack of empathy and compassion here is disturbing. At times it borders on cruelty especially when it is broadcasted on social media to gain attention to the person posting it. Any individual that will attempt to lessen another’s grief and attempt to make that person feel guilty for the sadness that they express is acting maliciously. They know what they are doing while they are doing it. We must understand they do not have empathy, they do however, have the ability to comprehend what they are doing to you. They just do not care how you feel. They only focus on what is happening to THEM. Even if you tell yourself this person is suffering as well and is mentally ill it does not justify the attack on your character. Would you allow someone to keep slapping you across the face because they couldn’t understand the concept that you feel pain?

Try as we might the toxins they bring suffocate us and in the end it is us or them. There is a trail of broken people left behind them in a cloud of smoke. The ones left choking are those who gave of themselves again and again. Until they can give no more. We have tried to maintain the relationship but it became too painful. Sadly, as much as we blame them they are unable to control themselves. We keep telling them “stop it, you’re hurting me” or “don’t do that you’re hurting yourself” but it falls upon deaf ears. We must make a decision, stay and keep getting hurt or walk away and save ourselves.

In cases of family, yes it is very hard to walk away. Despite the problems and the suffering we love them. I tolerated years of verbal abuse and social media slander before I finally and regrettably decided I had enough and took a deep breath and closed the door for good. I have to place value on myself. I cannot allow anyone to shame or place guilt on my grief or show blatant cruelty to me. I have to respect myself even when they do not. We have the right to say “I have had enough.” Just because we are family does not give you the right to disrespect me and verbally abuse me.

We have suffered a loss. Yet does this give anyone the right to keep beating me with a stick while I am already down just because they have suffered as well? How long do I keep tolerating hurtful behavior? Ten years? Fifteen? I can not get healthy in a toxic relationship and neither can you.

In the end it was about Konnor. When my grief and my love for him was put into question for all to see I had enough.

I am more than the words you chose to call me.

I am Konnor’s grandmother. I love him. I miss him. I grieve for him.

Not one soul will take this away from me. Not even you.


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Grieving Grandmother to Konnor Mason who passed suddenly at eight years old on November 22, 2015. With this blog I hope to share my thoughts and feelings as I move forward through grief toward hope and healing.

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