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Monday, December 23, 2013

"To compare is to despair" is what our grief counselor told us over and over again in our weekly sessions.  Ted likes to repeat it to me when I am feeling especially full of despair.  I like to say "To compare is to be human", but I think my phrase misses the point somewhat.  The point of the grief counselors saying is that to find true happiness, you must work to transcend normal human feelings about life.  Of course to compare is human - but it can also cause great angst, which is where I find myself more and more these days.  And, once again, the source of said comparing and angst is Facebook.  I think I really hate it.

A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with my niece at our family Hanukkah party.  We were talking about the amazing goal she scored that was caught on video.  We looked at it on her mother's Facebook page together on my iphone .  If I remember correctly, there were 63 likes.  I pointed that out to her and she was over the moon.  She was thrilled to know that 63 people had seen her game winning goal.  She felt like a mini-celebrity.  And, then I made a HUGE mistake.  I told her that I remembered seeing that her dad had posted it on his page too.  "Let's look at how many likes you got on his page," I said - like a GIGANTIC effing dummy.  It never occurred to me that we would find 5 likes.  Who knows why people "like" what they like?  Honestly.  But, I was thinking it might have to do with the fact that he lives on the other side of the country and perhaps his friends just don't know my niece like they know his other children.  Right below her goal video was a picture of his other daughter and it had many, many likes....I can't remember how many.  The excitement of the first 63 likes we saw was gone.  She was momentarily crushed.  Ugh.  I felt AWFUL.  I scrolled down quickly, in a panic really, to see if there were any pictures of my sweet and beautiful niece on her daddy's page that had a lot of likes and luckily, we found one.  "There," I said, "I think people in New York are just too busy to watch videos.  They really like pictures better".  Stupid save - but a save nonetheless.  It helps that she is six so whatever I say, she just takes as a fact.  And, anyway, maybe I was right.

My mom lost her beautiful dog very suddenly last week and composed a very poignant farewell, complete with photos for him on Facebook.  I was scrolling through and noticed that there were over 73 comments on her FB eulogy for Ben.  Many of the comments said stuff like "It's so sad when we lose our babies".  I felt sick to my stomach, though OF COURSE I know what they mean, because our dogs become part of our family and it is so so awful and sad.  I only have to think about "Marley and Me" to start bawling my eyes out.  But, like a complete idiot and glutton for punishment, I looked back to see what people wrote about Max.  Hardly anything, which is actually appropriate in some ways I suppose.  Facebook isn't exactly a sacred space in which to truly express a heartfelt condolence to someone on the loss of their only grandchild.  Intellectually, I know this, but it still hurts my heart and I don't know why.

Even though I do actually know why.  I worry that people breezed too easily over Maxie's death.  I worry that they don't recognize what I great loss to the world his death is.  I worry that they don't care.  

I find myself comparing in lots of other ways too.  I repost a particularly poignant quote from The Compassionate Friends and then scroll through my newsfeed to find someone else bragging about their kids fun weekend and I compare - "Why her and not me?", I think.  I can't help it.  I see posts that read, "This is officially the worst morning of my life", and I am filled with jealousy and unexplainable sickness.  I see updates that are meant to be uplifting that just make me feel inadequate.  And on and on it goes.  And, still, I like seeing what is going on.  And, it does ALL make me crazy.  But, I continue to compare and it throws me into a despair.  What's a girl to do?

The trick is to shut off that part of me that wonders "WHY ME?  WHY MAX?  WHY US?"  but it is so so so hard - because I am a human being and this is what we do.  The same disappointment that I saw in my niece's eyes when she found only 5 likes on her posted goal is one that I feel over and over and over again each day - as I write this blog and I know it isn't being read by many of the people who matter most, as I read the Facebook newsfeed and know that spilled coffee and a flat tire will never ever be my worst morning ever again, as I see the photos of everyone's happy families and know that mine will always be incomplete.  Perhaps recognizing this flaw is the first step in correcting it.  Jealousy, envy, anger - they are all so human - but also so toxic and they hurt me so much. 

Approaching the new year, that is what I am looking to do - transcend.  Last year, I kept my New Years resolution pretty simple:  take better care of my hands.  I think I did ok.  I wasn't diligent enough with wearing gloves while doing the dishes or lotioning after every hand wash, but I did those things a whole lot more than I ever had before and that is progress.  This year I will try to remember that to compare is to despair and to remember not to read too much into stuff.  This is a MUCH bigger challenge for me.  I have always been very sensitive and take things much too personally - an incredibly bad combination for a bereaved parent.  The fact is, I have enough to despair about as it is.  I am going into this knowing that I will slip, that I will read too much into something unrelated to our situation, that I will compare myself to others who seem to have it so much easier than we do, that I will despair at the inequity that I perceive.  I forgive myself for being human, because I believe that it is also important to be kind and go easy on myself.  I know that many other grievers feel the same way I do and this time of year is especially hard.  Be kind to yourselves and maybe, every few days, take a break from that Facebook newsfeed.  I promise it isn't going anywhere.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I stopped reading facebook right after i lost my daughter, and i am not planning to get back onto it ever. My life doesn't need it.

Abby Leviss said...

That is so smart. I did that for a long time and it was a good idea for me. Your life doesn't need it - that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

wishing all of us the strength to get through this holiday season, whatever holiday you celebrate. It is especially hard this time of year, b/c this season is all about family. When you lose your child, your family is forever incomplete. Forget about facebook, forget about all of the media outlets and just all of us remember to be kind to ourselves and cut ourselves a break....we need it!

Jane

Anonymous said...

I have such a love/hate relationship with fb. If I were you I would not be on it. As you said, people do not "get it", like at all. They cannot possibly understand what a real "bad day" is. I know people with perfectly happy, normal lives who hate fb and all the comparing makes them crazy. So to be on it after experiencing the worst loss one can ever experience, would be impossible. sending prayers your way

Jayden's Mommy said...

Jealousy, envy, angers all human. So well said. I hate to hear about how bad of a day people have for stupid things. I hate that my family is imcomplete. I'm sorry it's us. I'm sorry we compare.

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