From ‘An Unexpected Family Outing’...
I’m the lady with the dead baby.
It’s okay, I’m allowed to be so blunt because it’s my truth. I am the lady whose baby died. One day my baby was living and the next day she died. That is what happened. It doesn’t offend me if you acknowledge this.
It offends me when you don’t.
You see, I know that my baby died. I will not forget this. So, when you whisper about it like it’s a secret that feels shameful. It makes me feel like you’re embarrassed for me. I’m not embarrassed about my baby and I’m not embarrassed that she died. I’m sad that she died. It’s different.
I am allowed to be sad that my baby died. Please stop trying to cheer me up. When you respond by trying to cheer me up, it feels dismissive. Being supportive does not mean making me happy, it means sticking around even when I’m not. When you honor my emotions, you honor my child.
When I say my daughter’s name and you not-so-subtly change the subject, you are not doing so to “protect me.” You are avoiding the subject of my child because you are uncomfortable. If you were talking about your own loved one and I stopped meeting your gaze or frantically switched topics, you would be upset with me. Same.
My baby is not an awkward topic. She is a person. She is my daughter. I am not awkward about that, so why are you?
Please understand, I believe that when you do these things it is with the best intentions, but I need you to know that your intentions have a painful impact. So, while you get to stroll away with your good intentions, I am left with the hurtful impact you left behind.
I may be the lady whose baby died but you can still talk to me like you did when I was the lady who was going to have a baby. You can still say her name and let me know that you care about her. You can still ask me how I’m doing and wait around to hear my answer.
Please don’t ignore my truth, especially when I am so strongly committed to sharing it. I have not made my baby’s death a secret, so I don’t need your help in hiding her. That’s where the struggle comes from. I have to keep talking about her and saying her name because she can’t. I can’t stop because then she will disappear.
I know you want to change what happened to me. But, you can’t. I will always be the lady whose baby died. I will always be the woman who is living without her child. I am okay talking about that. Are you?
An Unexpected Family Outing / anunexpectedfamilyouting.wordpress
(Originally published- 07/11/18)
There are all kinds of loss, and at least a million kinds of grief to accompany those losses.
One loss that can be complicated and sad is that of a friendship. Sometimes that which sustained us, and was a source of love and strength slowly mutates into something toxic and draining. We all know there are a lot of reasons and ways for a friendship to go so sideways that the only choice is to let go.
But a friendship loss can be a particularly messy one. You may still see that person, or have acquaintances in common. There is no service, no stone to visit. And there can be the lingering and painful question of just exactly what went wrong.
I encourage you to give yourself permission to grieve the end of a friendship in the same way I encourage you to make space for all the accompanying emotion around any kind of loss. Be kind to yourself, acknowledge the sweetness of what once was, and reaffirm that there is good reason for moving into a new space in your life. (Originally posted-07/13/18)
I would like to invite you to consider something with me - and that is the language we use when someone is sitting with cancer, or serious illness. We have a whole pat phraseology in place around who those who are doing well in their health struggles - they are ‘survivors’ and ‘winners’ in the ‘battle’ to achieve wellness again. We want so desperately to keep life and death in a literal, black and white sphere. By doing this we deny ourselves and our loved ones a full range of human experience. Yes, it is fraught and hellacious to suffer from ill health. But it does not solely transform us into gladiators. Yes, a cri de couer can wake strong energies inside of us to heal illness, but it is not the only thing. When we shy away from more sensitive and nuanced language, we shape the experience of being ill in a narrow way and unfruitful way.
Let’s see that black and white language to it’s logical end...those who don’t ‘survive’ have ‘failed’? Really? I believe culturally we have come to align death with a kind of failure...but it does not need to be this way. Let’s be aware of how we encourage our beloved and ourselves when there is a health struggle before us, and make some changes.
I think it’s safe to say there is uniformly a sensitive material warning to anything I post here, but my children both want me to consciously say that here. I believe they are correct. So please read with caution.
A Mom needing to depart her children in their very young lives is gut wrenching, and yet reading what Sara Chivers writes here to her children makes me hopeful about what is possible with the map she gifts to all of them.
Over time this very story has unfolded for me again and again in my work in private practice. Culturally we deny death and refuse to consider and perhaps prepare for it’s inevitable face. Thus, when the moment of death comes to our loved one there is so much trauma and malevolent surprise encoded in the experience that FIRST we must come to terms with those feelings - we must realize this is how it is written. We must acknowledge the entire arc of life, finally. Then we grieve.
Or, the whole thing gets wrapped up in an impossible pile together and it must be sorted piece by piece. Grief and death are organic, they are part of the plan. Always have been, always will be.
I disagree with his phrase that grief will let go - I believe the surprise of death let’s go over time, but that grieving remains a constantly changing process in our lives once we have watched our loved one die.
(Originally posted -6/02/18)