It’s hard to articulate how someone who was “helping” was actually hurting you. She didn’t ask me what I needed, she just did everything for me. I didn’t consent to her care, and I had no ability to resist it either.
Being with her was like I didn’t have to remember how to tread water, how to keep my head above water. She would just do it for me. Initially, that was helpful on some level, as I am sure there were days that I would have sunk if she wasn’t there to swim for me. And maybe I needed to sink and not swim. Maybe I needed to go into the deep depths of grief. Maybe I needed to take the space to explore those depths so that I could develop some kind of comfort in it rather than constantly trying to escape from it.
She wasn’t okay with my sinking. She stopped me sinking in some way. In part I wanted to avoid the intense pain of grief and in part she was terrified of it. She judged me for wanting to sink. And I know she got something out of keeping my head above water beyond my survival. There was something selfish in her behaviour.
Maybe I didn’t need air; maybe I needed water. Maybe I needed my hurting heart to be held by the oceans of sadness and darkness that surrounded me. Maybe I needed to just be in it, not trying to get out, not trying to make it go away, not trying to heal it. But to just honour it by being IN IT, by being overwhelmed by it.
That relationship made me fear my darkness again. To watch someone who claims to love you, all of you, avoid a huge part of you, deny something so central to your self, and judge and shame for you its existence, is devastating.
I came to doubt that I knew how to swim, that I could keep my own head above water. Even more than that, I learned to doubt my ability to know what I needed; if I needed air or water, if I need to sink or swim in that moment. I internalized their fear and judgement: shaming myself, undoing myself. Their control, their fear of my pain and the pain in themselves that it pointed to, their need to feel like everything was getting better kept me from myself.
She came to resent me. She resented me for all the work it took to keep me going in the ways she wanted me to be going. She resented me for work that she took on without my consent, without space for my desires, my wants and my definitions of survival. She defined me as the “bad one” in the relationship; the fucked up one. The one who cannot be trusted and doesn’t know how to be okay. And I believed her.
There was no room for me in all of this. There was no room for my needs, my own definitions of what it means to be okay. I am sure she feels like there was no room for her in all of this, that everything revolved around me. And that was in part because she used me simultaneously as a distraction from all her shit and a person to project her pain onto. She made it all about me so she wouldn’t be implicated, she wouldn’t need to responsible for her feelings. She used me to avoid herself. She used my grief to avoid her own pain. And to cover over this, she demonized me.
That partner was controlling and abusive and used my grief and pain as an excuse to be that way. She was dishonest about her own actions and relied on the fact I was honest about my fuck ups and feelings to define everything as my problem or as originating with me. To this day, almost three years since we broke up, when I ask to sit and talk through some things, to have space to both be accountable to each other she argues that “All my bad behaviours came from you. Now that I am not with you I don’t do them”. That’s so fucked up.
So what would I say about to grief to others? Grieving people aren’t your free projection screen or scapegoat. Just cause we are hurting openly doesn’t mean that you get to use us to avoid your own hurts. We are not some foil that exists to help you grow or cope or feel good. Even when we are falling apart we need you to respect our autonomy, our need to have agency in our lives. Even if it looks like we just need help getting through we still need reciprocity, communication, honesty and respect.