Yesterday my husband and I had a discussion about stuffing emotions, and whether or not there is a difference between stuffing and just telling ourselves that those thoughts and feelings may be real, but it isn’t doing any good to wallow in them. It’s a fine line, I think, and when I am struggling with an uncomfortable emotion, I’m often not sure which one I’m doing. My husband’s thought about it that is that it depends on what your self-talk is saying about it. Are you telling yourself to suck it up, that you can’t think about that? Or are you telling yourself that these feelings are there, but there isn’t anything you can change about it?
The conversation that started this was about the fact that it’s my daughter’s birthday today and I’m sad. If you’re a reader of my blog, you may remember that my daughter and I are estranged; we have been for nearly five years. Holidays and her birthday are hard (I suspect they always will be) because I always wish that we were together. It’s not that I don’t miss her everyday, I do, but special days amplify my longing.
So, yesterday I wasn’t sure if I was stuffing my emotions or not. I told my husband I was feeling sad, but when he pressed for more, I didn’t have anything else to add. It was the same as always — little snippets of happy times that I had with my daughter flashing through my mind, willy nilly. That’s all. And that’s what it always is, so why talk about it? I think there’s a saying about a dead horse that applies here. At least that’s how I usually feel about the situation. Is that stuffing?
Actually, thinking about it today, I think it was. The reason I say that is because later in the evening last night, I gave in to the emotion. I let myself cry, and I said out loud, “I miss her so much.” My husband hugged me and held me for a while. I didn’t have to say anything else, I didn’t have to discuss every memory that was in my head, I just had to actually feel the feeling…let it take hold for a minute. I didn’t have to wallow, but I did have to acknowledge what I was feeling, whether I liked it or not. But then, after I took some ibuprofen and a hot bath, I felt some relief.
I woke up this morning and the sadness was still there. I haven’t cried today, but I’m not stuffing it…I’m writing this post.
Happy Birthday, Kari. I love you.
2 thoughts on “Don’t Stuff the Birthday Blues”
I cannot begin to imagine how hard this must be for you. It also reminds me (like a smack up the side of the head with large fish) that I need to be constantly grateful that despite how I treated my kids when I was drinking they – note THEY – had the good grace to continue to accept me and love me. I’m so so so lucky to have that.
I have friends who continue to be estranged from their children even after very long term sobriety, presumably their kids were so hurt before they can’t risk being hurt again, and friends who went for years without contact only for it to be re-established when they least expected it.
The advice I’ve often heard – and I’ll simply pass it on here without any judgement or recommendation – is to try at birthdays/Christmas etc. to just send a card and a small gift so they know that you do remember and care. They may throw it in the bin – that is their choice. However they can’t then say “They don’t even remember my birthday etc”
What a beautiful post, filled with such honest emotion that I could feel it…blessings to you and sending prayers for reconciliation.