We all grieve differently. This is not news to anyone. Some of us can walk on about our days like nothing happened while grieving silently inside or somewhere where you are all alone. Some of us get it all out at once and pick up and move on, while some let it come out gradually, a little here, a little there, but all the while, its inside tearing you apart.
Then there is the dilemma of how to grieve if this person was a loved one but had done a lot of mean things in their life; some illness induced, some unexplainable. Is this person a member of your family and had not done anything bad to you, but they had done bad things to other members of your family? Is this a friend who had not been mean to you, but had been mean to others? Do you grieve for the person that you knew or grieve for the person as a whole and take into the bad things they had done?
I wonder this because as I am dealing with my grandmother’s death, I am also thinking about my own and thinking about how I have treated others. Regardless of the motive of my actions (either illness induced or just plain mean), how would others view me and grieve my death? Yes, it does sound kind of morbid, but I keep finding more and more that people with a mental illness are blaming their poor choices or bad behavior on their illness. How much of that behavior REALLY is part of that illness? It is because people do not take responsibility for their own actions and instead use their illness as an immediate response to justify their actions and behaviors that stigma will continue to develop no matter how hard our efforts to quash it are.
But this post is not about stigma. It is about grief and while I sit here and try to grieve my grandmother, and in a sense my pending divorce, I try to determine which I am grieving. Am I grieving the grandmother who had done some mean things to family members or am I grieving my grandmother who had not done those mean things to me? When someone is going to grieve my death, are they going to be grieving me and while I had done some bad things in the past due to my lack of diagnosis or ineffective medications, I had taken responsibility for them and had therefore been forgiven and had tried to live the rest of my life as well as I could and not blame my illness on things that weren’t part of it, so they are grieving me for the person I tried to be. Or are they not going to be grieving me at all because all I had done was give a bunch of excuses and blame all of my mistakes and wrong doings on my illness or had not even addressed them at all and had left a whole lot of hurt people????
I think these events have really opened my eyes to being much more aware and observant to my behaviors and being more responsible for actions or behaviors that are unsavory to others and distinguishing between things that are part of my illness and things that are just poor decisions on my part. I don’t want friends and family to remember me as someone who just blamed everything on my illness and never apologized or never tried to change things or to remember me as a person who had done so many bad things in my life that impacted them in a poor way and never took responsibility for them or apologized.
Its all to easy to use bipolar disorder as a crutch or an immediate explanation. But, at some point, that just becomes an excuse in many people’s eyes. And then one day, you pass away, and all people can think of are the bad things you did. I don’t want to be that person. I want to be able to say my final goodbyes and remember them in their good moments. That is how I would want, and would hope, others would do for me.
So as I say my final goodbyes to my grandma and to my marriage, I am hoping that the good memories will outweigh the bad and that I can attain closure on a positive note and not closing the door with nothing but bad hanging over.