Wednesday, January 4, 2012
People only know what you tell them. They may observe or sense that something is off, but in the end its still a secret. And it eats at you. Even though the issues weren't mine, I carried the shame and embarrassment. I felt people would look at me differently if they knew how messed up our home had become. I wondered if they would question my integrity and morals because of his integrity breaches and moral failures. So I kept a secret from as many people as possible. And I had to. He was my husband and I couldn't publicly air his dirty laundry. I had to honor him, and protect him. After all, love covers a multitude of sins. Or at least that was what I told myself.
A select handful of people knew, and I'm grateful that I had the courage to tell them. Because I needed help. I needed support. I needed encouragement. I needed prayers. The weight of that secret could have torn me apart without my friends knowing. When my heart was broken, I was frustrated, or I didn't think I could handle one more thing happening, they were there. They kept me from falling apart. They carried some of the weight. But they were the only ones that understood the intensity of the issues tearing our lives apart.
On the day he died of a drug overdose, I had a secret. The secret killed him, but how could I share it now? Was I ready? How do I air his dirty laundry at the funeral meant to honor his life? How do I explain to his parents that he died when they had no idea how sick he was. And then there is my step daughter. What would life be like for her, if everyone knew the truth of how he died? Its hard enough for her to stand in the funeral home, staring at pictures of a life she can never again have, glancing across the room at the shell of what once was her hero; but to know everyone knew the secret? I couldn't do it. Personally, I wasn't ready. I carried the shame of his addiction. I felt "guilty by association."
So I didn't say. I can imagine the confusion people must have had. The questions of how a young 38 year old husband and father could now be lying in a casket. But I did what was right for my family. I wanted to honor Jonathan. His addictions may have killed him, but I would not let them define him. I wanted my daughter to be free to grieve and deal with the loss without being concerned about people talking bad about her dad. And I needed time to process. I needed to process what had just happened, what we just lived through, and gain strength to share what was secret for so long.
And even though I didn't have the issues, I always felt that people would judge me for his actions. If he was addicted to drugs and alcohol wouldn't I have been involved? Perhaps they would even judge the kind of wife I was, because of his problems. When they asked what happened at the funeral home, I simply said, "We don't have all the answers yet, the autopsy report hasn't come back yet." And that was true. Of course several government agencies needed the actual cause of death, and as I told them, I felt this need to say, "But I don't live my life that way."
Isn't it sad that I would feel the shame, even though the actions weren't mine? It seems ironic but thats what happens. As wives, as mothers, we feel a need to protect. I still feel the weight of the secret, even though I'm much more open about sharing what happened. I have had time to process, and I know that someone out there needs to hear my story, so they can make it through theirs. I'm careful who I share with, and what I share. But I've learned that secrets destroy. I can not cover up his sins, his addictions, and his issues any longer. But even as I share, I can honor him, and his memory. I can help women find strength. I can be free!
A secret is bondage. It ties you to the very thing you most want to be free of. There is power in sharing and reaching out. The power comes from exposing the secret. What secrets are you carrying today? I encourage you, find a safe person to share them. Don't carry that weight, to take on another person's burden. Speak it out and find freedom. I have.