Friday, July 29, 2011

Questions from Glow, Answered

 Tash offered these questions in a post at Glow, and here I am, trying to answer them.

1. How much time has passed since the death of your child(ren)?  Do you mark grief in months, weeks or years? Does it seem to be going fast or slow?  

It's been almost eight months.  That seems like an impossibly long time.  It's almost the amount of time I was pregnant with Eliza.  Time has gone both fast and slow.  December is just behind me, but (thank God) it's also far away.  The grief has gotten easier to carrier.  Falling asleep, my brain no longer replays the hours of the hospital and her birth in vivid images and physical pain.  I mark grief in months, just as I would mark her age right now.  Time started off so very slow, but is going increasingly faster and I hate the idea of hitting the one year mark.  I remember reading other blogs where people were sad to hit one year because it met they were further from their baby, that what happened was now "last year" instead of so many months ago.  I didn't understand that--all I could think was that I just needed to get far enough out so I could breathe.  But now I get it.  One year brings no relief.  It just means I'm further from Eliza, and further from the sympathy of those early days.  It still hurts.  Different, but just the same.

2. Do you have an end goal to your grief?  How much time do you think that will take?  How much time did you think you'd need to get there right after your loss?  How much time do you think you need now? 

I think it will help us to get past Christmas this year.  What should have been Eliza's first Christmas is instead our second without her.  Last year's theme was shock, numbness, and trauma; this year's shaping up to be anguish, sorrow, and grief, continued.  So far the plan is to skip it entirely and go somewhere warm.  I feel like my friends are getting impatient with me--I understand that.  I sat out of a lot of events in the past eight months and I'm not sure how many more I'll need to miss in the future, but I think I'm approaching the timeline when their understanding is stretched a bit.  It frustrates me because I think either people can imagine how they would feel if their own baby died--in which case they know the grief is crippling--or they can't imagine, in which case they need to take my word for it:  the grief is crippling.  I need more time. 

3. Rather than a clear end goal, is there a milestone or marker to indicate that you are feeling grief less acutely, i.e. going to a baby shower, listening to a song that made you cry early in grief, driving past the hospital?  How long did it take to get there?

I feel much easier talking about other people's babies now.  Boys are easier than girls, but still.  I can swing it.  I may not start a conversation about these babies, but the mention of them does not make my heart feel like it is in a vise.  Also, I'm looking forward to starting my new job, which seemed unimaginable not so long ago.  I know these things mean it's less acute.  But I don't think I will EVER go to another baby shower again.  I'm having all kinds of anxiety about that, as my best friend is pregnant (due in January, just like I was) and this fall I think I should be hosting her baby shower, just like I hosted her bridal shower a few years ago.  And there's no way I can do it.  I already know what gift I'm going to give her, but I would rather peel off my skin than go to a baby shower.  Anyone's baby shower.  I think it would be easier to visit her and her new baby after it's born than to go to a shower where it's all excitement and anticipation.  I remember that feeling all too well.  It was mine, less than a year ago.

4. How do you view the time you had with your child, either alive (within or outside) or already deceased?  Before you all answer "Too short! Not enough!", did you have time to "bond" or develop a future imagination about what this child would be like?  Perhaps depending on whether yours was cut short, how do you now feel about the nine-month period of gestation -- too long or not long enough?  

Oh my word, I dreamed up Eliza from the moment I knew she was a girl (which was almost immediately after I found out I was pregnant--I was sure of it months before the ultrasound confirmed it).  I couldn't wait to see how she matched the girl I had imagined.  I know she was somewhat easy going (I had an easy pregnancy), but could be remarkably stubborn (which is why we got an extra ultrasound, since she refused to fully cooperate at 20 weeks).  She and Cooper would have been best friends because he loved to snuggle up against my belly.  She would have loved to read books.  She would have spent the first year of her life in onesies and baby leggings and adorable dresses.  Of course my time with her was not nearly enough, but it's true that I knew her and love her in ways that I would never have thought were possible for a baby who never lived outside my belly.  She was a part of our lives from the very start. 

5. One grief book suggested that it took 2-5 years to incorporate your grief into your life.  Where are you on this timeline, and you do you find that to be true?

My friend and I were just discussing this.  I mentioned that another friend of ours said it took 3-5 years to feel okay again after her mom died.  As that friend readily admits, though, her self-directed "therapy" wasn't the healthiest way to deal with loss (it involved a lot of alcohol).  The fact is, though, that even though I might be crossing off the checklist on "How to Properly Grieve," and I might be doing all the "right" things (counseling, writing, connecting with others, etc.) 2-5 years sounds just about right.  It will be a long time before I get through this, and I don't know how many of my friends and extended family will be patient with me for that long.  I would say that I lost six months of my life to Eliza's death--six months that I couldn't really do anything but what was absolutely necessary.  I don't think I'll lose 2-5 years entirely, but I do think it will take at least two years to incorporate this grief and sorrow into my life without letting it take over.

 6. There's a familiar saying, "Time Heals all wounds."  Do you think this is true?  Or do you subscribe to Edna St. Vincent Milay:  "Time does not bring relief, you all have lied"?

In loyalty to Edna St. Vincent Millay, I insist that both are true.  Yes, time does make things easier.  Easier to breathe, easier to function.  But it doesn't change the fact that I should have an adorable baby girl and I don't.  Whatever happens in my future, my life will always be different than it should be, and I hate that with all the energy I've got.  I can't deny, though, that time has brought some relief--distanced the tears, made ordinary activities bearable, even allowed distractions and temporary escapes from my sadness.  

7. Has your relationship with the future (immediate and far) changed since the death of your child(ren)?

My relationship with the future has changed dramatically.  We used to be huge planners--knowing where we wanted to be a year from now, five years, ten years.  Eliza was a perfectly timed part of that plan.  I have no idea what my future looks like now and that terrifies me.  I'm trying to live in the moment, but it's exhausting and I'm not always very good at it. 

8. How long did it take to answer these questions?

About half an hour.  I type fast.


  1. I agree with everything you said. I was just talking to my grandparents last night about how I can feel the weather changing and as much as I don't want to say goodbye to summer (because I love it) I especially am not ready to face the fall and more importantly the winter. I thought last Christmas would be the hardest one of my life and approaching Addi's first birthday along with ANOTHER Christmas without her it just...well too much. I dread the one year mark, but to be fair I dread each day without her.

    I'm trying to live in the moment as well. I miss planning for the future, but I can only handle about a month out of planning...the rest of the calendar is under lock and key.

  2. I like this idea. I think doing things like this (answering questions) helps me better figure out my grief and hopefully helps others too. I may copy this (probably will).

    I love that you mention Eliza as part of your lives from the very start. What a loved baby she will always be. It's really special and beautiful - the bond you have with her. Tragic as hell, but beautiful none-the-less.

  3. I think Christmas is one of the hardest times. Even for meetings, there are usually a lot of people who are several years out that come back because it's just hard. I think your plans are a good idea. We skipped it the first year (though we were still pretty numb/in shock), and toughed it out last year. I was pregnant and everyone was so excited about the baby, and it was hard because we were still so sad and also terrified.

    For me, there was some relief in knowing that the godawful first year was behind us. Yes, it's sad too, and there are still (always?) hard moments, but the hard moments aren't quite as draining or as hard as that first year (especially the first 6 months.)

  4. Also, I had a dream a few nights ago about meeting you at the group. Must have been because I read your last blog post before I went to bed. Anyway, I hope we both can make it next month!

  5. Thanks so much for sharing Brooke.. I find it interesting that those of us with similar timelines have similar answers to the questions. Thinking of you...

  6. So very true and wonderfully written. I wanted to participate in the Kitchen Table, but don't have the mind for it right now. It's helpful to read and know that someone else is writing what I need to say. Thinking of you and Eliza~

  7. I still haven't been to a baby shower. I've made my thoughts pretty clear on the matter and my friends understand (or at least say they do). It is just the way it is. Someone recently asked if I'd have one for this baby I'm carrying now. Absolutely not. I like to wait until they arrive before getting too excited these days. That goes for myself and others.
    Love to you, dear Brooke.

  8. So much to relate to here Brooke, thank you for sharing where you stand with time.

    It makes me smile and so very glad that you had that special bond with your Eliza right from the start - I too loved, loved carrying Elizabeth and wouldn't trade any of our time together for all the tea in China.

  9. I've never had a baby shower -- I've always been far too sick for one. They are over-rated. Screw them.

    Love to you and Eliza always.

  10. Thanks for sharing here and adding to the kitchen table discussion. It's nice to be able to look ahead and see what is in front of us, especially from someone who is just a few months in front of us and not a few years ahead. Lots of peace to you, Josh

  11. I'm slowly working my way through my Google Reader, which got backed up (AGAIN) during our recent vacation. Will have to head over to Glow & check out the other responses!

    That first year is a bitch. :p No good way to put it. Two to five years sounds about right to me, but everyone is different, of course.

    For me, being able to go into a Baby Gap again (& stay for more than 30 seconds) was a milestone. And that didn't happen for quite a few years post-Katie. As for baby showers, I have been, reluctantly, and even 13 years later, I still don't enjoy them very much. I gave a lot of gift cards those first few years, or went half & half with my SIL & asked her to pick up the gift. Going to Baby Gap or Babies R Us was just not in the cards for a long, long time.