The last post I wrote on grief, I wrote about triggers in grief. Well, just a few weeks ago, I experienced one of the biggest triggers in grief that I’ve had in a while. It was, strangely enough, while watching the newest Disney movie, Frozen. It was painful time, but then something really incredible happened.
Let me tell you about it.
On January 1st, 2014, I saw Frozen. I LOVE this movie. It was actually the second time I’d seen it. The first time I saw it, I related so much to Elsa (the older sister’s character), someone who has to learn to let go and embrace who she is, her unique giftings, and just live. I’m the oldest, and I’ve always struggled with expectations and fear and shutting people out, so there was a natural bond between the character of Elsa and I.
But the second time I saw Frozen, I related to Anna. As soon as she came to the door and sang to her sister about building a snowman (*sob*!!!), I felt this deep pain well up in me. I wanted to cry and cry and cry. I wasn’t quite sure what was wrong. I mean, it’s a Disney movie. It’s not supposed to evoke that kind of emotional response. But throughout the entire movie, I was on the verge of sobbing uncontrollably any time Anna was on screen interacting with her older sister, Elsa.
But miraculously, I held in the tears until I left the theater…to the car, and then I proceeded to cry the entire way home.
The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that the reason I’d so strongly reacted to Anna’s character is because I was seeing myself in her. And I was seeing my Kindred Spirit *Becca, who was murdered by her abusive husband in 2012, in Elsa.
You see, in Frozen, Elsa starts to shut Anna out because she can’t tell Anna the truth of what’s going on. She hides more and more. And Anna doesn’t understand why, because they used to be so close, but now they’re not. She misses her sister, and she’d do anything to help Elsa.
And I realized some things. I realized that I had always looked to Becca as an older sister. She was three years older than me. And yes, we were Kindred Spirits, but I also viewed it as more. She was the older sister I never had. I was the oldest in my family. I had no sibling to look up to or emulate. And Becca became that older sibling in my eyes. The girl I looked up to, the girl I wanted to be, the girl I compared myself to. I really did adore her, as younger siblings often do adore their older siblings (at least in some cases). I thought she was awesome. Incredible.
And we were so close. She used to call me “my Teryn.”
“Ah, my Teryn, what we have is pretty special,” she’d say. And I agreed.
But then, she shut me out.
It didn’t happen abruptly, as it did in the movie Frozen. It was a slow and subtle thing. I noticed it for the first time when she moved away to live nearer the abusive guy who she’d end up marrying, *Timothy. Before that, we still were so close, and she’d tell me absolutely everything that was going on. But when she moved to KC to be nearer Timothy and the Christian group he was forming, I immediately noticed a change. Subtle, but still hurtful.
It was like she was forgetting me.
And it pained me. I told her once that I felt as if we were growing more distant, and she apologized and said she was just really busy, etc. But nothing changed, really. She shut me out more and more over the next few years.
The worst of it was the year and a half before she died.
I went to visit her ten months before she died, and she was so different. I hardly even recognized her. It was like her smile, her laugh, her whole personality had been….warped, twisted, changed. And she tried to distance herself from me, and told me some really hurtful things, and did some really hurtful things. And I left that visit feeling really sad.
I was losing her, and I didn’t know why. She stopped telling me real things. I could sense it, but I didn’t know why. I didn’t know why she wasn’t telling me anything anymore.
But I loved her. And I stuck by her, no matter what. I called and texted and visited her.
The last time I saw her (before her wedding, which hardly counts), I was driving to Colorado to take the job I have now, and I stopped by her place to spend the night. She just seemed so quenched, so sad, so NOT HERSELF. And I told her, “Don’t shut me out, Becca. Don’t hide. You don’t have to hide from me.”
But she still did.
And by the time the wedding happened, it was like we were strangers.
And by the time she was murdered, and the truth came out about her abusive husband and the controlling cult she’d been living in…
It was too late. She never told me what was going on. She never told me how horrible it was getting, how dark, how lonely. She never told me.
She shut me out.
And then she died.
And as I watched Frozen, I guess I realized how hurt I was. How horribly hurtful it was for Becca to slowly shut me out like that. I loved her so much, and she had slowly rejected that love.
And I realized I was really angry at her. She’d been dead over a year, and I was still angry over what had happened between us. I was so angry that some stupid guy had come in and slowly, subtlety destroyed our friendship and Kindred Spiritship. I was SO angry she’d let him slowly sabotage all her friendships with people on the outside—even with her family.
I was so, so, so, so angry.
And I realized how much I needed to forgive Becca.
I needed to forgive her, even if she was dead. Which is kind of a weird concept–forgiving someone who is already dead. But it needed to happen, I knew that I in my heart.
So I lit her candle (I have a red candle in my room that is Becca’s candle). And I cried and cried and cried.
And I shouted at her. And I told her I was angry at her. And why, why, why did she shut me out? And why, why, why did she replace all of those people who loved her with a monster who consumed her?
And I told her it hurt. It hurt a lot.
I told her missed her. I missed her so, so, so much. I wanted her back. I wanted to tell her things again. I wanted to get her advice. I wanted to hear her voice on the phone. I wanted her to tell me it would be okay. I wanted her to be my honorary big sister and Kindred Spirit once more.
I missed her.
And it hurt like hell.
Because it hit me in a deeper way that I’ll never see her again. Not ever, ever again on this earth.
And so I cried. I cried for a long time. Tears of anger and bitterness and sorrow and anguish and loss.
And then, sometime during the tears, they changed.
I looked into the candle flickering in my room and I told her, “I let go of this anger and bitterness I’ve been holding onto. I forgive you, Becca.”
And the tears became freeing.
The tears became tears of remembrance and joy at our friendship. The tears became repentance over the anger and resentment I had harbored towards a dear and cherished friend. The tears became healing as I realized how deeply cynical I’d become about relationships and love because of what had happened to my friend.
The tears showed me that I’d been carrying this vow that I’d never, ever love again because I would not forgive what had happened to Becca. I had to let that vow go. The tears washed away the past and brought my heart to a cleaner, healthier place. The tears became tears of resolve to honor my Kindred Spirit through the way I live my life and choose to love as she taught me how to love.
My heart was healed in some strange and deep way.
And I felt as if somehow, she saw me forgive her. She accepted my forgiveness, and she loved me. I could sense her presence, and her smile, and her laugh all around me.
And our friendship was strengthened.
Because even if she’s dead, she’ll always be my Kindred Spirit, and nothing can change that. She is always with me, in some way.
So no, our story did not end like Frozen, in a Happily Ever After where everything works out and all ends well. I will always, always miss her. I will always, always grieve the storm that took her away from me.
But still, something beautiful happened that night. I can’t explain it, but I can feel the change inside my heart.
My heart is no longer frozen with bitterness and anger and cynicism.
It’s glowing with a newfound hope, love, and resolve.
*Names changed for privacy.
Note: I also want to clarify that I am in NO way blaming my friend for the abuse and manipulation she suffered at the hands of her husband and the cult she was in. I understand she was in a horrible situation that wasn’t even clear to her for a long time. Abuse and manipulation are hard things to realize when they happen to you. And she did try in her own way to continue our friendship and cling to it. However, that doesn’t negate that I was very hurt at what happened between us, and I didn’t understand why it happened until she died. So I’ve had to process this, and all the emotions that come with it. I had to admit I was hurt by the way my friend shut me out, even if really wasn’t her fault. So this is me processing that part of grief. But again, I’m not saying the abuse or anything was her fault. I loved her dearly.
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