Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I can't imagine

This is what I used to say to people, when their grief was hard for me to even contemplate.  "I can't imagine."  This is what people say to me all the time now.

At first, it didn't bother me.  "You don't want to," I would respond.

Now, it bothers me.  The comment has been irking me for weeks.
I have been trying to figure out why, and when I read Brooke's blog and she pinpointed it exactly.
These people are saying that my life has become an incomprehensible nightmare that they can't even bear to think about. 

You can't imagine because you don't want to.
I don't want to either, except I'm living this life.

Or, you could try to imagine.
You could stop and wonder what it would feel like to hear only silence while looking for your baby's heartbeat at your routine, 34 week appointment.

You can stop for a minute and think, "What if one of my children died?"

It's horrific, right?

I'm jealous that you can't imagine.  That you get to choose not to imagine.  That you can stop your mind from thinking such horrific thoughts.  
What you can't imagine is my life.

I know I'm being sensitive.
I know I need to cut other people some slack.
I am trying, like when a faculty member just told me about how she had a scare with one of her babies... but she turned out to be fine.
I stood there and nodded my head as she went on about how scary that moment was, but thank God it she turned out okay.  All the while thinking, please stop talking now

My scary moment didn't turn out to be okay.  My scary moment turned out to be your worst nightmare, the one you don't want to imagine.

Maybe I should be careful here.  Because I hate even more when people don't acknowledge - to my face - the loss of my daughter.  I hate when a meeting starts without anyone acknowledging that I haven't been at those meetings in 12 weeks, because my daughter died.

But I think I'd just prefer if they stuck with, "I've been thinking about you."  


  1. Having been guilty of saying "I can't imagine," I think part of the issue is that people don't want to imagine because it is so painful. When I do imagine, I feel sick. But for you, it's so much worse, because it's real. So I guess I can't imagine that.
    But also, the phrase is the inverse of "I know how you feel." No one knows how you feel. And they just want to say something that acknowledges your grief without infringing on it.
    I wish there were a perfect way to acknowledge Lydie, but there never will be because she's not here. I miss her, and I'm only her aunt.

  2. This comment seems so cold because while most folks cant empathize with what your feeling they can at least try to sympathize. When they "can't even imagine" it I would find it hard to really believe they had any sympathy for me and my family.

  3. As another bereaved parent, I much prefer 'I can't imagine" to "I know how you feel.' It's true that people don't want to imagine (and in fact are horrified by the thought of even trying), but they are right when they say they can't imagine, because it's impossible for them to imagine. As one bereaved parent said to me, grieving people are prickly people, a lot of things can rub us the wrong way. I think it's also because we have anger but there is no outlet so we get angry at the things people say and do (or don't say or don't do). I know I was awfully "prickly" and sensitive for quite a while. It goes with the territory. That's my two cents anyway. Sending you a virtual hug. Wish there was something I could do to make it even a little bit easier for you.

  4. I myself have pondered which is better (or worse), "I can't imagine" or "I can only imagine" (which I probably can't do anyway).

  5. Aunt Helen, you are right, I prefer "I can't imagine" to "I know how you feel" too. You are right, I am just prickly. Perhaps this is why the only people I am choosing to spend time with these days are other women who have lost babies. I am putting A LOT of time in those relationships and pretty much none in other friendships. It is so comforting to feel understood.

  6. Yes. Yes! It's like: I know you can't imagine, but do you just want to make me feel any more isolated than I already do? And how i love those stories too about babies who beat the odds and made it. How am I supposed to feel good about that? Your baby made it, you've recovered, traumatised maybe, but you and your baby are here. We are not the same at all.

    That said, I agree with everyone, it's better than I know how you feel. Or I know how you feel as I had a miscarriage/failed IVF or similar. I'm not belittling those experiences at all. But the feelings are not the same.

  7. This particular God I keep hearing about is really, really bad at his job. He keeps screwing up and trying to cover his mistakes, when if he is so powerful, er...maybe he could just not make sick babies in the first place! But no - I'm clearly misunderstanding something here, or I don't have enough faith. Oh and damn those stupid heroic doctors and nurses, they should have just let him die and not interfered with God's plan. It's nonsense.

  8. The above was meant for a different post - oops! x


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