I’ve talked a few times before about my neighbor’s sister losing her baby several years ago. In the months that followed her son’s death, she seemed to be doing ok whenever I saw her. So I thought I shouldn’t bring it up or ask how she was doing, because that might ruin her mood or remind her about this awful thing. Or it might seem insensitive somehow.
Now, being on the other side of the experience, I can tell you that no matter how good of a mood I’m in or how ok I seem to be, I have not forgotten that Christian died – and asking me about him won’t make me feel bad. I’d much rather have you awkwardly ask how I feel or what I’ve been thinking than to completely ignore the topic.
I understand that we don’t talk about death much, so it’s uncomfortable at first. Let me break the ice, then: my baby, Christian, died about two months ago, an hour and a half after birth. I won’t feel bad if you use words like “death” and “dead” instead of euphemisms like “lost” and “passed away.” It might be easier for you to hesitantly tiptoe around the subject of Christian’s death, but I promise you won’t offend me by talking about it (as long as you aren’t trying to cheer me up with an “At least…” statement). I want Christian to be acknowledged. And I want my feelings to be acknowledged, too.
Jarom’s aunt gave us this lovely framed poem by James Whitcomb Riley. If I haven’t gotten the story mixed up, Jarom’s great-grandmother got the poem when her father passed away in the 1920s. In addition to the message, I’m smitten with the type! Isn’t is beautiful?
Away by James Whitcomb Riley
I cannot say, and I will not say
That he is dead, He is just away!
With a cheery smile and a wave of the hand
He has wandered into an unknown land
And left us dreaming how very fair
It must needs be, since he lingers there
And you – oh you, who the wildest yearn
For the old-time step and the glad return
Think of him faring on, as dear
In the love of There, as the love of Here,
Think of him still as the same, I say,
He is not dead – he is just away.
I’m curious who has been reading the blog since I started writing about Christian. If you don’t know me personally, would you be willing to leave a comment or send me an email letting me know how you came across my blog?
Also, I found this really helpful article today about helping a friend after the loss of their baby. I might even toss in a “Give her movie tickets” because I looooooooove seeing movies in the theater now . . . weekly date night is my favorite.
And finally, I’ve been trying to limit my donut intake for the past few weeks – it’s extremely sad. Yesterday I was at the grocery store when the donuts were 3/$1, so of course I got 3, but I learned that I don’t enjoy that third donut anymore. Is 2 donuts a week unreasonable, or can I keep that up?
One thing that’s helped keep me busy is opening up my shop again. It has the added benefit of bringing in a little extra money to help with Christian’s medical expenses. I’ve mainly been doing custom work – which was my goal in the first place; I do have some prints up for sale, but what I enjoy most is creating something new and personalized. Here are a few examples:
So that’s what I’ve been up to. I’m not above putting in a plug for myself – if you know anyone who wants some custom artwork or invitations . . . keep me in mind
I don’t interact much with anyone lately. When I do, there are some tentative “How are you doing . . . ?” moments, some of which seem to be genuine inquiries about my well-being. Others come off feeling like cursory, obligatory, awkward attempts to acknowledge – without actually bringing up – the fact that my baby died.
I never know how to answer. How am I doing? Am I dealing well with my grief? Have I completely fallen apart? I’m not even sure how I feel at any given moment. It’s become difficult to write because I have no words for this. And I can’t find the right word to describe my emotions. Sad isn’t painful enough. Grieving doesn’t include all the times I feel mostly normal. Lousy is too casual. Despondent ignores the sharp moments of pain and anxiety. The closest I can come is to say I feel bereaved.
I don’t consciously think about Christian’s death often; it lurks in my mind, much as I have a paper due next week and I haven’t even chosen a topic or I need to pay the gas bill soon might. It feels like I need to somehow “deal with” his death, though what that entails I have no idea. Some poor logic makes me believe that if I were able to “deal with it,” I could wrap the whole experience up in a nice little mental compartment and not be affected by it anymore. How preposterous! I firmly believe that even though I’ll gradually feel differently than I do now, losing Christian will always affect me. For now, I’m trying to accept that I feel, as a person, dulled and muted. As if I can’t be happy in the way I was before Christian died.
So I read, and paint, and sleep, and occasionally do useful things like go grocery shopping or make the bed. I let life happen with minimal involvement on my part. When an image of that day in the hospital flashes into my mind, I feel a clutch of fear – fear of how painful it is to really feel the loss of my child. It’s so hard to allow myself to hurt like that. Instead, I force myself to make do with feeling sad, grieving, lousy, despondent. And I hope when someone asks how I’m doing, eventually I can say I feel better. Bereaved – but better.