I came across this article ‘When family Stories Are Difficult’ shared on Facebook and feel the need to confess that telling the difficult stories is one of those things I have avoided. I love to journal as truthfully as I can not just what happened but how I felt, so leaving out the bad stuff enables me to celebrate good times and ignore the bad. The problem with that will be my world will appear to have been completely joyful and there won’t be an explanation for my life as a single woman about to turn 50.
I am now divorced from the father of my children. Since then I have had another relationship that I thought would be my happy ever after one that turned into a bitter battle caused by alcohol and lies that I struggled more than twelve months to recover from and even now wistfully at times wonder if it could or would be worth trying again I loved him so much. (But I do know better – it is he that needs to come to terms with his behaviour and lies, not me). Then there are a few months of one or another boyfriend or date that has not quite worked out. What should I do with these photos?
As a scrapbooking mum I find these and other stories hard to tell. I don’t struggle with reflecting on them, and some of them I do not have a problem talking about, but when it comes to including photos AND journalling the truth from my world view I do come to a striking halt. I have no problem including photos of my ex husband with images of our grandson – he does belong to both of us. The ex partner on the other hand is cropped out or left out of any event we attended in our brief 3 years together. I am not sure that it is my pain, or my shame that causes me to do this. I feel I was hoodwinked. But the bottom line is we did have many good moments too and he was an important part of my own growth journey. So…should I include my alcoholic ex partner, and if I do, what do I write?
This article talks about another kind of family issue – an adopted child. The excerpt suggests we need to journal all our stories, the good and the bad. In reference to adopted children Dr. Jane Aronson says:
Tell them with as much humor and openness as you can, she said. “Children deserve to be playful about who they are,” she said, “and to be proud, and to interpret their own stories into their own ideas.” And if a story brings up strong emotions for a child, let it. “Ask yourself if you’re the one who is uncomfortable,” she told me, and if I am, I need to either address it, or hide it, and let the children tell their stories.
KJ DELL’ANTONIA continues
I want my children to know that a story can be happy and sad at the same time, and maybe that’s exactly what the best stories are. We don’t even always have to feel the same way about our stories. One night, my younger daughter might be thrilled to talk about her foster family at dinner, and might even want to describe, again, the moment when she was handed over to strangers. At another time the introduction of the same topic by a sibling telling some other version of that time might bother her (and “bother” doesn’t fully encompass the available range of emotional reactions).
I know both my daughters will have different feelings about stories to do with their dad, and stories to do with my ex partner. But maybe I should scrap them anyway, with humour and honesty so they in turn can share these family stories with their own children. I can do pages on people that had an impact on my life – good or bad. After all scrapbooking is all about recording our story and we are perfectly imperfect in an imperfect world.
If I do not include the good with the bad or uncomfortable, what message about resilience and recovery am I leaving my Grandchildren? I want them to know that depression can be managed, and resilience is an important life skill. I guess I better illustrate that in my scrapbooks too!