Thursday, June 25, 2009

Take this burden

Two days later we were back for our second Family Constellation, save for Alex who had suddenly discovered commitments he could not possibly break. All the pleading in the world got us nowhere. Alex is tough like that. Dr. Stern understood and reflected that it is a good way to be, to be tough. In reviewing the outcomes of the previous session, Ian and I agreed that we felt closer to the reality of our ancestors’ lives. Chris seemed to politely agree.

This time, it was my turn and I placed the outlines of the shoes on the floor without thinking too much about where to place them. My parents, my sisters, and my mother’s mother, father, and brother became shoes on the floor. Dr. Stern took up her position as interpreter of personal dramas. She started out slowly, but horror gradually pervaded her body as she recounted, from the point of view of my grandfather, his wife's premature death from scarlet fever transmitted by my mother, who was four years old at the time. Dr. Stern put her hands over her cheeks and shook her head in dismay while rocking slightly back and forth. The presence of my grandfather was also there in the room, in abject despair over the unfortunate turn of events in his life.

Ian and I cried harder into the tissues provided by Dr. Stern and wiped our eyes. We were caught up in the drama. Dr. Stern, also quite tearful, looked up at Chris from time to time to gauge his responses. Chris, once again, was keenly following the action without saying much. Taylor, slumped in his chair in the corner of the room, was out and out bored, verging on sullen.

As I looked at the patterns on the floor, my mind began to wander. I was acutely aware of the injustices my mother had experienced, beginning with her mother's death. This particular family injustice began earlier than that, however. My great grandmother died when my grandmother was very young, just as my grandmother left my mother prematurely.

I never knew my maternal grandfather, having met him once when I was about three years old and once more when I was in my early teens. His fourth wife was slightly younger than my mother. They lived many miles away, but the lack of communication was not due to the driving distance between us. My mother, who was not given to saying unkind things about people, did not speak much about him. Her mother's death left her estranged from my grandfather, who she felt blamed her for her mother's death.

Dr. Stern paused to observe sadly that there was a pervading sense of death and chill in the room. Perhaps there was. The atmosphere was changed. Dr. Stern caught something in Chris’s reaction that she felt was important. At the end of the session, she said she thought she had it, and she turned to Chris and said that he should no longer have to carry this burden. He could begin to live. We left that day, totally exhausted but rejoicing in the family members who had gone before and we forgave them and them us. Harmony was created where before there had been disharmony caused by death.

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