The world won’t let me grieve or die

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I don’t really know how to begin. I’m sorry if this takes for too long. I’ll try to be as precise as possible, since it’s not a single problem that I’m facing now. It all revolves around my mother’s suicide, my lover’s death and me being used by everyone.

My mother came from a kind of bizarre environment. She always felt her parents didn’t really love her, so she spent much of her life trying to get their attention. But it was difficult for her. Not that she was unintelligent or anything, but she though that she wouldn’t stand out and remain ignored by her parents. They paid all of the attention to my uncle, since they were (and still are) very sexist.

Then I was born. I happened to be a gifted child. When my mother saw this, she immediately thought she had struck gold. If she couldn’t stand out by herself, I would do it for her, she thought. During my childhood, she forced me to participate in writing and painting contests. I didn’t want to do so, but I won the first price every time. Never got the chance to enjoy the prizes, though. I was never even given toys, clothes or gifts as a positive reward. I was given nothing.

I always got A grades at school effortlessly, but even so she would force me to stay at home and study rather than go out and make some friends. Most of the time I would study for ten minutes, and then stare at the walls for the rest of the time my mother would lock me up at home.

None of these helped to impress my grandparents, so she forced me to do bigger things. During Christmas holydays, I would stay in the school gym to design, mount and oil paint the gigantic theater sets for the school plays. My teachers thought I was striving to call for attention and claim myself as better than the other kids, but it all was my mother’s doing! I was being used by her.
Maybe I should point out that I have a younger brother and my parents never put so much pressure on him.

Eventually, most of the teachers and classmates ended up either feeling uneasy with me or outright hating me. I would later learn than one of my former teachers claimed that she had painted all of the sets that I had done. So you could say I ended up being used by my teacher, too.

Things went similar as I grew up, my mother sabotaged each and every one of the dates that I had with girls, like bursting into the bar my date and me were staying. And when I went to college, she would give me a maximum of 10 bucks to spend a whole week on another city. If I made some photocopies then I couldn’t buy any food that day. I lost so much weight that many people thought I had anorexia.

About that time my mother started drinking heavily and dating another man. My father found it out, but he kept forgiving my mother. He was too arrogant to admit his marriage wasn’t working. That made her feel she had the control of the situation and, far from keeping faithful to my father, she dated this other man more often and drank much, much more. She even lost some teeth and had a set of dentures fitted.

Ok, I had all of these problems, but since I had never had actual contact with the real world, I wasn’t fully conscious that my situation was that abnormal. Some people even thought that my incapability to deal with people was because I had Asperger syndrome. Which I later learned that I hadn’t.

Some dishonest people learned of my arts abilities and promised to give me jobs, but I was never paid nor thanked for any of those, I was used as a mere tool once and another. My mother pressured me to do this stuff.

Then I met this woman. She was married and foreigner, but she was so full of life and charm. She was friends with everybody, and always had a smile on her face. She was so tiny and pretty. Kind and intelligent. We had a lot in common. Also, she had had a difficult childhood too, and considered herself to be the victim of the “adult-child” syndrome. That made us be even closer. We ended up falling in love, but of course we had to keep it a secret, we were lovers, so to everyone else, we were just really good friends. But we were happy anyway, and helped each other to carry on with our lives.

Things went on like this until my mother got drunk and committed suicide on New Years Eve, seven years ago. She hung herself right in front of me.

After the burial, my father didn’t count on me at all, so without taking my opinion into account, by February we had moved to another house and I didn’t have a room of my own. I became really depressed and didn’t feel like studying, I tried to commit suicide, to no avail. Even so, my father refused to take me to an specialist since that would be admitting he was not the perfect father and husband: to himself, his son was perfectly ok and normal.

My girl, my lover, became my only reason of existence and the only person who helped me out at all. She spent an entire month of her life by my side, day after day, until I felt better. She convinced my father to take me to a psychiatrist, and I was medicated for some time, recovered after a couple of years, and took a job as a CG designer and teacher at a local business.

Things went truly great from then on. I had some savings so I got a driving license, got a car, moved to a brand new rental apartment, and liked my job even if my salary was a bit scarce. Having independence, living on my own and dealing with customers and pupils made me finally grow up socially and become a “normal” person. My girl came every day to my place, we stayed for hours talking, sitting in the sofa, watching movies, eating popcorn, playing videogames, making love and having fun together. Her true husband is an artist and a really oblivious person, he wouldn’t be upset, so she even had the freedom to stay and sleep at my place many times. It was like we were married. I was so happy with my newfound life, and I was so happy to have my girl by my side, feel her warmth and love.

Then it all happened all of a sudden. My girl died of a brain hemorrhage. She just fainted. At least she didn’t notice it and didn’t suffer. It was a birth defect in one of the arteries. She couldn’t know. I was devastated. And since no one knew we were together, everybody acted strange upon me, like “why are you so sad? She was your friend, not your sister!”

Then, three days after that, I was fired from my job. My boss claimed “economic crisis related issues”. He claimed all my CG designs to be his own idea, so he used me as well.

My landlord was fired too, so he wanted to raise my rental, of course, I wasn’t able to pay it being unemployed, so I had to return to my father’s place.

I was involved in a car crash one day after that. I was waiting in my car by a red traffic light and a drunken guy rammed his sedan into my trunk.

I could not believe it. For the first time, I had a life, and then, all in the same week, I lost everything.

It’s been 10 months since then, and I still feel the same about my girl. I cannot forget her, I miss her so badly. I cannot talk to anyone about this, and cannot go to a specialist since I’m afraid of an overexagerated reaction on my father’s part. I feel like a never married widower. Her husband hasn’t even shed a tear for her. I cannot go like this anymore. I don’t feel suicidal, but I don’t wanna live either.

Everything’s been taken away from me, and I cannot even grief my girl properly.

Oh god! What am I gonna do!?

A: Thank you for your description and the opportunity to respond to your situation. My heart goes out to you. This is particularly sad since the two women in your life have died and left you without support. This is a familiar feeling in your life, but highly distressing.

It is the familiarity and your past success that I want to address.

The theme in your life seems that you are used and abandoned by those admiring you and your talents. Yet, there is clear evidence from your use of medicine and therapy to transcend this pattern and find true joy and happiness. It seems as though your lover awakened in you the feeling of being admired, appreciated, nurtured and loved. But her death recapitulated the sense that what you attain is taken away, or ignored.

I would go back into therapy and work on two things. First, grieving. Grieving what your mother didn’t give you (but you wished she had) and what your lover did give you, but wasn’t able to continue. Grief work allows us to mourn what we didn’t get and accept the loss of what we did. There is a particularly good author who has written extensively about this type of work. I recommend reading Alice Miller’s Drama of the Gifted Child as many of your concerns are discussed brilliantly in her work. In fact, she ultimately embraces art as a way to move through the process. I think you would find her work an important adjunct to your therapy.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 14 Aug 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). The world won’t let me grieve or die. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/08/14/the-world-wont-let-me-grieve-or-die/