Sunday, March 22, 2015

Prickly

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?

No?

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.

9 comments:

  1. I am calling bullshit on this post. You do have the ability to be there for others just not at the full capacity you had before Lydie died. You were there for me and helped me last month during my miscarriage. I debated whether to come to you with the news due to all you have been through, but you were a good friend and you continued to check in on me. So there!! You are not entirely prickly and you are still a very kind, sweet, caring person to others.
    I know Lydie's death will change you and for the longest time I kept waiting for the "old Heather" to come out. I am realizing that you won't come out of this the same, but I do not think you will come out of this the way the post portrays you now. I don't think you have the ability to just write people off that may have not done things the way you wanted them too. You are entirely too kind and forgiving for that.
    I know grief is a long and personal process, but I hope you can try to let go of the negative and realize we all suck as people and fuck up terribly. I am certain no one is doing it on purpose and they are probably on eggshells around you. Is that your issue? Nope, not one bit, but I know someday you will come out on the other side of this where your grief is not so raw and you may wish some of those people weren't pushed away. I may be completely wrong....time will tell.

    Your neighbor is an asshole and I would keep your distance from him.

    I hope I don't piss you off with this post, but knowing my luck it probably won't post anyway.

    I love you and thank you so much for being a good friend to me when I needed it most.

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  2. It is really positive to see you writing and sharing and going through this process - however painful it is - and giving others an insight as well as getting these thoughts out for your own good. Inspired, brave and courageous.

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  3. Prickly or not...you, Lydia, Ben and Justin are very loved.

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  4. Oh my God, i've just written the longest comment and it's been lost. And it was about how angry I was. Even angrier now. I will have to summarise:

    1) I love your prickliness. Don't fight it. I think it is an important part of the process. True friends won't forgive you - they will see nothing to forgive.
    2) I am still angry. But I am slowly starting to let people back in. I have lost friends along the way, but I don't care. I don't give them a second thought now. The ones that came through for me are better friends than ever, and I have had comfort from people where I least expected it - friendships that were just casual before Nancy died, have become stronger.
    3) I believe you need to release your anger. This is the cruellest thing that can happen to anyone, of course you are angry. By releasing it, you are clearing the way for the stronger, more compassionate and wiser Heather to emerge. And she will. I don't really like taking positives from Nancy's death - I would trade them all in a heartbeat to have her here, but as I read somewhere, I am trying to accept these unwanted gifts I have been given. Maybe they are all I have left of Nancy.
    4) I have just done something really, really angry. I can't write it here as it's too bad. If you had the same cultural references as me, I would say I had a Jeremy Kyle moment this weekend.
    Take care lovely Heather - your anger is as important as anything else you feel xx

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  5. Dude. I feel ALL of this. Sure, 4 years instead of 4 months later, but I felt and still feel much of this.

    I hate to say, those friends who were distant or didn't check in? Four years later still won't check in and you will still hold it against them and remember that they didn't take responsibility (like they should) for checking in on you.

    I'm sorry. I'm totally prickly, too. I'm more vocal about my emotions without actually crying now, but no less bitchy.

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  6. Sing it, sister.

    I'm with Brandy. 5 months and 5 years aren't that different when it comes to prickly. The friends that were There Then are Here Now and those that weren't, aren't. Win some (for life), lose some and in most cases you find you wouldn't want them now anyway.

    I think you'll find you'll be more capable of allowing other people's problems- and being there for them- but only real ones. The superficial crap will still be just that. We now understand what a real problem really is. I was the same with regards to having no energy or space for anything but my loss for a long, long time. And it's OKAY. It really is. It won't be this way forever - at least, not taking up this size and shape in your life. There are pieces that so far, for me, seem like they damn sure will be there forever. I guess time will tell.

    You're just fine. Normal. Human. Grieving. Prickly. And personally, I love that you're Real about it. I have more, but keep deleting it. I'll email instead. :)

    Also…super interested to know what travesty really really angry Cara did! Somehow it sounds like it would be delicious and I wish I'd have the guts to do the same.

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  7. Julie I basically unleashed the hounds of hell on an email to someone who pissed me off, cc-ing in a load of other people!

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  8. It's ok and normal to be prickly and I totally remember who did what and said what and some of those are unforgivable. But I do think Tara has a point and there is another aspect to grief that will soften things and there will be SOME cases where you realize people did the best they could. Now that's not all cases and there probably are plenty of assholes who showed their true colors, but I remember times when I didn't say or do the right thing and so I can have very small,very select exceptions to my prickliness

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  9. Our son died 5.5 months ago and we have learned that there are many people who are unwilling to be around us to protect themselves. These people suck. I am not sure why we dwell on the ones who haven't been there for us, when there are many who have surprised us, who haven't said the wrong things.

    Interactions like those with your neighbour make me want to scream and revert to my inner-petulant child. Instead, I quietly take the beating and then retreat.

    I wrote about this too. https://theheartseesclearly.wordpress.com/2015/03/28/budding-relationships/

    xo.

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