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Till Death We Did Part
  • 0 CONFLICTED GRIEF

    • by Jan Canty
    • 09-18-2019
    0.00 of 0 votes

    Is that what I’m feeling? When someone close to us dies we’re expected to feel a void, a profound sense of loss. And most of the time we do.  Friends tell us they understand.  Their greeting cards say our “sorrow runs too deep for words to convey” and that “our loved one’s beautiful life will live on inside us.”  Researchers predict we will undergo “profound sadness.” But is this always the case?  Is it predictably that linear? Let’s be honest, there are times when we have (or will have) ambivalence about someone’s death.  Perhaps the person was very difficult to get along with in life, even abusive, and their death signals an end of the friction - and hope of attaining an improved relationship. Or, the deceased may have been very sick, depressed, and in great pain at the end.  And then there are times when someone’s death unlocks well-hidden and hurtful secrets which cast an entirely different slant on our relationship with them. At times grief leaves us feeling confused, alone and guilty for concealing a private sense of relief that they have passed away.  We aren’t even sure there is a name for what we’re feeling.  We ask ourselves if we’re even in mourning.  Afterall, truth be told, we don’t feel profound sadness, let alone wish things could go back to how they were. This disconnect is made more vivid when others around us weep and wish them to still be alive.  Grief is hard enough, but when we don’t feel understood or validated by other mourners and cannot genuinely validate their reactions, we feel disenfranchised, bewildered, sheepish and, well… twisted.  What’s going on here? In the case of a strained or abusive relationship, the reality is the pain of a difficult relationship doesn’t die just because a person has died. Their death impacts our future.  The hurtful actions stop, but the bridge we always wanted to build to them will remain unfinished.  We will experience a bewildering array of emotions – relief, anger, sadness, guilt, confusion and rejection.  And, when we helplessly watch a loved one fade away from health, undergo painful medical procedures, undignified emergency interventions and hear them wish they could die, it’s natural to want their suffering to stop. None of us desires to watch a treasured friend or relative writhe in pain, become totally dependent on others for basic needs nor have their mind rearranged and clouded by medical treatments when there is no hope for a return to their baseline. Or, in the case where we discover, upon death, that we never knew our friend or loved one at all, there is a tsunami of unanswered questions, self-condemnation, public scrutiny and a crushing blow to our sense of what is true and good and dependable.  The mountain of lies released through their death are rejected at first.  “He wouldn’t do that to us!”  “She’s incapable of doing what you say she did!”  But when disbelief yields to acceptance, the floor caves in below our very feet.  Love is eclipsed by animosity.  Trust is overcome with doubt.  Words like “devoted” and “loyal” and “honest” are forever disconnected from their memory.  Deception, subterfuge and duplicity (especially planned and carried out repeatedly) leave us out in the cold with nowhere to turn.  Questions haunt us. “How could I not have known?”  “What did we do to deserve this?” “Will I trust again?” In all three scenarios what we are is relieved.  We now feel safe from abuse, released from watching a treasured person suffer or free to live an honest life.  This is not the same as being happy someone has died.  Not at all.  Relief is just a softening of what troubled you.  It is not glee or retribution or indifference. At some point we’ve been told to “never speak ill of the dead”, and “if we can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  These admonitions now stare us down, especially in quiet times of reflection.  We shrink from speaking the truth. But rather than insincerely mourn their death with other mourners, or stuff our truths, it seems there is a third option.  We need to simply choose our audience wisely and speak the truth.  Friends or family may or may not be open to hearing us.  In that case a support group, more distant friend or professional may be the most prudent path. In all three situations we are grieving the loss of what we wish we had but don’t.  We are still entitled to our feelings and our right to share them in some form with some other person or group.  We should give ourselves credit where it is due.  We don’t wish ill of anyone, not the deceased nor survivors who do not understand our complicated, mixed emotions.  We merely seek sincere validation of our emotions, a genuine acknowledgement of our intricate reactions to the death. This essay is not to advocate for outbursts, retaliation or arguments with fellow mourners who feel differently.  It is to openly ask why the mourner, who is already burdened with loss, should be expected to wear a grief mask to comfort a society who prefers lies over honesty?  Why should we please others untouched by the death?  Is it right that our complicated grief reactions be answered with platitudes?  Or is it preferable to have complex grief reactions validated?  To hear healing words like “"I'm sorry for the pain he caused you.  It must be complicated"  is a breath of fresh air.  “Watching her battle the pain and confusion must have been very difficult.” The mourner is likely to feel heard and, validated – no longer “twisted.”  Our conflicted emotions can then start to be woven into the fabric of our lives,  and eventually recede into the background.  In stepping out from the shadows and selectively speaking the truth, we also pave the way for others to do the same when their time comes. Have you ever experienced conflicted grief?

  • 0 A Case Against Forgiveness

    • by Jan Canty
    • 04-28-2019
    0.00 of 0 votes

    The question of whether to forgive a wrongdoer has been a hotly debated topic.  Here is where I weigh in on Al’s indiscretions in our marriage and why I did not and will not forgive him. Before I do, I want to first say that if forgiveness brings you peace, by all means - forgive! I cannot know what is right for you in your situation. However, I see it as a choice, a case-by-case consideration, not a one-fits-all-remedy. In truth, the issue of forgiveness never crossed my mind until interviewed by news reporter George Hunter (!) and I thought it was a good question. Al never asked for my forgiveness during his eighteen months of deception (and, let's face it, there were plenty of opportunities). I also maintain that only the one who is wronged can make a choice to extend forgiveness - or not. It is not the place of someone outside the situation to make that decision, to speak on their behalf (unless asked directly by the person who was wronged). Yet, I am in no way suggesting we hold tightly to anger and judgement, or bear grudges. No. On that point I am in agreement with those that attest blanket forgiveness as the necessary ingredient to healing. But I see an alternative, a third option. I have found peace in understanding what happened, in (eventually) accepting it did happen and working at detaching myself. I am genuinely happy in my life now, in appreciating my family and I focus on what is right in my world, not the wrongs of the past. It is what it is. You cannot un-ring a bell. Isn't this the same goal as forgiveness? Besides, as I see it, Al paid the ultimate price - not me. What is to be gained by bitterness? Some points to ponder: 1) Can forgiving an offender unintentionally give them license to continue that hurtful behavior again and again, having once wiped their slate clean? 2) Is it selfish to give forgiveness to gain psychological relief for oneself, masquerading as idealism? 3) Would you ask a robbery victim, "So, how are you and the burglars getting along now?’” 4) Can a culture of coerced forgiveness place additional demands on survivors, insisting we are not whole until we forgive, that we are somehow morally smug or unjustified in our lack of forgiveness? I would submit, a culture that stigmatizes those who refuse to forgive, adds stress and slows recovery. - the very qualities that forgiveness purports to offer. Forgiveness is not a black and white choice, as I see it. I believe it is something which needs to be earned. And, yes, I've readily extended forgiveness many times in my life.  There is a middle ground of understanding, indifference and acceptance. In closing, all I can add is, I've lived this path for over 30 years and it's working for me, but it may not be right for you. Ultimately you know your approach is beneficial when you sleep soundly, enjoy humor, trust again and feel appreciation for what life offers. What do you think?

  • 0 Pushing boundaries...

    • by Jan Canty
    • 02-23-2019
    0.00 of 0 votes

    One goal I had in writing A Life Divided was to have it resonate with a wide readership.  It was important to me to have people from all walks of life review the excerpts.  In the process, I learned from readers who contacted me.  Some did so just to share a little about themselves.  Others generously and tactfully educated me on fine points of issues I was unfamiliar with. From "rehabilitated junkies" I learned the recipe for mixed jive, the street names for certain pharmaceuticals, how toothpaste was used as a "medicine" for wounds and I held once-used "works." From law enforcement I learned about the pressures to have "clearance rates" and that clearance rates did not mean conviction rates. From fellow authors, I learned about the bottleneck of finding a literary agent and how that was even tighter for an unknown writer. From prostitutes and exotic dancers, I learned that "half and half" had nothing to do with coffee creamer and "using an interpreter" meant nothing about language. It has always been important to me to push my boundaries and comfort zone.  Perhaps that's why I love international travel.  One summer I assigned myself the task of photographing strangers in one city and interviewing them on a variety of topics.  I met the most unique people out there - all with a story to tell.  I have included one of the 40 people here.  (I had my nay-sayers who predicted I'd get little cooperation but I had only two people decline.) What doors to the unknown have opened in your life?  How has this impacted you?    

  • 3 Why the interest in true crime????

    • by Jan Canty
    • 10-04-2018
    5.00 of 1 votes

    There is no doubt about it.  True crime (TC) is here to stay.  The over-the-top ratings of the OJ Simpson chase live on t.v., podcasts like Serial and documentaries seen on 48 hours speak to this.  It seems TC is in our DNA.  And, like our DNA, it dates back in history. How far back you ask?  Some "crime leaflets" appeared around 1600 in England describing the soon-to-be executed, then grew in popularity along with literacy rates (primarily among the wealthy).  This trend spread to Scotland and other parts of Europe. Subsequently, here at home, TC was introduced to the masses by Benjamin Franklin (among others) in columns which appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette back in the 1700's.  They were seen as interesting, distasteful, low class and fascinating.  In the early 1900's TC was moved to the "back room" of bookstores, next to pornography, and could only be purchased by adults. Well, that's long past.  Today we tune in, read on, listen away on mass transit and comfortably discuss the latest serial murder with colleagues and neighbors.  Why do we do so? One prevailing theory put forth by social psychologists and sociologists (who study group behavior) is that this genre appeals to our innate instinct for survival.  TC instructs us how to stay safe - or that's the hope anyway.  Another idea put forth by criminologist Scott Bonn is that some of us crave a good adrenaline jolt (much like stepping onto an elevator with a glass bottom or sky diving).  And a third possibility is that TC presents a real puzzle for us to figure out.  Who did it?  Will they get caught?  This kind of cerebral cat-and-mouse contest is gratifying when the outcome is predicted correctly.  And last, but not least, there are those that enjoy the bad guy getting his or her due  (perhaps as they hum the tune Bad boys, Bad boys, what'ya gonna do when they come for you, bad boys...?) That being said, is there a downside?  Unfortunately yes.  Too much of a good thing - like sunshine - is, well, too much.  TC splurging can exaggerate fear, offer dangerous techniques to would-be assailants (as in copy cat crimes) increase anxiety and depression in those predisposed in that direction.  So, while TC is no longer about those facing the guillotine, nor does it reside in the back shelf in the store, it seems TC will prevail being a guilty pleasure we cannot pass up.  Hopefully, we will draw helpful lessons from it and know when to turn to a good comedy or dinner with friends.  Do you have another idea why it is so popular?  Has TC ever bailed you out of a jam because of what you learned?  Have you ever enjoyed a wide-eyed thrill of watching a true crime mystery?  It's ok to come clean.  You're among friends.............