Good Grief

Ted and I haven't had a grief counselor in three months.  Our grief counselor, who used to come to our house weekly, lost her mother in June and has been in her own grief since then.  There were a few times in those months where she intended to come visit with us but it didn't really happen.  Each week I could barely keep myself together, waiting for her to come so I could spill my guts, but then she would have to cancel at the last minute.  She took a trip with her children to Northern California to scatter her moms ashes, and one time she got sick and another time her kids came home with lice.  I'm not bad mouthing her.  I love her.  I feel her pain.  Still, I've had no outlet.  A couple of weeks ago, we were about to get back on track when I got a call from one of her friends saying she had fallen and cracked her head and was in the ICU.  She was in bad shape.  We took Mo to visit her the next weekend and found out that she will be out of work until December and can't drive.  She has been running around in a grief haze for months and actually feels like this was inevitable and a much needed break.  I believe she is right.  Losing her mother hit her harder than I think she thought it would.  For the months leading up to her mom's death, she kept telling me not to worry, that she will be totally available and present afterwards.  Although she had been working in the field of death and dying for many, many years, she had not lost someone so close before.  She knew death and dying from an academic perspective and from seeing it first hand working in hospice and doing grief therapy.  But, she hadn't felt it herself.  She had heard from patients from years about how their losses had been compared to the loss of a pet by others.  When a neighbor casually commented the day after her mother died that it was such a coincidence that his dog had died the night before as well, she felt a punch to the gut.  People keep telling her that her mother is "in a better place" when she knows that the best place for her mother is here - where she can hug and kiss her grandchildren.  She couldn't believe that she was hearing all of the cliches she'd been told about all of these years.  She couldn't believe how much they hurt.  To know how someone feels, you must first feel it yourself.  That has become obvious to me.

I find it incredibly difficult to articulate exactly what it is about this that scares me.  But, it goes beyond the fact that we don't really have a grief counselor anymore.  Though I do feel like an important outlet for me disappeared right before the anniversary of Maxie's death, a time when I needed it most.  What actually scares me the most is that before she lost her mother, she reassured me constantly that people can emotionally survive loss and grief.  That things change and evolve...which I am still sure that they do.  She told me that her "experience, strength and hope" was that we would get through this.  But, to see that same person totally knocked out (literally) by this gigantic loss of her own scares me to death.  And, I know that losing a parent is enough to knock a person to the ground.  I know it is.  I never let the thought of my own parent's eventual deaths cross my mind before losing Max.  The thought was too horrific.  And yet, intellectually I knew it would happen some day.  I am so lucky hat they are both still healthy and very much alive.  But, as you know, I never thought I would lose my child.  I NEVER thought it would happen.  In fact, intellectually, I KNEW I wouldn't lose my child.  That isn't the order of the world.  And, so when I see her so knocked out by the death of someone who she intellectually knew would die before her, who was in fact sick for many years, I wonder how I can be expected to "recover" from Maxie's death.  Maxie's SUDDEN and UNEXPECTED death at daycare.  Not that I am being expected to recover exactly but there is this expectation that things should be getting better, that my grief should be changing.  In some ways it has.  In some ways, I think I am just dying on the inside.  I am just numb to most emotions.  I am a DEEP feeler...always have been.  I am sick of feeling stuff so I am just shutting down.  Someone recently told me that all Ted and I need is to have some time put between us and Maxie's death.  I don't know why it has stuck with me.  I guess I have been trying to just sit out my days, putting time between last summer and the present.  Putting time between me and my Maxie.  The thought makes me sick to my stomach.

I wrote a post on Sunday that I think was misleading.  If you read it, you probably thought - "She is getting better!".  I am not getting better though, I am becoming more functional...better at hiding the pain.  I guess what I am saying in part, is that if you haven't experienced a dramatic loss in your life, you probably don't know how I feel at all.  I think that is probably why you think that somehow this is all getting easier, when in fact it gets more complicated all of the time.  My post was in fact a kind of wish list of how I would like my life to be....not how it is.  It is a work in progress and I do not use the word "work" lightly.  I have never in my life been called to muster the amount of strength of spirit as I have been since losing Max.  To simply remind myself throughout every day that Mo deserves a happy mommy is hard work.  Happiness doesn't come easy to me anymore.  A small trigger (like accidentally driving by the ER where Max was taken after the incident) can throw me completely off balance to the point where I cannot figure out what the point of my continued existence is at all.  It makes me ask myself this question - Is it actually an honor to Maxie's memory to continue to experience joy in his absence?  I know that the answer is yes but it feel like a total betrayal.  I have no choice because Mo cannot be surrounded by grief.  It isn't fair to him.  It's complex.  I have to do joyful things with Mo so that he will be joyful but it feels like a mockery of Maxie's death.  Until Mo's birth, that's what it truly felt like.  Irrationally, hearing about my closest friends and family experiencing joy has felt like a mockery of Maxie's death.  That's one of the reasons I had to take myself off Facebook.  I couldn't see it.  I couldn't hear about it.  The world kept spinning after Max died...but not for me.  I was determined to sit in my house and ensure that, at least for me, time would stand still.  But now everything has changed.  I must be happy for Mo even if it means ignoring my greatest heartbreak.  I must be happy for Mo because he deserves only happiness.  Good thing he is such a sweet boy.  Good thing I love him with all of my heart.  Good thing he is a perfect, happy, easy dreamy baby.  Good grief this is hard.


Tiffany said...

i can relate to so much. grief is work. i am *still* almost 2 yrs later going to my counselor every week. sometimes she takes trips and i'm left to wait an extra week between visits. i hate it! i'm also not on FB (socially) anymore. i have a profile so that i can manage my pages, groups. but that's it. i could not deal with the constant barrage of everyone else's happiness while i am still in the midst of this deep grief. people just don't get it...

Susan said...

It feels like your counsellor has crossed a boundary and become your friend, so that you are now supporting her. I think that is unreasonable, to be honest. The last thing you need, on top of missing your session, is to end up counselling your counsellor. Your concern that she is unable to "walk the walk" after giving you all the talk really arises from the fact that she shouldn't be telling you about her grief about her mother anyway. Grief is not an intellectual process. If it was, you and I would be A grade students and over-it-by-now. She may be a good counsellor, who is helping you "process" Maxie's death - but it doesnt' necessarily follow she can plough through grief more effectively than anyone else. I think the two things are separate.

The positives I would take from it are that you seemed to find having a counsellor supportive. That's good to know. Why don't you find another one? Can't your therapist recommend someone - there are surely many grief counsellors?

Be gentle with yourself Abbie. You are very recently bereaved - and you need to cut yourself some slack. If little Mo is cuddled, fed, warm and loved - he is fine. You are doing great... And by the way, going past the ER isn't exactly a small trigger. Very few bereaved parents cope that well with the hospital where their children left them.

Hope that doesn't all sound too prissy - much love to you xx

Kevin Black said...

While my wife and I aren't seeing a grief counselor (yet), we are attending a local chapter of The Compassionate Friends. We have found it to be good for us, but for myself, I wish they held meetings more than once a month.