My aunt - the one whose son Michael died when he was five days old 16 years ago - has told me many times that grieving people are prickly.
And it's official. I'm prickly.
I can say that I think Justin and I have become closer since our daughter's death. And almost everyone else? I'm distant. I'm not friendly. I don't ask about others. I rarely reach out to friends and I sometimes don't respond when friends reach out to me.
But I know exactly who has said what to me. I know who asks how we're doing, who uses Lydie's name, who tells us they have been thinking of us. I know who remembers the 6th every month.
And when. I know how long it's been since I've heard from each of my friends. And I don't really excuse those people who haven't reached out to me since December. I feel like it's their responsibility, as a friend, to be checking in on me frequently these days.
I know who sent flowers back in December, but hasn't said a damn word since.
I know which coworkers signed their names in sympathy cards, but never acknowledged my loss to my face.
So, I'm prickly AND I'm sensitive.
A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from an old friend. It had been a long time since I had heard from her, since Lydie's memorial I believe. I didn't want to be the first to reach out, but we are going to be in her city in a few weeks and I thought I should let her know in case we could meet up. She wrote back and actually told that she hasn't been reading my blog because it hurts her to know how much I'm hurting. Are you fucking kidding me? I wanted to throw my phone across the room.
How nice to have the choice to distance yourself from someone else's pain. From your friend's pain.
She then proceeded to tell me about her problems.
Right now, I don't have the emotional capacity for other people's problems.
Do you have a dead child?
Then I don't particularly want to hear about it. I would trade my problems for your problems in an instant.
I probably shouldn't make my bitchiness so public. I probably should pretend to be a nicer person than I am.
It just seems like people are expecting me back to normal 4 months later. They expect me to empathize with them. They expect me to consider other people's feelings. And maybe the death of my daughter should expand my compassion. But at this point in time, that is not what is happening.
The other day, I met with a student who hasn't been going to class or turning in work. "What's going on?" I asked him. He proceeded to tell me about how his roommate moved out and didn't even tell him and he thought they were friends. I was waiting for the part that made him not attending class and not turning in work make sense. He never got there.
And I felt my my urge to scream building up. Instead, I said to him, somewhat levelly, "My daughter died in November."
"I know," he responded.
"And here I am at work. Because this is where I need to be, because this is my responsibility," I told him.
I don't think it was my finest moment, professionally.
I realize that my grief is making me selfish. I just have such little emotional energy right now. And I don't have emotional energy to give away.
I recognize that people can't win with me. That I hold it against them if they say nothing, but I hold it against them if they say the wrong thing too. And I don't even know what I want them to say to me. I don't even know what the right thing to say is, though I can identify lots of wrong things.
I can tell you that last weekend, when I told a neighbor that our daughter died, and he told me how our other neighbor is pregnant with her fourth child - that that was the WRONG thing to say. And then he said even more wrong things, including how it's okay because we have Ben and it's okay because I'm good friends with another neighbor.
I realize he just had no idea what to say. But he might have tried, "I'm so sorry. That's terrible. That must be really hard."
And just when I'm starting to feel more comfortable getting out of the house. He made me want to go back inside my Fortress of Solitude and never, ever come out.
But what I can say is that I have a handful of friends and family members who haven't let me down yet. Who continue to hold me up and let me be selfish and give me their emotional energy. And continue to let me know they love me, even when I'm prickly and selfish and sensitive.