I am feeling grouchy and holding on to a number of feelings that are adding to that grouchiness. I thought I’d write them out here and see if I feel better. Feel free to add your grumbles to comments. Misery loves company, right?
I had a couple of very sad days last week, the kind where I couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t work, just needed to sit and cry. This is fine, I told myself. This is good; you need this. So, I sat and cried and after a few days, I did feel better. Unfortunately, the work I didn’t do during those days did not do itself and I spent the next several days playing frantic catch-up. This morning, I am mostly caught up on work but now here I am again feeling exhausted, anxious, distant from my little A, unable to grieve her properly and resentful of all of it.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
I have suddenly realized that one of my best friends does not consider A to have been a baby, my child. She thinks of her only as a pregnancy that didn’t work out. I find this profoundly upsetting, but this is a woman who has been one of my closest friends for nearly 20 years, my entire adult life. I almost want to tell her just to fake it, to pretend that she believes I had a baby, a child, and that since she was a baby, she should be mourned, as I am mourning her. That if she wants our friendship to continue as even remotely close to what it has been in the past she is going to have to perform this act for me. It wouldn’t work, I know; I would not be convinced. I am worried what will happen to us, to the whole past we share together. How do you have a true friendship with someone who fundamentally cannot understand you?
People who are not grieving themselves do not understand that the holiday season is not just a slightly sad time for those of us who are. In my case, it seems that so many of my friends, family and acquaintances think that 10 months have passed and I must be mostly recovered and that while over the holidays I may have a few more misty-eyed moments than usual, once those moments roll over me, I will be just fine with all the festivities. I think about a friend whose dad died in October five years ago, and I am quite sure that this is how I treated her at Christmas that year: I understood that she would have some very sad moments; I did not understand how profoundly upsetting the whole season could be, her first holidays without her dad. I regret this now and because I know I was not acting maliciously at the time, I have also to accept that neither are the many friends and family who do not understand how I am feeling. I think in my case, the lack of understanding is again compounded by the number of people who just don’t get that it was our baby, our daughter, our sister who died. That she was a person. That she was real.
I have subscribed to the f***book page of a group for bereaved parents. This morning they shared a picture with the following caption: “When you’ve lost a child, you start to understand and to cherish the sacredness of every, single moment.” God, this makes me grouchy. Really, so very grouchy. I do not cherish the sacredness of every, single moment. There are many, many moments that I do not cherish at all. I love my living daughter with all my heart, but sometimes she is a real little turd and sometimes I am tired and frustrated and yelly and I dream of space and time and freedom. I love my little dead daughter with all my heart but I fucking hate that she is dead. I hate it. I am angry and resentful and sometimes mean. I cannot cherish these feelings or the moments in which I am feeling them, and while I know I am not supposed to take them so literally, quotes like these make me feel like I am doing grief wrong, like I am not sufficiently serene and beatific, that I have not properly donned the mantle of sainted motherhood that it sometimes seems bereaved mothers automatically wear. Maybe someday I will have a different perspective. Maybe in a few more months, or years, I will be able to accept this aspect of the culture of bereavement. Today, I think I should unsubscribe for my own sanity.
[Edited to add, apparently I did not vent as much as I need to on this last one!:] I have so much trouble with this idea that as bereaved parents we must be able to cherish life more than the non-bereaved. Before Anja died I spent a significant portion of each day cherishing my life: being grateful for my incredible child, my happy family, my love for R, my cozy home, my fulfilling work. I can honestly say that – at least to this point – I am significantly less able to cherish my life after the death of my second daughter. I feel like my life is unstable, my home and my family have been threatened, my relationship with R has been strained in all sorts of new ways, and saddest of all, what makes me ache all over sometimes, I have been so much less able to revel in E’s E-ness this year. Maybe this changes when you are years out, or maybe for some people bereavement really does bestow upon them the ability to feel more acutely the preciousness of what they have. I felt precious before; now, I feel sad, mad and lonely, and at least for now, unable to accept that grief brings with it gifts of any kind.
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There, now I feel better. Anyone else want to grumble a little?