My friend who I do know (now)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Yesterday was the most normal I have felt since Max's shiva ended.  I met Molly and her family before they left to go back home to Park City.  We were supposed to meet on Sunday but they all came down with a bug.  So, yesterday, I picked up lunch and went over to meet them at the house they were staying at in West LA.  She was so much better in 3D.  She was sweet and warm and compassionate.  And, although, our stories are so much different in the ways that we lost our children, our stories as bereaved parents are very similar.  We both lost our first and only.  We were both in the hospital with our children while they were hooked up to life support.  We both watched our children die.  We both suffered (in my case, am still suffering) from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  The way she described the most horrible scenes flashing in front of her at all times of day without warning was so familiar.  I always think about Maxie's beautiful smile and sweet disposition (and his tiny little hands, and chubby feet and perfect belly button) but I never know when those terrible scenes of him in the hospital will come rushing over me.  They make a lot of surprise attacks and it is really scary.  I met her husband Vic and their almost three year old son, Peter, too.  It was a really eye opening experience for me to see just how much they love their little boy.  I feel like I could never love another child as much as I love Max even though intellectually I know that can't be true.  A lot of what Vic told me about his experience mirrors what I see Ted going through as well.  Next time, I hope we can all meet together.  This family has been in the trenches and they are on their way out but Lucy is so with them still.  I know that they both still struggle and they told me that even still, almost four years later, they wake up and can't believe that it actually happened.  It was also the first time I have spent time with a little kid in months.  Gosh - I just love kids.  He was so full of energy and love.  I felt a little stab in my heart when he climbed onto his mommy's lap.  I longed for Maxie so much when I saw Peter get into his car seat with his little bee blankie and fall asleep.

Something I found interesting and that actually made me jealous really (if one can even BE jealous of another bereaved parent) was that she didn't relate to a lot of the strange comments I have received since Max died.  Nobody compared her loss to the loss of their dog or anyone else for that matter.  People in her community seemed to really understand that the loss of a little girl was incredibly tragic, not just something you get over.  That to be a parent, having to live each day without their child, was not the order of the world and shouldn't be.  She thinks that perhaps it was because so many members of her community were at church with them the day that Lucy choked.  It was their trauma too.  Yesterday evening I received an email from a bereaved parent who told me that one friend had made a comment about how the couple needed to be strong for their remaining child.  Bereaved parents KNOW these things.  We don't need you to tell us.  Mostly what we are thinking is "Easy for YOU to say".  The friend later apologized and the couple felt that perhaps the friend was just trying to be strong in the moment and forgot to be compassionate.  I am impressed that the friend even thought to apologize.  My experience has been that I have had to spell out in great detail exactly why hurtful comments hurt me to the person who made the comment.  Usually they even get defensive and mad at me in response for daring to say that they hurt me.  Anyway, it struck a chord.  Is that what has been going on?  Are people trying to be strong "for us" so that they don't have to be compassionate?  Or, because they feel strength is more important than compassion?  Or because they are just uncomfortable with compassion?  Ugh.  I don't need strong.  Ted and I have to be strong every day just to keep on living.  All I ever wanted was some compassion. I don't need your strength.  I know it isn't hard for you to be strong.  You didn't lose a child.  I know it might be a little harder for you to be compassionate - I think you are up for the challenge.

Another thing that I took away from my visit with Molly was to not feel bad about talking about Max when people ask me if I have children.  I struggle with this question.  Ted came up with a good answer to the one random stranger who asked him.  He said, "It's complicated" and left it at that.  A guy probably won't push any further.  Women usually do though.  I often say, "I had a son, but he passed away almost seven months ago".  When I say that, people look at me like I just ruined their day.  Or, they ignore it completely, like I never said it at all.  Molly told me she also just tells people about Lucy.  She said she doesn't tell them to punish them or make them feel uncomfortable.  She tells them because they asked.  If it takes people out of the comfort of their daily fog, then so be it.  We don't get the luxury of a protective shield.  I am already suffering day in and day out.  I don't really need the added stress of worrying how my loss will affect strangers.  I don't think I could ever say just say "No, I don't have any children".  I have a son whom I love very much, who lived a beautiful life, whose life had so much meaning, whose existence changed my life forever.

I loved meeting Molly, Vic and Peter.  Next time I see them, there will be a little girl with them too as Molly is five and half months pregnant.  We talked about dreams.  I told her that I dream about Max every single night now.  Usually I have bad dreams but once in a while, they are wonderful.  She told me that she has only dreamt about Lucy a few times since her passing.  That made me sad.  Last night, I actually dreamt about Molly and Lucy.  I dreamt that Lucy was sitting down in a chair and reaching for her mommy and that Molly was standing next to her and couldn't see her.  She did, however, have a smile on her face and her hands on her pregnant belly.  My subconscious brain wants to believe that Lucy is coming back to her.  Wouldn't that be lovely?

10 comments:

Amy R said...

They sound like a beautiful family, Abby.

I can only imagine how bad the PTSD is for both of you. We know so little as a culture about the process and time line of grief. I wish people were more understanding of what you are going through. I'm so sorry.

Tamar said...

I'm so glad you had the chance to spend some time with Molly and feel "normal" and validated. I'm so sorry you have to navigate this horrible existence,and that you are experiencing anything less than deep compassion from everyone you come across. I am thinking of you and Ted and Maxie and sending love.

Katie (LukeGrantsMom) said...

I am so glad you were able to have this connection, the family sounds amazing (thanks as well for posting the link to her blog – you were right it is worth reading). I think there is so much we just cannot understand about what happens after this life, who knows what the dream could mean? I believe lovely things do happen after this life (as well as in it), and we will get to be with out children again. The question about “how many children do you have” or if you are pregnant “is this your first… how many do you have?” These are not easy questions; even when I am prepared for it I still feel a rush of pain. I have said twice since Luke died that I only “have” one child. I felt guilt for it and I don’t plan to ever say it again. At the times I said it so I would not breakdown. Now, I feel if I breakdown I must need to. If someone does not ask me to expand on my answer I won’t (at least not with a stranger). I like talking about Luke and believe people should be more aware how much grief is out there and that it is OK to show it. It helps to talk to people about it, for their awareness and for myself. Even if people do look stricken at the time to be around those grieving; it helps with the awkwardness and those who are not compassionate can perhaps learn to be more so. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s day by saying my baby died, but if it does – it is their issue not mine.

maxiesmommy said...

I definitely feel like every parent should reply however they feel most comfortable. I don't think there is anything wrong at all with saying whatever gets you out of each situation as unscathed as possible. I just feel that for me, personally, I end up more hurt when I try to protect other people's feelings rather than worry about my own. But, I will let myself off the hook if I ever answer differently.

Katie (LukeGrantsMom) said...

I agree with you - every parent should reply however works best for them. For myself, I feel guilty (so I don't plan to say it again...but I do reserve the right to change my mind in the future). I don't think one should feel guilty, but for me it hurts not include in Luke. I know my husband does not include Luke and for him he says it hurts to include Luke. He says we don’t “have him”, so for him he is answering honestly. Like you said whatever is the best for the individual. For me I have answered the question many times, but only expanded a handful times about Luke dying or not being with us. One time I had said “I have one child I get to take care of and one I don’t get to take care”. That sounds a bit like social services took him away. But that person did not ask me to expand, so I didn’t.

Lesley said...

I'm so happy that you met them and that it was a positive experience! They sound wonderful, and I'm proud of you for going and for meeting their son. I remain so very sorry that you have to go through any of this at all. It is so unfair and so unjust. You will see Max again. You will love another child again. Don't you worry at all about protecting anyone's feelings. They are not yours to worry about. You all continue to be in my thoughts.

Julie Jenkins said...

I found your blog through Molly's blog. She always makes me feel normal for my feelings. I haven't lost a child but I had 3 miscarrages in one year, and 1 before my last child and no hope for ever trying again. It leaves a hole in my heart that I feel will never be filled And I remember people saying to me be grateful for the 3 children you do have, it would make me soooo angry! Who said i wasn't grateful for them? And just because i want to curl up in a ball and stay in bed forever does not mean I'm not grateful it means I am grieving the life I never got to meet. So when you said people say to be strong for the child they have that struck a cord with me as well, as if the parent doesn't know that, at the same time I think it is good for our children to see us have emotions, that way they know that they are okay to have them.
I'm so sorry for your loss, he is a beautiful little boy.

Becca said...

I just found your blog through Molly's as well. I'm not sure if you'd want a comment from somebody like me because I have no idea of the depths of your pain. None. But your blog hit me so hard because I have a baby named Max - almost 10 months - and we also call him Maxie. I am so, so sorry that your Maxie died. I love my Max so much and I just feel a love for your Maxie as well. I just wanted to tell you that. I hope that isn't out of line.

Joy said...

I am so so sorry for you loss! Your son IS adorable!!! That won't change- he is still your son. I found your blog through Molly's blog too. One thing that I don't know if she mentioned is that our church teaches us to "mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort". Interesting how those are two different things and usually at different times. Sometimes we may want words of hope and encouragement. And sometimes we just need someone to cry with us- and THAT'S ALL! Don't try to make it better because you cannot. I do think people mean well though- they just don't know that it is ok to JUST mourn and grieve with the mourner and nothing more.

And what is with the comparison of pain! There is no way to quantify how much someone is hurting and WHAT is the POINT?! That your was 3 months, 9 months, 3 years, 13 years there is never an good or easy age to lose a child! It is not less painful or more painful! Why do people try to quantify the experience some how?!?! Let's just have compassion for each other and know it is ok to cry together.

I cry with you Abbey.

Ashley Sullenger said...

I too had people relate their dog's death to our daughter. It made me furious. I think we have all struggled with answering the "how many kids" question. But I liked what Molly said. Hope things are improving, and your figuring out the best way to handle your grief.

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