I went to a local support group for baby loss last night.
I'd been a couple of times before, and found it helpful to hear from people who were months (or years) out from their loss. But going was hard. It was emotionally exhausting, and I dreaded it, even though was generally a positive experience. The woman who runs the group is lovely and kind, but I hadn't connected personally with anyone there (here's a fact about baby loss: it happens to obnoxious and self-centered people, too). I'd found so much support online, through Glow, through the blog, that it just didn't feel necessary. Plus there was the fact that I didn't WANT to be part of this fucking group. I wanted my baby to be ALIVE. I think that was my real hang up. I hated the fact that I belonged at this meeting.
But Angie convinced me to go last night by bribing me with the chance to meet her for dinner ahead of time. So I met her for the first time, we ate sandwiches and baked potatoes, and then went together to the meeting.
This was by far my best experience at the support group. It was a big group last night, and yes, it's hard to hear the stories. It scares me to hear about all the Other Ways there are to lose a baby (besides the Reasons Unknown that took Eliza). It made me cry to see the tears of people who are just weeks out from their loss because I remember so vividly what it felt like to be there. I cried when I talked about Eliza and my voice got all high pitched and shaky and squeaky.
But in the end, I was glad I went for three main reasons. First of all, because this time I actually felt like I "clicked" with some of the people who were there. Like even if we hadn't lost our babies, I'd still want to go to happy hour with these girls (and the husbands I met). A few of us stuck around after the meeting formally adjourned (well, it's not formal at all, but you get what I mean) and there was (weirdly) a lot of laughing. A lot of it was dark humor--like when we talked about the beautiful sunset prints that Carly does with a child's name in the sand, and a dad suggested that for baby boys, someone could start a service of peeing their names in the snow. Maybe you had to be there, but we found this hysterical. And we commiserated with some of those horror stories about how people have responded to (or ignored) our loss. It's the same thing we can do through blogs and online threads, but to talk about it with people who get it, with people who have been there. It helped. It made me feel connected. Best of all, these people (like so many of the people I've met online) are people I would want to know anyway, even if we didn't share this awful tragedy. Had I met these people under other circumstances, I still would have thought they were hilarious and witty and kind.
Since I was there without David (he went with me the first two times), I raised a question that's been on my mind. In those early days/weeks/months, David did so much to take care of me. I wondered if he ever felt frustrated that, on top of his grief and loss, he had to go back to work AND make dinner AND go to the store AND keep the house picked up AND take care of the dogs AND answer the phone (I just quit answering our phone entirely). And even after I was doing a little better and was back at work, by the time we both got home in the evening, I'd fall apart into a soggy, sobbing mess because I was exhausted from the effort of holding myself together all day long. I know that hard to be hard for him (in fact, we've talked about it ourselves), but I wanted to know if other people found themselves in similar positions.
The dads who were there talked about how it felt good to be able to do something. One guy explained that this huge terrible thing had happened and he couldn't fix it, but at least he could could take care of his wife, make sure that things got done, make phone calls, even go to work. He said taking care of those logistics was therapeutic for his grief, that he kind of worked through it that way. Another dad talked about how he cried in the hospital when they lost their son, but said that he hadn't had another meltdown for five months until just recently. He'd been so busy managing all these other things that he hadn't had time. He said that it was a relief to break down. I know that David's grief seemed to kind of resurface just at the time when mine was getting a little easier to bear, so this made sense to me. It helped me to hear that most couples go through similar phases of grief and find their way much like we did. I wonder who all these couples are who break up after losing a child (or if infant loss is different somehow?) because all the couples I know have found that this tragedy has brought them closer.
The other reason I was glad to be there was because I realized that after 9 months, my grief is just as strong, but it's less demanding. Kind of like drinking really strong coffee. The taste doesn't change, but you just get used to it. It's ever-present, but it doesn't weigh me down the same way it did. The kind of weird thing is that it still hurts so much that sometimes I forget how much harder it was, back in January when I was first going back to work, for example. So it felt good that I could speak to that issue when someone else brought it up, and I could tell her that there was some relief in going back to work, in having a distraction, in having ONE area of my life in which I felt mostly competent. I could also advise her to go ahead and send an e-mail telling people what to do or how to respond when they see you. Because they won't know, and they won't want to do the wrong thing, but they'll probably do just that, if you don't give them direction.
One girl was unable to tell her story to the group, and I could see how much she was hurting. I remember what that felt like--when grief was so paralyzing I could barely function. And now I'm at a point where I could say to the group that yes, there was a time when I didn't think I would EVER want to get off my couch and do anything again. Honestly, I dropped out of life. Some of my friends understood. Some of them had a harder time with it. But I did what I had to do to survive.
And now I've come back, at least a little bit. I'm still out of FB, I still opt out of a lot of large social events, David and I still make a lot of "game time" decisions about getting together with people, and we are skipping the holidays entirely. BUT I enjoy seeing my friends (even if they have to initiate that most of the time), and lately I feel energized instead of wiped out after I meet up with friends for dinner or coffee. I went from watching endless reruns of The New Adventures of Old Christine to finding the energy to go shopping, repaint my living room, go back to yoga class. In so many ways, and without diminishing the grief I feel, I think I'm finding my way back to my old self. 8 months ago, I would have truly believed that was impossible. So I like to think that maybe I said something that would have helped someone, because I can remember what I was afraid of, and what I needed to hear from others in those early days.
And the fourth reason I liked it is because someone there told me I look like Kristen Wiig which is like the BEST COMPLIMENT EVER, since the time last summer when a sixth grader told me I looked like Katy Perry: BEST COMPLIMENT EVER #2.
Now, if you would care to comment, I welcome all comments related to support groups experiences (good, bad, or just plain weird), and I would also like to know what celebrity people tell you that you resemble. What's your best famous person look alike compliment ever?