I am struggling with the death of my mother (she died quite suddenly on March 23rd after years of chronic but not acute illness. She was in a nursing home but I was her primary caregiver for six of the last nine years). The grief feels larger and more intense because I don't have any family left. My father died when I was a teenager, I have no siblings and no other close relations. My aunt (mother's sister) died just one week before my mother did. I have an aunt left on my father's side but she lives far away and we are not close. I am thirty four, I feel unprepared at this age to be completely without relatives (though I'm sure no one ever feels ready).
My partner left me over Christmas and has since been passive aggressive and unkind to me in my grief, refusing to either leave me alone or be supportive. I have asked her to stop contacting me and I hope she does this time. I also experienced the sudden traumatic loss of my dog in march, a few weeks before my mother. I realize these two things are not on the same scale as the death of my mother, but they have contributed to my overall frame of mind. It feels as though 2016 has just been one long catastrophe after another.
I feel like I am at the absolutely outer edges of my ability to endure. And I feel so incredibly alone.
I have a large group of friends but only a very small subset that I trust to talk to about this. Many of them mean well but cannot help and inadvertently say things that are hurtful or unhelpful. Some of them are just too self absorbed to offer compassion or support to me right now and I've tried to limit my contact with them. Many have simply just not checked in or been in touch and I feel too overwhelmed to take the risk of reaching out.
I have 2 or 3 friends with whom I can speak about this but I'm so afraid of burning them out. They are also not available to me as often as I need them (and I understand this but it's still very hard - there is simply not enough).
This week I went to see a counsellor through my work and he was weird and we didn't connect. It took me two weeks to get someone to return my call from a bereavement group to find out if I could join them. I had to work hard at every step to get the information I needed and that was frustrating and exhausting.
I finally went today but it was hard because I found myself having trouble interjecting myself into the conversation and left feeling misunderstood and railroaded and unheard. Then two people from the group approached me in the parking lot and said things that were well intentioned but made it so much worse. Also, nearly everyone there was older and dealing with the loss of a spouse and had many other family members to take for granted. They were also much much further away from their losses than I am at the moment (i.e., several years). I felt so alone.
I have made an appointment with a different counselor who specializes in grief and I hope it is a better experience but I am so exhausted - it takes so much energy to reach out for help and I feel like at every turn, I am being smacked around even more.  Last week I texted an old friend that I was feeling isolated and depressed and needed to be around people - was he able to get together on the weekend? he responded that he was pretty busy and could maybe fit me in. I took three hours to get up the courage to send that initial message and his response just destroyed my resolve. I panicked and stopped responding. I really wanted him to say "of course, I'd love to, what do you need?"
I am so exhausted and strained and people keep asking me to hear their stories. I am normally a big support system for many of my friends but I am realizing that I'm in no position to be providing support right now and that I need a lot more from people than what's being offered and I don't know where to turn. I feel like no one with no family. 
That is the crux of it. I have always wanted a big family and have been so afraid of this moment for so long. Now that it's here, it's worse than I'd imagined and it's like no one in my world can possibly understand.

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There are a lot of things in your story that I can relate too. I'm so sorry for all your losses. It's devastating knowing you have no close family left. I feel that is where I'm headed. I have some family, but sadly, a lot of the younger family members have passed, so many older ones remain. Our family tree is dwindling. I had one sibling and now there is just me. My parents are old and I'm all that is left. I had to put down an emergency contact at work and I used to use my sister. I felt like I wanted to throw up at the thought of one day having no emergency contact. Imagine having to tell someone that. "Oh, I don't have anyone you can call in an emergency."

You have had so many losses close together that it's no wonder you are overwhelmed. Also, losing a pet is the same as losing family, so don't think you can't be as devastated over your dog.

I had the exact same experiences you did with friends and trying to get help. I remember calling around to some hospitals that had bereavement groups listed and never got a reply. I left a couple of messages and gave up. Like you, it was tiring, sad and exhausting, and also disappointing to get no help from the grief center. I belonged to an online grief group, but all of them lost a spouse and were older. I had nothing in common with them other than we had someone we loved pass away. Over time I have left that site, I was there out of desperation. So understand the feeling of disconnect you felt with the group.

My friends have done the same things as yours, they have drifted, or falling off the earth. They have disappointed me. After my loss I guess I thought I'd continue to hear from them and they'd have more compassion. I realized that people just continue on and are very much only into themselves. I understand they didn't experience the loss and they have their lives, but it's still very hurtful and upsetting.

 

I felt every word when you said you took 3 hours to text your friend and then they basically blew you off. That was so awful.I feel so hurt for you that it took you 3 hours to ask, then they said they'd "try" to fit you in. That's really fucked up. And I know our friends have their own lives, but damn.

 

I get what you're saying about wanting them to just say "Of course, love too! When?" I feel the same. I also know just what you mean about being so exhausted and not having the energy to reach out. I would like to be thought of, instead of the one thinking about trying to get someone to think about me, I have to make the plans, etc. I see a therapist and she told me I should reach out to them and get "something on the books" like picking a weekend in advance and not something last minute. I get that, but it's still tiring.

I told a friend I wanted to be social again and missed hanging out. She says yes, we will hang out again and I haven't heard from her since. It's been months. Sometimes it's all I can do to get through the day without crying, so to have the energy and the mindset to try to connect with friends is just to much, not to mention disappointing.  I am the exact same way in that I need more than what my friends can or want to give to me and I hate everything about this situation. I hate that I want social interaction and have no one to get it from. I hate my entire routine has been shattered and destroyed. I'm just lonely and angry.

Definitely try to see the counselor you have set up. And eventually you may be ready to try do some activities around your town that will help you interact with people, even if it's once a month. That's what I'm trying to do. It's hard because it's still not something I want to do, its only out of desperation.  Take care.

Thank you Hollow Heart for your response.  It's helpful even to know that someone else feels the same way. I am tired of people telling me that "it will feel better" later. I know that it will but it is not helpful for me to hear, it feels dismissive and like an attempt to minimize my experience.  It's so good to just hear someone else echo what I'm feeling.

I am so sorry about your sister. I have the same experience with the "emergency contact" situation. It's a terrible lost feeling to know that when the chips are down, there is no one who will naturally assume the duty of helping me if I need it most desperately.

But I too feel alone and angry and I am trying to not destroy my "only ok" friendships with that rage. It's difficult because I feel irrationally angry with everyone who's life is good at the moment. I know this is not reasonable or fair but I feel it strongly all the same.

I have definitely been scheduling activities - I hike a lot and it helps me so much to be physical and outside. It's good to be with people and distracted sometimes. It's not bringing me the same amount of joy that it did before and I imagine it will not for some time (if ever) but it's a lot better than sitting in my house feeling sorry for myself and angry all the time.

I feel a bit better today than I did yesterday.  A friend from far away phoned out of the blue to check on me and I'm grateful. 

I can only say I really relate to this on so many levels. I hope you new counselor will be more helpful.

I can relate as well.. specially the fear of burning out the very few people I have left that I trust, and the "too young to be so alone" thing. I hope your new counselor has helped. I will be seeing someone soon...

Your story is familiar. Im feeling very alone too. Most friends don't want to listen, and I suppose I don't blame them.
I really understand this. You did an excellent job articulating yourself; it's no surprise you have a good amount of friends by your side. You are insightful and expressive and, though it broke my heart reading your honesty, a part of me enjoyed (?) it. You should be a writer.

Now, in response to what you're saying here: I understand not wanting to burden your friends. It's hard to be truly honest about the horribleness you really feel because it feels ugly and overwhelming (and who wants to share that insecure little gem with all your friends?!). And you're probably scared to show that extreme side because it leaves you highly vulnerable. And what if that means your friends push you away because they find what you're feeling too heavy? Can you handle more abandonment?

To give you some context, I'm 31 and family-less. My grandparents played an enormous role in my life. Without going into a ridiculous amount of detail, my parents were extremely irresponsible and young when they had me. My mother went to jail during my formative years and my father suffered extraordinarily, which contributed to a serious mental illness. His condition made him extremely violent and volatile. It got so bad that my grandparents took over raising me completely when I was 16 and I never had either of my parents in my life since. I wouldn't even know where/how to find them...and quite frankly I'm NOT interested in looking. No other family in my life. Period.

Fast forward to today and both my grandparents have passed away. My grandfather was first and, though it was extremely upsetting, I still had my grandmother. She was the greatest person I'd ever known. Lucky for me because she was the only family I had left. And I was okay with that because she was all I needed. Any and everyone that ever knew me knew how important she was to me. She offered me all the physical, emotional, and mental support anyone could hope for. And then she died suddenly when I was 26. And I died with her. I swear I could literally feel something break inside me. But that moment didn't compare to the fear and terror I felt for years afterwards.

I never really had anxiety before and didn't understand people who suffered from it...but I get it now. W-O-W. It's not something anyone can really describe. It's an extreme panic beyond anything you could imagine. I thought there was something physically wrong with me. I felt so spaced out and like I was in a constant dream, or drugged or something. I went to doctors telling them something was seriously wrong. They ran batteries of diagnostics and I saw numerous specialists (a gastroenterologist, cardiologist, neurologist, internist...and honestly I think I'm forgetting a few). I didn't do this for attention. I honestly believed something horrible was happening to me. Somatization from the extreme trauma of losing it all is my guess because doctors never found anything seriously wrong that correlated with how utterly crap-tacular I felt.

I think you and I share something very few people around us understand. Especially at this age. So to this I say we are part of an elite group...lol! But seriously, anyone I've connected with that's experienced this level of loss has been considerably older than I. But hey, I'm not saying this gets easier with age but it made me angry - no - furious that I was so young and alone. I would have ridiculous sobbing fits where I would scream angrily at nothing about how unfair it was that this was my reality. I would try to find a cosmic explanation as to why this happened to ME (I'm not at all religious, might I add). Afterall, I really was a decent person; never stole, tried to live a wholesome life (stay on the straight and narrow, as they say), and contribute to society. Hell, I even volunteered what little time I had at an animal shelter while I was going through university and working to pay my way. So WHY ME?! I would find myself irrationally enraged when people would complain about their family and the trivial drama amongst them. "At least you have a family!", would be my retort, though I really wanted to tell people I wished they could experience a glimmer of my reality and come back and tell me how they felt. Heck, I'd even get irrationally angry if people would tell me all about the awesome things they did with their family on Family Day (you're a fellow Canadian so you'll understand) just because I was sickeningly jealous. I lived in a constant pity party.

I really do understand how you feel. I understand barely hanging onto your sanity and constantly feeling like you're on the brink of a nervous breakdown. I get the need to sugarcoat your feelings so as not to scare people away. I also understand the disconnect in speaking with a therapist, a disingenuous conversation with a person that doesn't have an inkling of how it feels to be in your shoes. I did that. Couldn't afford it either, seeing as how they bill you for $300/hour and my insurance covers, say, $500/year! It seems ridiculous to sit in front of someone who doesn't understand the context of your life. However, I did receive a piece of comfort from the therapist. He said, "In order for people to be happy they need two things: meaningful relationships and meaningful work. Of course you cannot be happy; you lack an adequate social support system, which any human needs to thrive.", and he looked at me with a "well, duh" expression. Though he provided me no realistic tools to cope, it honestly felt so good for someone objective to legitimize how awful I felt and that I wasn't weak or pathetic for feeling the way I felt. You're damn right I should feel like hell!

When you tell people you have no family, people don't understand that you mean that literally. NONE. No one to call if you're in trouble or ill or even to just rely on emotionally. You may never need your family but you know they're always there. When that's taken away from you, life gets very, very, very real...and not at all in a good way.

I've been family-less for 5 1/2 years now and I wish I could tell you everything turns out roses and butterflies. It doesn't. But you will learn to live in this new reality. It is NOT EASY; in fact, it feels impossible at times. Be gentle on yourself. Don't be hard on yourself and expect yourself to "snap out of it". You need to take the time to feel like horrible crap and throw yourself that pity party. But you'll also need to use whatever fortitude you have to accept this new reality because you really don't have a choice. You will never be the same, not ever. The severe terror does diminish with time, which is something you will need to learn to accept. You won't wake up one day and say, "hey, I'm aaaaalllllll better!" but there will be a time when you'll realize there's been more time between your meltdowns. There will be some moments when you'll reflect and say, "hey, I'm better now compared to where I was". You'll develop new "normals" that make sense and you won't question your identity, as I know I did. I wish I had better advice for you but quite frankly there is no solution here. Sometimes it's just riding out the periods of terror moment to moment until the moments between the terror become longer and longer (if that makes any sense!).

I don't know you and you don't know me but I'm travelling down this road, much like you. You're family-less, yes, but you're not alone, though I know it feels that way. Chat me up if you ever read this novel and need a "listening ear". I'd love to hear from you.

Side note: A random person that crossed my life once said to me, "Don't stress, bench press". Working out helps if you can muster the will.
Hello. I felt like I was reading my own stuff here!

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