One of my ex-partners (work, not life) came by my place a few months after Stefanie’s death even though he felt uncomfortable. I did everything I could to put him at ease but I still feel badly about that day because I was unfair to him without meaning to be.
He suggested that I return to work (I took a long time off to get my head straight) so that I could focus on work rather than sit around wallowing in self-pity. Those are my words – certainly not his – he was much gentler, but that was the bottom line. He was right in his thinking of course, but I was in the wrong head space to be policing others and surrounding myself with violence. I was scared and didn’t trust myself to react properly potentially putting others at risk. But, I felt terribly guilty about not being there, feeling as if I should be able to just buck up and go back. Had it only been my safety at risk, I’m sure I would have returned earlier, but I couldn’t do that to a partner who depended on me. And even if it wasn’t a risky situation, no one wants a partner who starts crying at the drop of a hat in a police car (NOT COOL!!).
Because I felt guilty and needed to defend myself, I said “well, that’s easy for you to say but until you’ve walked in my shoes, don’t judge me on why I’m not at work”. He politely agreed and left shortly thereafter. I felt terrible.
It would have been much better if I had explained why I couldn’t go back to work but I was embarrassed at my own weakness. I told my girlfriends and my family, but I was afraid to lose his respect as a police officer.
When I wrote my victim impact statement, I knew that it would be read by many of my co-workers and that made it so difficult. Being that it was one of the last things I could do for Stefanie, I found the strength to be honest and overcome my shame at my own weakness – to just let go and do what I had to do.
On that day, there were a lot of people at court, and when I walked out of the court room a gentleman I worked with when I first started came up to me and gave me a hug. I told him how embarrassing it was to admit all that “stuff” and he said to me “Patricia, you just proved to everyone that you’re stronger than most of us because you had to courage to admit all that “stuff”.” God bless him!
What a gift he gave me that day. So much fear about opening up, so much worry about how I would be perceived (weakness has never gone over very well in my world), and at least one person didn’t see me the way I saw myself.
He made me proud of myself for having the courage to show my weakness, something I would never have imagined. That changed my thinking from negative to positive and did more for my self –esteem than anything since.
We all have stuff about ourselves that we don’t like. It can be scary, but if we face whatever it is and move on, we can forgive ourselves. We need to like ourselves to be joyful and when we worry about our shortcomings, we can’t be free to experience all that life has to offer.