Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Grudge

First of all, I want to say thank you SO MUCH for your comments on my post about going back to work.  I think I might print them off so I can keep them in my bag and read them in my difficult moments that first week.  You all are amazing.

Now back to:  The Grudge.  Isn't that the name of a horror movie?  I think it is.  I'm not much for horror movies, except for the Scream franchise, which I choose to think is cool to like to because it's so ironically self-referential.  Anyway, this is not about the movie.  It's about my life.  (Which is not quite a horror movie these days, but not Rom-Com I signed up for, either.)

So here's the thing.  I'm going to have to write this post without naming names, because I don't know whether the person I'm writing about reads this blog or not.  What you need to know is that she said and did a couple of things last year that really hurt and angered me.  I expressed this to her, at least in part (in what I felt was a very muted but clear explanation), got no response, and that's where things stand.  I still have limited contact with her, and cutting her out of my life completely is not an option.  That's the gist of the situation.

As of now, I'm still hurt.  I'm still angry.  When I think about her, I have no desire to talk to her or see her and I think she sucks.  I think the way she treated me with cruelty and hatefulness at a time when I was incredibly fragile and my grief was completely overwhelming.

I also know that my reaction is really biased.

After telling the whole ugly tale in detail to my therapist, my therapist said that she didn't think this person's words/actions were "really that bad."  I was shocked, because my therapist has no problem calling out people who are behaving atrociously (she would probably say "inappropriately") when I discuss those things, and I really thought this person's behavior was atrocious.

So I'm trying to come to terms with the fact that it was--at least a little bit--her being insensitive and inappropriate, but not outright hateful and cruel.  And it was (possibly probably) a little bit me, being hypersensitive and having high expectations.

I still think I deserved more compassion than I got from her.  I still think her behavior was shocking, given the circumstances (although perhaps not all that surprising, given previous experiences I've had with her).

There's a big part of me that would love to call her out on this blog, because I know all you lovelies would side with me and call her mean names and tell me that I'm awesome and she sucks and I'm right and she's wrong and I so want to hear that, even now.

But that's not the point here.  (Even though I kind of wish it were!).  The point is that I think it's time for me to try to move past it.  I think I need to let go of my anger and self-righteous indignation.  I'm never going to be besties with this person.  We've never been especially close, and for various reasons (personalities, interests, locations, my ongoing disdain for her), I know that we never will be.

So... I'm not interested in trying to repair a relationship that used to be really close and wonderful (because it never was anything more than superficially pleasant, and that was fine).  I am also not interested in trying to change how she feels about me right now because (1) I don't really know and (2) I honestly don't really care--her opinion doesn't affect my life in any meaningful way.  If I had to guess, I'd say she probably feels mostly neutral about me.  It's possible (this is based on extensive analysis with a few friends who know the entire story) that she also feels sympathy for our loss mixed with jealousy for some things I have that she doesn't have.  (I'm not sure about this because sometimes I think she's pathologically incapable of feeling empathy and that she's also completely self-satisfied and content with her lot in life.)  Anyway, the point is, I don't know how she feels about me and I don't feel the need to change how she feels about me, whether or not her assessment is accurate or generous or kind.  Plus I figure there's not really anything I can do to change how she feels about me.

But I am trying to change the way I feel about her.  I think I need to be a little more generous and kind.  Not because she deserves it, but because it's not doing me a bit of good to hold on to this grudge.  Don't get me wrong--I needed to feel angry for a while.  But...  it's been a while.

The problem is that now when there are situations where I know I'll see this person, I find it extremely stressful.  Not because she'll be mean to me, but because I feel compelled to strategize the most passive-aggressive way possible to demonstrate (at least to myself) that I'm not over it and that I was right and she was wrong/mean/hateful.  I might be saccharine sweet to her face (actually, I usually just work very hard to avoid her entirely), but I am sneering at her behind her back.  Even knowing there's a chance I might see her, I get worked up about it.  I call her bad names to David.  I feel stressed out and upset.  I fret and I plot.

For a while, this grudge was really satisfying.  But now I think I need to let it go.  I don't want her to have this effect on me anymore.

Let me be clear:  I am not going to talk to her or write to her and try to clear the air.  That is not an option.  In fact, that's kind of how the whole mess got started.  I don't need to actively repair a relationship that was never anything special to begin with.  Because we actually have to interact so seldom, this falling out has not really had a dramatic effect on my life or the superficial aspects of our relationship.  Nothing has changed except that when I think about her, I get pissed off.   

What I mean is, I don't need to change how I'm acting.  I need to change how I'm feeling.

The question is...  how do I stop it?  Do I ease my way out of it?  Does it just take time?  Or do I just make up my mind one day that this is it:  No more grudge.  Is there some kind of ceremony I can perform?  Like reverse voodoo?  (Believe me, for a while there, real voodoo seemed like a very inviting idea.)  How do I convince myself that it's not worth the angry feelings that still bubble up in my chest when she comes up in conversation?

Or do I just let those feelings ride?  Do I just accept that instead of feeling neutral about her, I just dislike her and that's ok as long as I'm not outright mean to her?  Is it ok to just go on being polite but feeling hateful the whole time?  It's a little exhausting, but I've been doing it for a while and I've managed to keep my real feelings under wraps.

Other people have, at various times since Eliza died (and before, though I wasn't as sensitive before), disappointed me and angered me and hurt my feelings, either intentionally or unintentionally.  Almost all of them have apologized--some half-heartedly, some with a litany of excuses that made me roll my eyes, but I was able to either move on and not have anything to do with them anymore (not an option here) or get past the stupid things they said, did, or didn't do.  And even though my relationship with them may be different now than it was before, I think I've forgiven them.  (Even the guy I dated briefly in college who, in our mutual break-up conversation, said he liked me better the less he knew me.  Awesome.)  At the very least least, I don't actively wish something really bad would happen to them.

But that's how I feel about this person.  As crappy as it is to admit this, I wish something really bad would happen to her, so she would know what grief feels like, and how much it hurts when people don't treat you with compassion.

Although then I wonder if she would experience grief since it's possible she is a sociopath with no feelings (see, there I go again...).  I have to remember that my therapist didn't think what she did was "that bad."  If that's true--and I trust my therapist to make a pretty objective call about this kind of thing--then I'm trying to figure out why I'm overreacting.  Why am I holding on to this anger so tightly, especially since I would never have ranked this person as especially important in my life?  Or is that why it's easy to stay angry?  Because she's peripheral and yet present?

I don't want to feel that way.  I don't want that kind of anger to be a fallout from Eliza's death.  I want to move on and just feel a bland, neutral interest in this person.  I want to be vaguely pleased or at least unaffected when good things happen for her.  I want to not have to fake it just to have a civil exchange with her.

I am pretty much convinced now that our "conflict" is mostly in my head...  It's a one-sided argument at this point, but one that I just can't quite let go of.  So, tell me, wise Internets.  How do I let go of this grudge and move on with my life?  I'm going to get over this eventually, right?


  1. Ooo, girlfriend, you are in my head first thing this morning! I have also struggled with this - with my MIL. She's the one who (along with a SIL, her daughter, so I blame MIL) decided not to invite me to my other SIL's baby shower, despite being told to talk to me about it by both the pregnant SIL (who wanted me there) and my husband. That was the final straw after seven months of essentially pretending I'd never been pregnant with her grandchildren and they hadn't died - even though she SAW them in the hospital). I had a major come to Jesus with her and told her everything I was feeling, down to the depths of my seething rage (which is what finally got me diagnosed with PPD). She claimed to understand a d apologized...and nearly 9 months later, very little has changed. I've talked about the situation vaguely, never naming names, but she reads my blog. She knows. But having her read has meant I've never had my feelings validated, except by my counselor months after the fact. I'm just waiting for this all to come up in couples counseling, as I'm sure it will.

    I guess for me, I just need time, and maybe someday I'll forgive her. I won't be rushed into it. I deserve whatever time it takes. She hurt me to my core, more than anyone else who I've felt hurt by the last 15 months.


  2. For the record, I like you the more I get to know you. So that ex boyfriend can suck it.

    Also, I just put Finn down for a nap and came into the office and started reading your blog. I noticed that my blogger dashboard said you posted this 4 MINUTES ago. So not only do I like you, but I'm also pretty creepy.

    I don't really have wise advice. I think a lot of us could read this an insert a mean, nasty person who just makes us angry thinking about (I know I can)

    When people are kind to me - especially in regards to Cale - I want them to know how much it means to me. How much it matters.

    The problem is, when they aren't - I also want them to know that. But not only do I want them to know that it hurts, but also that I think they are a horrible person and they suck at life. And not only do I want them to know it, but to realize and believe it too. "I DO suck at life - Caroline is right. I'm a horrible person."

    And even just reading that I know it's not really "healthy" and certainly not nice.

    I don't know how to change you you feel about something. If we could do that - we all would be very different people. But we are who we are so we're going to feel how we feel. All we can do is focus on our little lives as best as possible, invite in the people who show us (and our children) great kindness and love, and close the circle to anyone else.

    But it's just not that easy.

  3. I have struggled with these feelings although in a different context. It sounds like you truly are indifferent to her but I have a hunch that you feel that her words/actions have diminished Eliza or the appropriateness of feelings about Eliza somehow. What you really want is for the appropriateness of your feelings about Eliza to be restored. You want justice for Eliza. And you know what, you are Eliza's justice/remembrance. This person is insignificant. She means nothing to Eliza or you. If you can separate the person from the perceived injustice perhaps you can move past it.

    Forgive me if I am completely wrong. I haven't experienced baby loss. I have experienced infertility and have felt similar feelings in response to comments I have received. And you know what those people who have never experienced infertility will never understand why those comments pierced my heart.

    Love to you.

  4. It's hard. I had two women (SIL's) who both did/said hurtful things to me when I was at my worst. I couldn't avoid them altogether so for a long time, I would seethe when I thought of the things they did/said and dread any family events.

    I never confronted either of them. Instead, I just acted politely when I did see them and bitch before & after to Norm about them.

    In time, I just began to care less and less. I don't know how, but I did. Do I like them - not really but I can tolerate them the few times a year I do see them and that's good enough.

  5. Well you know I recently posted about being angry so I'm certainly not the best resource because Im a bitter hateful bitch. I say harbor the grudge until it goes away because now you're putting a lot of effort into thinking about getting past it when you could be doing something useful with your time like thinking up ways to make sure she feel humiliated or imagining her reaction is something tragic were to happen to her.

    I talk to my therapist about this and she validates me when I say it makes me feel like a bad person, she says it's just part of grief and the feeling that it is so unfair what happened to me/you/us. That theses thoughts and feelings are natural. I know it makes me feel like they are sucking more life out of you with the effort put into hating/conjuring spells/finding more room for pins in the voodoo doll ... But I say ride the wave until it hits the beach. You'll know when you're ready to move past it.
    Until then:may the cauldron bubble. Bwhaha

  6. Hi Brooke. Your blog is so great and I'm so glad you are posting every day! While it means I procrastinate when my daughter is napping, I still enjoy reading your blog (and sometimes there are tears because your words about Eliza and Caroline help me to think of my Liam and my Alex).

    Hmm, I'm kind of with Renel. Harbor those feelings and don't try to invest too much emotion in them otherwise and just keep on keeping on. My one suggestion is that if this person is related to your husband, try to not vent to him about her so much from now on.

    I say that thing about the husband because after my son's death I raged against my MIL and she never did anything intentionally bad but she just could never relate to me the way I needed the MOTHER of my husband to relate to me, a MOTHER who just lost her only child. Anyway, while thankfully some of my rage has subsided after 2.5 years (yes, it took that long) and overall I don't seethe anymore, I wish I could go back and stop complaining to my husband about her and my hurt and angry feelings. My husband (and men it seems like) want you to do something about it when all that I wanted to do was complain because I knew nothing could really be done. It just took time for me to move past it and while our relationship won't be what it was prior to his death, at least it is healthy or tolerable now. So overall my relationship with her is better but I can't erase my husband's sense that I don't like his mom. We all would've been better off if I had limited my complaining to incidents that really deserved complaints.

    Not sure if this is at all the advice that you were looking for but I definitely don't think you should invest any more emotion in this person who likely is senseless.


  7. I've been lucky in the respect that the couple of people who really let me down after my son died have moved away so I don't have to deal with them at all.

    Since it doesn't sound like this will happen in your case I'd say that with time you will care less and less about this person and what she did. It's almost like you have to de-sensitize yourself. Each time you are forced to interact with her it should get easier.

    You don't ever have to really like her. But it sounds like it would be helpful if you can co-exist with her.

  8. I'd love to know the answer to this. I have a similar "friend" (wife of hubby's friend) that I've been avoiding seeing for almost a year and a half, because I don't think I can stand to be around her.

    Same-ish situation as you--she said something extremely hurtful, I confronted her about it (months later, because up until then I just stewed) and once my hubby finally mentioned it to her hubby, he basically denied she'd ever say something like that, so I had to deal with her. She, of course, denied saying it and I basically had to chalk it up to a misunderstanding if I wanted to make sure my hubby and her hubby could continue the friendship they've had since elementary school.

    So, my solution is just to avoid her. Not very adult and I know I probably can't do this for the rest of my life (as much as I'd like to try), so I'd love to hear what you figure out.

    Sorry I can't help, but I do feel your pain!!

  9. I like Renel's answer. Maybe you need a villain right now. Maybe you need a place to put all of your righteous anger and she is the best depository there is. You put a lot of good into the universe, with your thoughts, words and deeds, maybe give yourself a pass on this one. :) Or meditate I guess.

  10. Brooke, been there girl! Without knowing the details of your falling out, it sounds very similar to a falling out I had with a girlfriend after Wilhelm died. She did and said some unforgivable things and I too am aware that I am a raw bundle of oversensitive nerves. I also know she did not say or do anything intentional, but I also felt that she could have been more gentle and caring with me. Let's just say that when I had the talk with her saying "when you say/do this it makes me feel like this" she got extremely defensive and decided to make that a point to tell me she was upset with me for not letting her come visit me in the hospital when I was there having my stillborn baby. I didn't have any visitors except my husband and my sister. So we haven't spoke since, she kindly asked me not to be in her wedding, which was actually fine, and we haven't really spoke since.

    I felt much like you did for a very long time and I hated that it ate away at every fiber of my being, but I will say that over time it has become a lot easier. I am almost finally at peace with things. We work out at the same gym and so I knew it was only a matter of time before our paths would cross. The first time we ran in to each other I saw her coming in as I was going and I was like "ok i'll say hello and be cordial" and she saw me and bolted the opposite direction to avoid me. I think that was when I felt really good about things. I was proud that I wasn't going to run the other way and yet she was.

    I've wanted so badly to blog about this, but like you I don't know if she reads or not. I admire you for speaking out and getting your feelings out. I think you will find that in time this grudge will have less and less of a hold on you. Changing how you feel about something is very difficult and takes time.

  11. Ok, so I have carried the same negative feelings you have for this person towards mt father pretty much my whole life. I carried a pretty solid chip on my shoulder about him for years, and eventually it became a part of my self identity. I was "the girl with the asshole father". One day I decided that I didn't want to carry this baggage with me anymore, and I didn't want him to have so much power over me. So, I went to see a therapist to work through these feelings. It actually only took a couple of sessions for me to free myself of him. A big part of it was me deciding I was over it all on my own. The other part that helped was that the therapist asked me what I wanted from my dad. Did I want to write him a letter to tell him how I felt? No. Did I want an apology? No. Did I want him in my life? No. Then what did I want from him? And it turned out my answer was " Nothing", I didn't want anything from him, yet I was letting him drag me down and get in the way of all of my good relationships. Like you, I would have LOVED for him to have an epiphany and realize how he had wronged me and my sisters, and what a big dumb dumb he has been pretty iChat our whole lives, but I finally accepted that that was just never going to happen. Let me tell you, once I let go of all that negativity it was like an 18 wheeler Mack truck was moved off of my shoulders! What a feeling!
    I think you are well on your way to this similar journey as well. YOU have decided you are ready to move on. And you are realizing that you don't really want anything from this person because she doesn't mean that much to you anyways, and never has. So why give her the power of shitting on your day? You are closer to moving on than you think. The wave you are riding is so so close to shore. Be patient with yourself. You will get there, and when you do it will feel awesome.
    And clearly you are awesome and she is a dumb dumb poopy head. Leave her in your dust.

  12. I sense that you have a competitive relationship with this person. Or that she does with you. And that itself feels icky because who needs frenemies? And then she acts like a dipshit and it hurts you and maybe she doesn't even notice. But if in fact it is she who is competitive with you, and it's not mutual, then just enjoy this fact! (I could be wrong here, of course!)

    But I generally agree with the others. Cut yourself some slack and let yourself evolve with this naturally. Also really figuring out what you want could help. I spent a lot of energy being angry at my ex, and frustrated that I was not moving on. But how could I not be angry? Once I realized that I wanted him to "come to his senses" and realize what a jerk he was, and then apologize, then I was able to move on quicker. Because he would never do that. It was up to me to get over it without anything from him. So make sure you don't want something from her...or I mean figure out what it is you want, and then figure out how to move on without getting it.

    One last thing...maybe you do blog about it. Because what's the harm if she does read it, and sees how you really feel? Including the part that you don't really want a reconciliation? Also in relation to my ex, I stopped calling him by a code name and called him out on who is actually is, and that felt really good. He would never read my blog of course, but if someone who knew him did and then egged his apartment? That would be awesome! (Guess I'm still not really over it. Oh well.)

  13. I don't have anything better, wiser, deeper or more worth knowing than all that's already been said.

    But a wise woman once said to me (through a television was Oprah...) "holding a grudge is like drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die/get sick".

    I have to believe that most people we harbour negative feelings for usually are uneffected by it and we're just crapping all over our own good aura's with all this nasty black energy of hate and dislike.

    With that being said, I'm no magic fairy goddess that can just POOF away my own feelins of disdain towards others.

    I had to fire an employee once. He just started to suck at his job. W/e. I was baffled when he felt his termination was a "shock". I then started to HATE him for ever working for me, and HATED that he still carried around so much hate for me for simply doing my job. We walked around hating each other. He ended up getting work with another company close to where I still worked. We both walked the streets visibly disgruntled as we knew we might see each other. Horrible. I'd see him, and as soon as I'd be back at work, I'd tell my other employees about this person, and how much he made my job a living hell...and how stupid he was for ever thinking that being fired wasn't the only option left for him. Ick ick ick. It would just grind in my guts!

    One day I saw him, and was ready to put on my cold, better than thou, bitch face...then decided I'd take another route. I said, "hey, how are you..." as I passed him on the street corner. And I let go of all that I carried around for him otherwise. and I meant it. He gave me his cold shoulder, and carried on. I felt fine. I felt good even! from then on, I made a point NOT to avoid him. I did my thing, and if he crossed my path, I'd make the same efforts towards anyone I casually knew.

    I don't have an ounce of dislike for him. I'm genuinely indifferent to his life and everything attached to it. And it just 'happened' when I stopped giving life to everything that upset me about him.

    This example = very different than your story. VERY. But just an example in itself.

    My advice. When ever you can...don't drink the poison. When you feel you're doing it...try to feel something else that's worthy of your good spirit.

  14. Just wanted to post that I have grudge issues too. With both my MIL and a former close friend. I would love to get to a place of complete indifference with both of them but it hasn't happened yet and I didn't see anything in the comments that suddenly made me see things differently. Of well, I guess I'll just give it more time.

  15. Oh, if I only knew how to do this. I have grudges with people who hurt me while I was hurting and I feel like it's impossible to let them go.

  16. If you find out how to do this, let me know.

    During the custody case, we had a big nasty drag out fight during Thanksgiving 2 years ago. My uncle basically berated me in front of the WHOLE entire family and only ONE person said one thing to stick up for me in front of him. No one tried to stop it, they just let it go on and on and on. I haven't spoke to him or his wife since that day and I haven't spoke to the rest of the family but once or twice since it happened.

    As the "anniversary" of the big fight looms near I've been having nightmares about it for the past two weeks. It's not much in my day-to-day thought, but apparently its driving my subconscious crazy.

    On the flip side, I haven't spoke to my father since the custody case ended (2 years in Feb) and I don't miss him at all. I'd practically consider him dead to me.

    It's funny how some people you couldn't care less about, and yet with others, you can't let go of the grudge/grief/hatred.

  17. I would leave you some advice but I've never perseverated over anyone hurting me.


    If you figure it out, let me know?

    In all seriousness, I do hope you find some peace with this. It sucks to have a heart that is raw and open and ginormous sometimes.

  18. It just sucks no matter what to be hurt so deeply by someone- even if your therapist thinks your grief is causing an overreaction. Although I must say I am surprised at the number of responses saying not to worry about trying to forgive or move on. It seems like you are ready to- and you should for your own good. I had a difficult situation with my dad about a decade ago and I took my time being angry and self-righteous and bitter and hurt. I schemed like you have been doing every time I was supposed to go home. And then one day I was tired of it. I just started saying to myself over an over "I am forgiving him.... I am forgiving him". When I would see him I started acting at least indifferent and eventually polite. My mantra was to fake it until I could make it. I am not good at faking anything- but in this case I wanted to forgive him and move on, so I was acting how I wanted to feel but couldn't. To be honest I was shocked to find as months and visits passed that eventually I wasn't faking and I really felt fine about him and eventually even normal. That doesn't mean that occasionally something might not trigger the feelings or remembering what happened, but my reaction is much different to the remembrance.
    I don't know- I just think sometimes you do need a villain for a bit, but eventually the coin flips and it starts wearing on you. I forgave him for selfish reasons. I heard a song on the radio this morning that prompted me to post. It is called "forgiveness" by Matthew west. The song is a little over the top, but I really like the lyrics. You can google it if you want. Here's to hoping you can fake it until you make it and grieve for your sweet girl without the burden of the conflict with this person. Good luck! Tough stuff.

  19. Good GOD I was just doing this all day yesterday. Spent hours seething at my SIL. Voo-doo? You betcha, baby. Bring it on. I too was trying to find "a more peaceful union" if you will in recognition that I'm only hurting myself but HONESTLY. I just want her to feel what I feel for an indefinite period of time and consequently shut the hell up.


    I continue to be stunned at the home I find in you women. I can breathe deeper and cleaner knowing that not only am I not alone, but that most of the time we're experiencing things at the same time. Definitely feels like the "tribe" talked about in your 11/6/12 post.

    Anyway, I haven't had time to read everyone's response thoroughly and am trying to rush a little before I'm called away by 15 pounds of hungry...but I kind of like Renel's response the best too. Trying to force a more peaceful place can sometimes just create more resistance. As someone very wise just told me last night....ride it. REALLY feel it, go whole hog, and often, when you come out the other side, there's not so much force anymore.

    Advice I'm going to try to follow myself. I'll let you know how it goes. Meanwhile, like others here, if you find the tell, my friend.

  20. My mom died nearly 9 years ago. My father started "seeing" someone (an old family friend) 2 days after her death - prior to her funeral! I was royally pissed for a long time. Then I had kids... and even though we had tried to re-form some type of relationship during those years, he never gave a hoot about my kids (still doesn't).

    Everyone always said, "You need to get over it for your kids" blah, blah, blah. I decided at some point that I needed to forgive him for ME, but that in no way meant that I had to have a relationship with him. Furthermore, I decided that my kids didn't need to be around someone who treated me & my mom's memory like such crap.

    It took me a long time to get to a non-angry place. I am still working on forgiving him. I guess I am not entirely indifferent because I do not want to hear any updates about him and have told those who felt the need to share them that I no longer want to hear about him or talk about him.

    I do realize that not letting go completely only hurts me. He obviously doesn't give a rat's ass or he would have returned my phone calls last spring.

    All that to say that I hope you find a way to forgive & move on for yourself. I think people are asses when they are jealous or do not like themselves - it has nothing to do with the person/people to whom they are an ass. Hang in there.