When something horrible happens to you, the rest of the world expects you to pull yourself up by the boot straps and put one foot in front of the other.  They expect you to be strong and to serve as a model of grace and strength - even though they have no idea how it feels to be in your position, even though they have no idea what it takes to get there, even though they don't understand that the strength doesn't happen overnight.  Like any other skill, strength takes time to develop.  It takes practice and many, many failures before one can even feel remotely successful at being strong in the face of adversity.  The rest of the world has no patience - they want you to be better overnight - to model the behavior that they have seen on tv.  Though I believe I am stronger, I think my greatest strength these days is in convincing the outside world that I am better. 

When we lost Maxie, all of my power and control in life was taken from me.  We realized that everything we had dreamed of and worked for was gone.  There was nothing left but shells of our former selves.

And then we had to face people.  People who expected us to be strong and were angry and disappointed when we weren't.  And, so rather than continue to disappoint people, I hid.  It felt like hiding was the only control I had left in my life.  I was tired of explaining that, yes, losing Max really IS the worst thing that could ever happen to us.  And, NO another child won't replace Max.....and I don't care what your kids think about his death or how painful it was for you to have to explain it to them.....and IREALLY don't care how much tighter you hugged your kids after our tragedy.  It was all incredibly INFURIATING and insulting. 

I soon realized that my anger was empowering.  I didn't HAVE to listen to those ignorant comments if I didn't want to.  I didn't HAVE to smile and nod while you dismissed my beautiful child's life, insulted me and hurt me.  I could tell you to stick it where the sun doesn't shine.....and that felt good.  And, I am sorry if it hurt your feelings but you hurt mine too .....and let's face it, mine were a little more fragile than yours.  I've spent a lifetime tip toeing around insensitive people. It felt kind of good to give it right back to them!

And then more time passed - and I started to take more control of my life by doing things that make my moments a little happier, by taking small breaks from grief, by controlling my anger.  And today I realize that I now have a different power - the power of ignoring you.  The power of making you think that everything is good and that Ted and I have wrapped up this whole nasty incident and tied it up with a bow called Mo and everything is fine.  Because it is easier to give you what you want than to share our truth with you, and the truth is that you are too shallow too actually hear it.  And so I feel empowered by not letting you in.  I feel empowered by allowing you to think that I am strong and that I have accepted this loss and am moving on.  Because, let's face it - you never understood how I felt anyway.  You just wanted me to get over it.  And so I am playing the part that you want me to play, but I am playing it by my own rules. Today I feel empowered by not allowing the ignorance and insensitivity of others pierce my heart.  I am empowered by a greater sense of control over who I let in.


Lindsey said...

Thank you!! This hits home for me right now, it's exactly where I am. It feels weirdly good to know I'm not alone and insane, bitchy, mean, unreasonable and the many more words my inlaws use to describe me.

Anonymous said...

So true Abby. I have been hiding to. I cannot deal with the way people act. My own brother didn't come to my sons memorial because his wife and daughter were so upset by my sons death he had to be at home and care for them??? He actually called my husband and was upset by the online memorial . He was angry because it upset his daughter. I know my relationship with him is gone. I cannot even answer the phone when he calls. I am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful son. The pain is more than one can handle. My beautiful son was 29 yrs old. I love and miss him so much.