Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Here I Am, There I Go

When Calla died, like right after she died, it felt like my life had a reboot. Suddenly, tasks that were rote, routine, were complicated and foreign. C started making the coffee in the morning for me, despite him not being a coffee drinker. I often would forget which way to go when driving. I, for a little while, forgot how to cook and, more alarmingly, how to eat.

My entire life was shadowed by a thick fog of grief. I felt as though I was wandering blindly through it. In those early days, we got a new computer and had the house set up for Wi-Fi. C also treated himself to some wacky video game that required the player to slay these awful, screeching things. After E would go to bed we'd sit, in our television room, and exist through technology. C would play his game and I would dive into the blogs. There was one particular blog I found, and whenever I check it these days I can almost hear that screeching, shrieking sound from the game--so linked are the two in my sensory memory. The background color seems to just elicit those screams. E now has a little game for the wi.i that has a similar sound. We don't allow him to play it all that often.

And then, well, when I found myself pregnant again so soon after she died, the blogging life kept me alive. Reading about healthy subsequent babies, and the emotions attached to all that baggage, was a stronger jolt than my morning, C-made coffee. I maniacally checked my reader, often several times an hour, looking for some glimmer of hope.

When O was born, alive and kicking as he was, again my life took this crazy turn. And suddenly I had run out of time to write. Despite all this grief and sadness that still existed, exists still. Except now no one wants to hear about it. Well, that's not true. People do talk about Calla and ask me how I'm doing and most people acknowledge that things are hard sometimes. And listen honestly and unflinchingly when, on the rare occasion, I choose to open up about it. But life, now, is more complicated. I've relearned how to drive and eat and cook, but I am still, dammit, stymied by how to fit my dead daughter into my life.

If I talk about her too much--which, frankly, I rarely do, it's just too hard for me--I feel like the wailing banshee parading her dead daughter's body through the streets. If I don't talk about her often, I feel like a neglectful mother. And like I'm putting myself out there as completely FINE! I'M FINE! Can't you tell I'M JUST FINE?!

I am in a place that I, two years ago, never believed I'd be in again. I function mostly like a normal human being. This past weekend I went away with my friends for a crazy-insane-whirlwind-beyond fun weekend--without C or the boys. What? Who does that? And! I'm doing it again in a few months with another group of friends!

But then it turns, in my head, to this:

So, what you're saying here is you, lady, have not one but TWO healthy boys, a loving, caring husband, a roof over your head, you can stay home with your kids, and have not one but TWO groups of good friends who can just pick up and go away for a weekend of fun? AND! Also you manage to have people stay with your children when you want to say, go for a run or yoga class? Who, exactly, do you think you are? And by what right do you think you have to be SAD?! Like, ever?!

But see, that's just it. All these wonderful things in my life mutually coexist with this crushing sadness. All it takes is a stray noise, a click in my Reader, a picture, a memory and I'm back there, more than two years back. And I keep coming back, now to just one word: HOW?


  1. Oh man I completely get this. I feel like you wrote down so much of what runs through my mind. I have so so much going in my life, and I really am naturally, organically grateful. And yet I am completely heart broken and bitter. My friends are very supportive, and yet I feel tormented by frustration with not wanting to talk or wanting to talk or thinking people don't care or don't understand or whatever else. It makes me feel crazy that 2 years or one year sounds like such a long time to everyone else, but to us it now feels like just a blip in time. I am functioning but I am still so heartbroken.
    - K

  2. I think we're in a similar place. Two living kids, pretty cosy life but FUCK there is still that huge void. And nothing and nobody can fill it.
    I hear you, Mary Beth.

  3. It's like getting stabbed by a unicorn. A beautiful, sparkly unicorn.

    I've been stuck in this cycle for 4 and a half years. A living daughter and a dead daughter all at once. Which one should I talk about? Do I have any right to be sad about this...really?

    I can't stay home but I have gainful employment during a time when so many people are getting laid off. There's a roof over my head. I could probably fit a run in if I tweaked the schedule a bit. I have so, so much. And I'd trade the job, the house, the threat to go for a run if I could just have her back. That's the problem.

    1. Best. Image. Ever. You've totally nailed it!

  4. HA! Yes, it is exactly like getting stabbed by a beautiful, sparkly unicorn. I have to agree completely with TracyOC. In fact, I would just like to completely copy her entire comment. But just so I don't: this is my feeling about this, because I am wrestling with this so much right now. Gratitude can co-exist with self-compassion, sadness, and grief. But people act like those things are mutually exclusive. I am grateful for everything I have, and yet, I still miss her. Well, you know.

  5. No idea how. It's all so complex and seems to becoming more complex as every single day passes with out them, doesn't it?

    "If I talk about her too much--which, frankly, I rarely do, it's just too hard for me--I feel like the wailing banshee parading her dead daughter's body through the streets. If I don't talk about her often, I feel like a neglectful mother. And like I'm putting myself out there as completely FINE! I'M FINE! Can't you tell I'M JUST FINE?!"
    -- I feel like this all of the time!! lol thank you for finding the words. xo

  6. This was beautiful and really, really true. At least for me anyway, and the first commenter.

    HOW? is right. How do we live with this tension, the coexisting you talked about?

    I don't have a fucking clue. BUT, I think I am getting more comfortable with it, you know? The happy and sad thing is normal now, a new normal, but one I'm getting used to.

    Anyway, this was a really moving post. Thank you so much.

  7. It feels like it's hard for me to integrate Joseph's death into my life because I'm stuck in a place of certain trauma because of the circumstances and the ongoing coronial nightmare, then possible litigation. It could go on for years. So, how?
    I know it will never ever go away. I know I will never forget him and I will always love him and want him back and do anything to go back and change this outcome. But, I welcome this kind of happy/fun/blessed/sad/missing/integrated life that you have.
    The talking/not talking/wanting to talk/not wanting to talk makes me feel completely insane.
    Very moving post indeed.

  8. Did I write this? Yes, yes, yes (okay except for the part about people to take care of my kids, except a rare occaision). And How? My eternal question.

  9. Ha yes, stabbed by a beautiful sparkly unicorn!

    This post is just so wonderfully expressed. That feeling that I've had to relearn how to drive and cook and just . . . .be. Be a person. Because even just breathing seemed foreign and complicated for a while, back then.

    And I say too much or I don't say enough and either way I'm left twisting in the wind. Yup, stabby. Until I'm so sick to the back teeth of trying to balance out my gratitude and what to say and what not to say and trying to prove that I'm FINE. Just FINE. That I get to feeling a little stabby.

    And yes, HOW? How precisely?

  10. I think people would like to believe that we are totally fine. It works better for them, it isn't as uncomfortable. You got pregnant so quickly that your grief is in a different space in some ways. I think you saved some of the stuff you would have worked through or at least with off...because you were pregnant. I don't thing there is a timeline when your child is dead. I think we are sad forever. I think we are also happy because we have love and joy...I always go back to people who survived WWII...They survived when SO many people died around them, friends, family almost themselves...Somehow they kept living and had families but I think regardless if they smiled and laughed, they were fucked up...you know. I am glad you have such an amazing network of love around you. I wish I did...BUT your daughter is still dead forever and that is worth being sad about forever. Love to you.

  11. Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.

    How do your friends react to the...new...you? Is your grief allowed? Do you feel like you have to splinter off for the fun weekends away, like only a part of you goes, while the rest is somewhere else?

    I don't know exactly where I'm going.

    My friends, before friends, don't want the new me. They want the old me. I would like that (in ways), too. I can't have it and neither can they. Tension and conflict.

    Does this happen to you? Or are these groups of friends okay with ALL of you?

    None of my business, but I'd love to learn from your experience,

    Cathy in Missouri

    1. Cathy,

      Funny you should ask. This particular group of friends I became close to only after Calla died--actually I should say, probably because of her death. I started spending time with them (and actually met some of them) on a weekly Project Runway date. So this is the me they've grown close to. Which, really, is a load off.

      And my other group (s) of friends are equally supportive. I've grown close with another group of women--through running--since Calla's death and, again, this is the me they really know.

      It would appear there's an entire blog post in this reply :) I am truly fortunate here.