Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Good days are followed by bad days.  Yesterday was a good day, full of distractions, focused on teaching, on grading, on an engrossing new novel and a disappointing college basketball game (David did not find it disappointing.  We are a House Divided.).

Today the weight of it all is impossibly heavy again.  The very things that offered me hope yesterday--the idea of another baby sometime in the future, a card from my mom, David's solid reassurance, plans made with friends--all of them seem so fleeting and far away.  The risk of hoping for future good things is not worth what I can only imagine will be the inevitable disappointment to follow.

A website where grieving mothers voice their pain and offer each other support doesn't feel like a refuge today.  Instead, I feel burdened and overwhelmed by everyone else's pain.  Weighed down by the vast injustice of all of it and desperate in my wish to somehow fix this--not just for me, but for everyone.  For Otis's mom, and Kai's, and George's and Olivia's and Lily's and Julius's and Amos's and everyone because it is so fucking unfair and it hurts so much I don't know how any of us are dragging ourselves through the day.  Or why we bother.

And I know yesterday was better than this.  I know it was because I lived it and I felt ok and although there was some crying (in my "new normal" there is always some crying), it was the kind of crying that feels like relief instead of just coming out like the only sound I can make while being gutted alive.

Gosh, that sounds dramatic doesn't it?  It's horribly true, though.  And writing it made me feel a little better.  Naming the experience is somehow satisfying, like if I could just put into words exactly what it feels like then I could control it a little bit more.

A friend of mine has an anonymous blog.  So she can write just how she's feeling at any given moment, she explained, without having to worry that her mom will come over on a suicide watch.

I get that.  Because sometimes writing is like a purging of the pain and once it's out there, it's easier to breathe.  But I don't want to make other people even more upset with my words.  I don't want to make people worry.  Because sometimes I have this strange sensation that the fact of the experience is actually worse than the experience itself.  Once I put the facts out there, and name the experience somewhere outside myself, it's a little easier to go back to just existing.  The writing of it is somehow sadder than the living of it.  I'm not sure that makes sense.  I'm not sure it's always true.  But sometimes it is.

And even though it always helps to get comments and e-mails from people who read the words and say "I'm sorry" or "Me too," the truth is that just getting the themselves words out there, even without hearing back from anyone, is a kind of relief, like sucking out the poison from a festering wound.

Yay for the vivid similes today, huh?

I heard a story recently of a woman who was depressed after the loss of a child.  She has other children, but the death of her oldest child was just more than she could bear and after years of appearing to take it all in stride while surreptitiously self-medicating, it recently became all too obvious that she was suffering from intense depression.  I heard this story and my heart ached for that woman.  I thought about how easily that could be me.  If I didn't have my parents and my brother.  If my relationship with David were different.  If I didn't have my closest friends.  If I weren't in therapy.  If I hadn't become connected with other women who know what I'm going through.  Those ifs feel so fragile--such a thin remove between her experience and mine.  I felt so terribly, terribly sorry for her because I understand her suffering and I know exactly how it feels to think that it's all too much and that nothing in the future could be worth the pain of getting through this moment.

I said something of the sort to the friend who was telling me this story.  How sad I was for this woman, how I hope she can find some help, how I understand the intensity of her sadness.  My friend didn't speak to any of that.  "Her poor children," she said, shaking her head.  "And her husband.  I hope she can get the help she needs."

Oh, yeah.  The fallout.

This woman's family hadn't even registered on my radar of people to feel sorry for.  Probably because I'm too busy feeling sorry for her...  and myself.

Despite the fact that my grief makes me selfish and small, I do realize that the fallout from Eliza's death is not limited to me alone, or even to just David and me.  My parents are grieving for a granddaughter they'll never know and probably for me too, the irreparably damaged daughter.  I don't want to make them worry, I don't want to amplify the pain of my friends and family who loved Eliza and miss her too, and who also miss me--the person I used to be before all of this happened. 

I know there are other people who are hurting over this not just because they would have loved Eliza and they miss what she would have been to them--granddaughter, niece, BFF-once-removed--but who are hurting mostly on my account.  Because they see how this is tearing me apart.  Because they are sad for me and they can't make it better and they want to offer me something to fix it--distraction in the form of shopping or dinner or weekend at the lake, a promise of future children, a promise of a glitzy eternal life where I'll see my baby again. Some days these things truly help.  Some days nothing could possibly help.

On a good day I feel like a survivor who knows that life is still worth living even if I don't have what I wanted most of all.  I feel like I can live out cliches about weathering storms.  Maybe I could be like old Anne of Green Gables, eventually smiling again even though she had to bury her first child, even though the smile is different than it was before.

But on a bad day--like this day--I do feel like I am irreparably damaged.  That this "new normal," whatever it looks like, is flawed and broken and however I define "happy," it will never be what it meant before.  And--worst of all--that if it can't be what it was before, it's not worth having.

And I'm overwhelmed with the hurt and the injustice of it all--not just for me but for so many other mothers who wanted and loved their babies and for no good reason are forced to figure out what happens now.

When this painfully intense sympathy meets the bottomless well of self-pity, well, you know it's not going to be a good day.

On days like this, I want to ignore the fallout.  I want to curl up selfishly in my cocoon of grief and not try to choke back tears.  I think I'm entitled.

But I do hate that my pain makes other people hurt, too.  So I drag myself out of bed so that David's forehead wrinkle won't get deeper when he looks at me.  I talk about my sadness in therapy.  I read books.  I eat dinner.  I take deep breaths and make myself sit up straight.  I wrestle my sadness into words in an effort to manage the power it has over me.

The truth is that I have good days.  And then there are bad days.  "That's the ebb and flow of grief," my therapist says, nodding wisely.

I happen to hate the ebb and flow of grief.  Particularly when it threatens to drown me.


  1. i feel like i could have written this. i'm feeling this exact same way today. not sure how i'm going to make it. i heard this morning of a woman in my church (a young mom) who passed away due to a heart condition she had. and i was actually jealous of her. i feel so terrible saying that, but i just felt so jealous that she got to forever leave this world and all of the pain and suffering. thinking of my death actually brings me comfort these days. i just have moments of being hopeful (hopeful that there will be brighter days, hopeful that i can be a mom again on earth). but today i'm feeling so very hopeless, and i just want it all to stop. and i just want to be with Julius again. of course it doesn't help that his 4 mo angel-versary is on sat. and that 2 wks after that he will be an angel for the same amount of time (and then longer) that he was here in my arms. yea, today, the future looks really bleak. </3

    ps-thank you so much for writing my little boy's name. i always love to see it written by others. ♥

  2. I wish there was something I could say or do to make these horribly dark and awful days better. What I can tell you is that, like Maggie says, over time, the bad days become fewer and farther between, and eventually aren't even entire bad days much anymore but more like moments. Getting to that point though, it really just sucks, and I didn't even realize I was at that point until long after I was there. It has been 17 months since we lost Olivia (and thanks for thinking of us, I know sometimes all of the other stories and grief is overwhelming. Last night Maggie had a stack of new people to add to the list. I'm still freaking out and overwhelmed by it.) Anyway, I still do have bad days and bad moments. But not like they were that first year and especially the first 6 months. I know you can't really see a light at the end of this grief tunnel, but there is one. The days go by so horribly slow the first 6-9 months or so, and suddenly time becomes a little faster and more bearable again.

  3. Dear daughter - you are not irreparably damaged!
    Love, MOM

  4. Oh Brooke there was so much in this post I could relate to. I remember it was at least a couple of months after losing Lily maybe longer before I was even able to think about the sadness other people were feeling as a result of her loss. As you said it's so hard to focus outside of your own grief and think about the grandparents, aunts, uncles and their sadness...it's just all too overwhelming initially.
    Your right it is the ebb and flow of grief and it sucks, but thats grief it hits in waves and is so unpredictable.
    Sending love and hope that you'll find the strength you need for each new day ((hugs))

  5. I save the gutted alive cry for when I'm driving somewhere by myself! Hopefully nobody in the passing lane looks over and sees me driving and wailing, probably isn't pretty! I can relate to every word of your post, and wish you more and more good days.

  6. This song has been at the forefront of my thoughts for several days...maybe because I knew you would write this or maybe because I cry just a little bit everyday, too- both for good things and and the things that I wish were better.


    Love you.

  7. Oh mamma. I hate that so much of this journey is two steps forward followed by four back. I hope that as the months and years begin to pass we will all feel not just the rough swells of the waves, but that we will also feel the warmth of such a vast ocean- a place where our greatest love continues to grow with each roll of the tide.
    Thinking of you...

  8. Connecting with so much here! I'm obsessed with the weather. I wish there were a daily forecast for grieving! ~Much love~

  9. It will get easier and you will not always feel as badly as you do right now. The first year is the hardest. I'm sorry that you`re struggling.

    I wish there was something else I could say other than I remember Eliza with you and am hoping you have some gentle moments coming your way. Be gentle with yourself.

  10. Almost a year out and I still sometimes have to talk to my therapist about "the fallout." Those horrible, terrible days are not very common anymore but they still happen. I think they will for a long time.

    But...as Monique said, things will get easier. The bad days become less intense. The grief becomes part of who you are and you learn to incorporate it into your life. The best analogy I can think of is like learning to live again after losing a limb.

    Also, I understand the need to step away from other people's grief from time to time. The weight of it all can seem so very heavy at times.

    Hugs to you.

  11. i just wanted to say that it's ok to step back from time to time. sometimes i can't go to glow, because it's too hard to be surrounded by other peoples' grief. and that's ok. we have to look after ourselves, particularly on bad days.

    thinking of you xx

  12. I just had to have an intervention with my mother because she is so depressed over everything that happened last year. I found myself getting angry because I was having to counsel her. HELLO...this shit happened to me!!!! But, as you said, this shit happened to everyone that loves us. It's just hard to deal with everyone elses grief on most days.

    Dennis and I think and talk about you, Duck and Eliza pretty much every day. I hope you start to have more of the good days and fewer of the bad days.