Yesterday afternoon I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation.
I’ve received plenty of congratulations since then and it’s been nice, but…my baby isn’t here. The baby that used to kick along inside me every writing afternoon. I miss her.
And the fact that I just finished this huge, huge thing in the same year that she died and was born doesn’t mean that I am strong, or brave, or determined, or anything like that. The only reason I finished my PhD this year is because I could not afford not to finish it. I could only work if I was enrolled and we could not survive on just one paycheque and so I stayed enrolled, and started working a week after Anja died. I didn’t feel strong or brave or anything close: I felt angry and resentful that I could not afford to take time to grieve and I felt incredible pressure, unreal stress. It was hard and terrible and it hurt. But I had to do it and I did.
And now I can see how some people must feel relieved, relieved to have something to cheer me for, relieved to think: oh, she must be okay, she must be better if she could do this, this soon. I feel ungrateful and rude if I reply to congratulations by saying, yes, thank you but my baby is still dead and I am still mad and I am still heartbroken and don’t ever forget that. But that’s what I want to say.
My baby is still dead and a PhD won’t change that.
I am happy to be done and I am proud of myself. It was a lot of work and most of it I actually loved. But I can’t stand the way this success overshadows the horrors of this year. I can’t stand thinking that Anja is hidden in its shadow, that she can be brushed aside. I can’t stand that she’s not here with me and that there are people who don’t or can’t or won’t see that that still matters and always, always will.