Day 16Posted: April 2, 2013 Filed under: The Story of a Mother 8 Comments
Mika has already done a great post about things that people can do or say to be helpful. People have been truly fantastic in how much they have been willing to help with everything from babysitting to steaks. However, one of the hardest things for me is to answer the question, “how are you doing?” It is such a simple question, and it frustrates me that the question is no longer simple to answer.
Half the time I feel fine. Half the time I feel like I’m on the verge of tears. Half the time I feel like I can almost forget that anything terrible is happening. Half the time I am bad with fractions.
The truth is, I just don’t know how I am.
When we first learned that Tiny Baby wasn’t going to live, I was devastated. It is true that simply thinking about the situation with Tiny Baby no longer brings the sharp, acute pain that it did only two weeks ago. Right when we first found out, it seemed like the world had stopped; perhaps more accurately stated, it felt like the world had no right to go on. Mika and I walked around and saw people living their lives: laughing, joking, and smiling. As we looked at the various people walking around, seemingly without a care in the world, I couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong with everybody. Didn’t they know that the world had ended? Didn’t they know that our Tiny Baby was dying?
Now, the pain is still there, but is it just beneath the surface. It has transformed from a sharp pain to a dull ache, that is always in the back of my mind. In the past week, I haven’t had really had too many breakdowns. And I wonder, is that OK? Isn’t this something that I should be freaking out about? Didn’t I lose the right to ever feel normal again? Even though I can sit down and logically think through how it is OK to have good days and bad days, I still feel guilty for having a good day. Does that mean that I am not thinking about Tiny Baby enough? Will people think I am heartless if I say that I am doing OK on a certain day?
Even on the days when I feel that I am not falling apart, I can always feel the pain just below the surface. Instead of the sharp pain, it is a deep sea of turmoil just waiting to break through my facade. I almost feel that I haven’t explored it fully, and I am terrified what will happen when I have no choice but to come to terms with what is happening.
Really good description of a normal response to what you are going through. I think the fact that there is time between when you learned that you don’t get to keep Tiny Baby, and when that actually happens makes it both easier and harder to deal with. If it had happened all at once, and it was over, then you would have a “point in time” to pin your emotions to. As it is, you have had, as you put it your “worst day ever”, and at the same time, you know (just under the surface where the dull ache is), that your “worst day ever” hasn’t happened yet. That makes it harder, because the point in time is in the future. That means you will still have days when you can laugh and it will be sincere, and days (maybe the same day) when you will cry, and that will be sincere. You will feel guilty, confused, grateful, sad, and unsettled, and all of them are honest emotions. No wonder you don’t know how you feel, since it changes all the time. I think it would be accurate to say that the people who love you and Mika are experiencing the same things to differing degrees, and it is that shared experience that has brought such an outpouring of love, prayers, and support.
Maybe hidden in the question “How are you?” is the personal hope that if you are “all right”, then the person asking can face their own challenges with more courage. And it is always okay to say “I’m coping the best I can, thank you for caring.” Or “I don’t know, and don’t really want to think about it right now.”
No, you didn’t lose the right to feel normal. You did gain, in the most devastating way, the right to say “I know how you feel” to others who experience this level of loss. As for that deep sea of turmoil waiting to break through? I’m in that boat with you, and have no idea how we will all cope when we are faced with “no choice but to come to terms with what is happening.” I only know that we will do it, because we will do it together.
While I can sit through and logically come to many of the same conclusions, it is a confusing time where my brain and my heart are pulling me in opposite directions. Thank you for the encouragement, though.
I asked a friend who lost an infant daughter 20 years ago what he remembered from his experience that might help me to help you. He mentioned the things you have said, about concrete actions like washing the dishes, going with you on hard occasions like making arrangements for the cemetery, babysitting, etc.
His most important thought was for me and others who want to comfort you. He said grieving is different for everyone and we on the outside can’t assume we know how you feel now or tell you how you will feel in the future. He was frustrated when people tried to box him into how they conceived he should feel. People thought he was stoic about the loss of his child, because he didn’t break down in public and was able to preside at the funeral service they held in the Relief Society room at their chapel. His sorrow was no less intense for being held close inside. He has faith that he will hold his daughter again, but occasionally something will remind him of her and he spends a few moments with the sadness before moving back into his daily life.
And when his nephew lost a child, he knew how to help.
I think the fact that grieving is different for everybody is part of what makes this all so difficult. There is not rule book, just sort of general patterns and guidelines.
I’m so sorry, Jarom. Having friends who’ve also lost children, two things that helped them were talking to other parents who’ve lost children and staying close to Heavenly Father…he, better than anyone, knows what it’s like to lose a child. My best to you.
Those are the two biggest strengths we’ve found as well. Being able to get a priesthood blessing by the laying of hands has been a tremendous strength.
Reading this I wonder now if it is best to just hug someone and tell them you’re thinking of them/love them/praying for them/sorry/actually do something helpful instead of making a demand on their emotions by asking how they are doing unless you know them well enough.
Look at my comment to Mika’s last post. What I told her applies to you too! It’s just the grieving process and no matter how you feel. at whatever time you feel it, it’s all normal and okay.