Monday, January 19, 2015

Who I used to be

When my mom was staying at our house right after Lydie died, a coworker dropped off a meal.  This coworker and I don't know each other particularly well, but she told my mom how when she had seen me just the day before, I had a big smile on my face.  She seemed shocked that tragedy could befall someone who had just seemed so happy.

I think most people would say that about me, that I smile a lot, laugh a lot. That I'm pretty optimistic and positive.  Outgoing.  A people-person.

And also, that I'm motivated and a hard worker.   The anti-procrastinator.  A do-er.  I like to make plans and follow them.  I did make plans and then follow them.

Until my daughter died.

I keep hearing how something like this changes you.
And I know I'm different now.
In some ways, I mourn not just for my daughter but also for the woman I was before.
I liked that woman.  I worked hard to become that woman.
That woman died the day her daughter died.

I'm not yet sure who she is now.

Right now, I can barely make eye contact with people much less smile at them.  Small talk is torturous. The only people I want to be around are my husband and my son.  And my mom.  I don't laugh a whole lot (although today, I laughed at a fellow Baby-Loss Mama who commented that she can't wait to get to the pearly gates so she can ask "Dude, what the FUCK?" ) I can't concentrate on anything (except maybe research on cord accidents).  I spend more time on the couch than I ever have.  It's a struggle to get out of bed in the morning...  getting out of the bed is hard work in itself.  I get up and I dread the day.  I have never been so unmotivated for life.

Because, no amount of motivation or hard work can change what happened to my daughter.  I have never felt so helpless in my life.  I loathe this helplessness.

So... how much of this is just fresh grief versus a complete change in personality?
I'd like to think this is very fresh grief, and when the dust settles, I'll see what's left.

But I'm not sure I will ever return to the optimistic person that I once was.  How could I, when I know that no matter how hard you work, no matter how motivated you are, your world can be completely shattered by something you have no control over?  That you can do everything right and things can still go so horribly wrong?  I will never again be the innocent, naive person who believed that things usually just work out.  The invincibility complex that I have been hanging on to since I was a teenager has officially been shattered, and anger and anxiety are standing in its place. 

I know my grief is raw and fresh.  I know I won't always be this way, that healing takes time.   I know that I'll begin to integrate the grief into my life, but that it won't ever go away.  I know I won't always feel this shitty.

But I can't help but wonder who I will be on the other side.

8 comments:

  1. Word. To all of it.

    What stuck with me after reading this was the last 3 words, "the other side". I know it's a figure of speech and maybe not even what you meant, literally, as you'd just before talked about knowing grief will always be with you, etc. But my first unbidden thought was "there is no other side". You just…continue living and grief weaves into the fabric of your life.

    I know women who have started nonprofit organizations in the name of their children, who now work in fields directly related to child loss and who get to talk about their children regularly. Or have written books about their experience. Sometimes I feel guilty or almost panicked that I haven't/don't do the same. Am I failing Anna by not rising to such grand feats? I still shut down in large measure when it comes to her, just getting to this point in life where I'm a regular person doing everyday stay-at-home mom stuff is a victory. I don't know that I have much more emotional reserve to "be" with her that way all the time. Which makes me think I'm shoving grief down, not really allowing any healing. But I'm pretty attached to "my pain = my love for her".

    I think in some ways you'll be surprised at yourself. The ways you do incorporate and honor Lydia, how functional and 'normal' you are (or seem).
    You have incredible objectivity. That you can look at yourself in this space and talk about it, knowing it won't always be like this. It's waaaaay healthier and advanced than I was this far out. Just saying. You're doing grief pretty impressively.

    And I HATE that you have to.

    xo Lydia

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  3. Having to grieve our old selves, who we were before our child died, is one of the many layers of grief we experience when a child dies.

    I can remember after Michael died, looking at pictures of me taken before he died, and thinking, I don’t even recognize myself. They seemed like pictures of someone else.

    It’s disorienting at first. We don’t know what this “new” person is going to look like. And these changes are ongoing for some time.

    Part of it involves accepting that we will never be “ignorantly blissfully happy” again. And that’s hard. It sets you apart from all the others who are still ignorantly blissfully happy, and so it is isolating.

    But just as you’ve learned to hold joy and sadness simultaneously, you’ll learn to cope with the changes in yourself and with your new world view.

    After Michael died I felt like my life had been shattered into a number of pieces but the pieces didn’t fit together the way they did before. Part of my task in grieving was to figure out which pieces would stay and which ones had to go.

    You can’t change what has happened but you do have some control over how you respond and your attitude going forward. You’ve already shown your incredible strength and resilience in the face of devastating loss.

    Heather, while it will take some time to discover the new you, and you may always miss parts of your old life and your old self, I’m confident you’ll eventually like the new Heather too.

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  4. I used to be in your shoes. I still am,just four years removed,but now I see more traces of the old me intertwined with the new me. But it doesn't feel like I've reached the other side so much as i just still am working my way through it all.

    Sending love

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  5. One last thought here. I no longer think of it in terms of before and after. Sometime in this sixteen year journey it just became a part of who I am.

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  6. This resonated so much with me. I went back to work 2 weeks after we lost L. I *hated* when people asked me "How are you?" How the F do you think I am? Terrible! Sad! Heartbroken! I NEVER knew how to answer that question and it just felt like a slap in the face every time someone asked (even thought, rationally, I knew that was unfair - they were just being polite). Anyway...

    And I echo what Julie said about "the other side." I don't think there is one. You just move forward and some day you will start to feel a little more like yourself. You will... and it will catch you off guard and you may even feel guilty about it, but those moments will become more frequent. Hang in there. But you will always have Lydie in your heart...

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  7. This resonated so much with me. I went back to work 2 weeks after we lost L. I *hated* when people asked me "How are you?" How the F do you think I am? Terrible! Sad! Heartbroken! I NEVER knew how to answer that question and it just felt like a slap in the face every time someone asked (even thought, rationally, I knew that was unfair - they were just being polite). Anyway...

    And I echo what Julie said about "the other side." I don't think there is one. You just move forward and some day you will start to feel a little more like yourself. You will... and it will catch you off guard and you may even feel guilty about it, but those moments will become more frequent. Hang in there. But you will always have Lydie in your heart...

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