Monday, February 6, 2012

A Wiser Woman Than I

I frequently read a blog written by a woman named Jennifer Lawler.  She's a published author, she teaches online writing classes, she's smart and kind and helpful, and she is also the mother of a daughter named Jessica, who had to have brain surgery as an infant and now is a thirteen-year-old with very special needs.  As Jennifer's blog demonstrates, Jessica also has a remarkable and refreshing outlook on life, one that many of us could benefit from trying on, I think.

Jennifer writes a lot about grief and healing and making the most of a life you never asked for, and she does so very beautifully.  I think you know someone is a gifted writer when it feels like they must have had your individual story in  mind when they crafted that paragraph.  And that's how I felt today when I read her post, "On the complications of living."  Here's the section that especially spoke to me:

Sometimes I think the greatest crime perpetrated against people in pain is the idea that they need to be healed of their suffering, that their suffering is somehow an affront to non-suffering people. She’s playing the victim again, we say scornfully. Oh my god, it’s been ten years since that happened! Why doesn’t she get over it! Time, we are certain, will lead to healing, and people are just being stubborn if it doesn’t.
People who suffer know a bad thing has happened. They’re not pretending it hasn’t. They know they can’t change that bad thing. They’re not pretending they can. But what we seem to be asking them to do is to say that the pain and unfairness are okay. But they’re not. The pain is painful. The unfairness is unjust. No, it is not okay.
And it is at this stubborn impasse that many of us reside. Because it will never be okay, what has happened. That does not mean that we don’t get on with our lives. It does not mean we don’t love again, or feel happiness (or joy, for those of us sporting a fine contempt for happiness). It doesn’t mean we don’t laugh or lift our faces to the sun.
It means that we don’t ever heal, because we can’t. Because no matter how much you badger us, we know that it is never going to be okay, what happened. What we are going to do is learn to live with it, although sometimes we don’t even manage that very well.
It's been over a year since my baby was stillborn.  You'd think that if healing could happen, it would be happening by now.

I'm not sure it's happening.

Yesterday I had a rough day.  I also had a really good day.  I saw some of my best friends in the whole world--girls I went to college with.  We talked about kids, we talked about pregnancies, we talked a little bit about Eliza.  They have been kind and supportive as I've flailed about in my grief.  Many of them have had personal losses that help them understand my grief, and I know any one of them would bear some of this burden for me if she could.  Seeing them was really, really great.  

One of them wanted to return to me a book that I'd lent her over a year ago.  I'd bought it for myself, but she had her baby a few months before Eliza was due, so I'd given it to her to borrow.  The title was something like At Home With Your Newborn.  She had a couple other miscellaneous things to give me--an article she'd clipped for me and a CD she'd made, but I saw that book in the bag and I felt like someone had knocked all the air out of my lungs.  I managed to stammer, "I-I-I don't want that book back."

She said ok immediately.  She put the book away, she was apologizing, but it was too late.  I started to ugly cry in the middle of my friend's living room.  It was my first grief trigger that was totally unexpected, and obviously I did NOT exactly handle it well.  Basically, I just fell apart while my friend hugged me until I stopped sobbing.  She kept saying she was sorry and I said I was sorry that I'm such a mess.  I think we were both surprised by my reaction.  Shouldn't I be able to handle these things by now?

Before the Super Bowl started, David (at my request) pulled out a bin of maternity clothes that we'd put in the garage last year.  I had been dreading going through them, but we've gotten to the point where the hair elastic and bella band make me a little nervous when they are the only things standing between me and being half naked in front of a classroom full of college students.  I need some pants with great big elastic panels.

At the time I put them away, the idea had been to get them out of my sight as quickly as possible.  Nothing was folded neatly or organized.  Clothes were shoved in there however they would fit.  So I took a deep breath and pulled a Pea-in-the-Pod jacket off the top of the bin.  In doing so, I uncovered a package of baby-sized hangers that had been tossed in with the clothes.  I don't remember doing it, but obviously it was one more thing I wanted gone.  Out of my sight.  And there they were: tiny, white, bare plastic hangers.  Hangers that should have held a wardrobe of baby girl clothes, instead tossed aside into storage.  As empty as my arms.

So then I ugly cried over the bin of maternity clothes.

Because it will NEVER be okay, what has happened.  And I still don't know sometimes how I'm getting on with life.  So maybe I can't heal from this.  And maybe that's okay.  Maybe I can keep going even if it still hurts like hell.  Because what else is there to do?  Suck it up and join the rest of walking wounded.

What I needed to hear this morning was not that everything will be okay.  Because it won't.  But I did need to hear that I'll be able to learn to live with it.  Because I have to.  And it helps to hear that it's possible, from someone who's clearly been through her own kind of intense loss and suffering.

So this is me.  Keeping on keeping on, and thankful for everyone who helps me and hugs me and writes to me and prays for me along the way.


  1. We all still have awful days. Some caused by triggers, some just because. It is hard and it sucks. And it's never going to go away. But I have found that it does get more bearable, more easy to live with. I'm still sad every minute of every day, but the grief bursts are fewer and further between. And I can be overall happy and sad for Hayes at the exact same time. That only makes sense to people who understand this pain.

  2. I hate that phrase, "Everything will be ok." My husband says that to me when he feels helpless and it makes it worse, because like you said, no, it won't be ok. Ever. It might be easier today than it was six months ago, and it might be easier in the future than it is today, but it will never, ever be ok.

    Bless your friend for being able to hold you during your meltdown. Lesser people would run, or avoid.

  3. Oh, Brooke. God, I felt your experiences so deep inside me. I agree that healing isn't even the effing point. For me, it is just integrating that was my goal. To somehow accept that this was my life. I don't know. Sending you love and prayers and good juju. Wishing we had a babylost island where there were just us to meet and have coffee and escape on those days when everything seems like salt and we are too raw. xo

  4. Hugs to you.

    I have found over the years (geez, it's only been 2.5 but somehow it seems forever,) that my grief triggers are fewer and farther between and less intense with time (and I think being pregnant again puts everything on edge emotionally, anyway with the extra hormones, fear, stress, memories...) Anyway, you probably will get better at handling them, but it's okay if you don't. It's always especially hard when it is something surprising and random.

    You are right though, it will never be okay. But you will get better at living with it, that part does get much, much easier.

    I am shocked that you need maternity clothes, but very very impressed you made it this far without them! I know it's hard not to be sad when you wear them again, but I tried to think of them as something connecting our babies to each other.

  5. Brooke, I had to do that maternity bin deal a month ago. I did the same thing--threw all my maternity clothes in a bin. I also had the ugly cry. What started it for me? The dress I pulled out that was the dress I wore the last time she was alive when I was with my family. Heaping sobs, moans, yes the ugly cry.

    And you wrote about your experience and I well up for you because I know the ache, the impossible horrible feeling that sits deep down in our soul and never goes away. That paragraph you posted so resonates with me too. I am defiant in the fact that there is a large part of me that will not heal this side of heaven. Only us mamas with this terrible burden to bear will ever get that.

  6. Thank you for sharing this excerpt and your thoughts - exactly what I need to hear today too.

    I've been feeling in a deep rut, worse this last month (4 months out) than in those early few months and feeling like I've been going backwards. To read these words, that it's OK to not be OK, that helps me put things into perspective. Things will never be the same, we just have to learn to live with it.

    Sending you my thoughts so that you can keep on keeping on. xxoo

  7. I really appreciate this post. I wish I could express it that well. No we will never be okay and IT will never be okay. We do not heal, but we learn to carry our pain a little better as time goes by. It is hard and I have to assume it always will be.

    I have boxes in storage as well. I need to pull out some of my maternity stuff because yep my pants are fixing to pop. But I alreay know I am going to ugly cry all over the crap.

    One day at a time, here is to bad days and good days and just making it to the next day.

  8. Just had a conversation yesterday that left me feeling broken, this is just what I needed to read today. I will be sharing it with the person I had the conversation with...

    Thanks for sharing this. It's so true, this will never ever be okay and if people would just accept this instead of trying to make it better, it would actually be more helpful!

  9. It will never be ok. If only everyone could just see that basic truth, some of the extra hurt wouldn't have to happen. Thanks for putting in words some things I've been feeling, too.

  10. Heartache is the worst pain imaginable and unlike a cut or fracture there are no x-rays or tests for diagnosis, but there are REAL symptoms and it causes REAL pain. Plain and simple, if God wanted to heal you, He would. But in this pain He is trying to bring you closer to Himself. Instead of asking and praying for healing, ask instead for endurance and the strength to bear your heartache and sadness. That He will give you.

  11. No- none of it will ever, ever be alright. This excerpt explains that in such a beautiful way- thank you for sharing it.
    I haven't pulled out that particular bin yet- but I am going to need to. Though part of me just wants to go and buy a few pairs of sweats and tanks to get me though- because all of it seems like a world away sometimes.

  12. I believe in God and all, but I can't say he'll ever heal me because he wants to. Listen, I don't actually want to be healed unless that means Andrew (or Eliza, or insert dead baby name) will be here with us and never have died to begin with. As much as I hate this grief, I can't stop grieving because that is just what a mother missing her child for her entire life does; she grieves. And God knows that. My big question is why He didn't save them in the first place... if he is the maker of all things miraculous. :/

    The maternity clothes were hard for me as well. As soon as Andrew died, I showed them to the back of my closet and didn't want them near me until I had physical evidence that my womb was inhabited once again. Grief. It stuns us at our worst moments. I hate it.

  13. Oh, Brooke. This felt very familiar - the ugly cry - good heavens, yes. And, to echo what others have said here, it's absolutely true that it will never be okay. Sending love to you and Eliza and The Deuce.

  14. Me and Ugly Cry hang out way too often for my taste. I'm glad you had support from and were able to see your friends. Thinking of you and your family.

  15. Oh, yes, the Ugly Cry. It sneaks up on you. It's kind of a jerk.

    I guess I hope it helps you to know you aren't alone (or crazy). I know this post and comments helps me feel that way.

  16. It must be so hard right now, being pregnant I would think it would be impossible not to think of Eliza and all the "last times". Sending you lots of love.