Explaining

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Just when you think you've got a handle on something - some new situation pops up and you are thrown for a loop.  This keeps happening to me.  The question that caused me the most anxiety after losing Maxie was, "how many children do you have?".  I never know how to answer and the truth is that I know that, in most cases, the person asking doesn't even care....they are just making conversation.  I used to feel sick to my stomach in any kind of new situation because I knew that the question would come up.  It came up a lot when I was pregnant with Mo.  Strangers were always asking me - at the supermarket (when I went, which wasn't often), at the physical therapists office, while out shopping.  People truly believe that a big pregnant stomach is grounds for conversation.

After Mo was born, I figured out ways to get around the question.  When I meet people that I know I'll never ever see again (like once at park not close to home with Mo, or in the checkout line at a store at the mall, or someplace anonymous), I just say that I have two boys.  I love saying it actually.  I beam with pride saying that I have two boys.  When they ask me how old my second son is, I tell whoever it is that he is three.  I love playing make believe like this.  I feel whole for the split second that I am saying the words.  I am explaining my life as it should be.

When I am responding to people that I might see again - like at my own grocery store or on the nearby playground, etc.... I say "I only have this guy at home" and look down at Mo.  I'm not even sure what it means, but it answers their question, shuts them up, and it doesn't feel like I am lying.  It's true.  I only have Mo at home right now.  Ugh.

Mo and I just started a Mommy and Me at the local synagogue's nursery school.  The idea of the class is to prepare toddlers for preschool - so that when they get there, they are already familiar with the place, the rules, and the rituals.  It should help Mo get comfortable with the place that he will likely go off to school in a couple of years.  It happens to be where we planned on sending Maxie to preschool as well.  My friend Limor's daughter goes there and loves it so we signed up together for this Mommy and me as her younger daughter is Mo's age.

Anyway, the first session was a few days ago and it was all going fine until we had to go around the circle and tell everyone a little bit about ourselves.  I just said, "I am Abby and this is Mo and we are happy to be here", or something like that.  The teacher/facilitator said, "Anything else?".  My mind went blank and I thought - no, nothing else, I can't tell these people yet.  "How many kids do you have?", she asked.  "Two", I said.  "How old is your other child?" she asked....and then came the long pause.  How weird people must think I am.  That I don't know my other child's age.  So, then I have to explain.  And, then I remember - this is my life.  I will never be the regular mom in the group.  I will always be "this" one.  And, frankly, I hate it.  I hate it so much, I could just die.  And, the truth is, everyone was nice.  A couple of people came up to me afterwards and gave me hugs.  I am sure that they can't imagine how terrible it really is - because nobody can.

I seem normal and functioning from the outside and I can't help but wonder if people who hear my story think I must just be heartless.  I lost my child but am still engaging in life.  I can't believe it myself.  What must they think?  I don't know.  The whole thing is just exhausting.  All of the time.  Just when I think I know what to say, I realize I don't.  I can hardly explain it to myself.  How can I be expected to explain it to anyone else?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I totally get what you said:

"I seem normal and functioning from the outside and I can't help but wonder if people who hear my story think I must just be heartless. "

I feel this way all the time, so now I hate to be around my friends and ones who all know about this. I can't help wondering what they think of me if I function fine from outside. Sometimes I even wonder if I should just behave sad, which matches with my inside. I also often feel more free to be around with total strangers who don't know about this. I feel at least I can pretend to be someone else, or not to worry about how they think of me... I guess I have a werid mind.

Em said...

I think that that is one of my big fears. That people (and who cares what they think anyway, but I guess I do) will think that I am just heartless...losing my child but engaging in life anyway...

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to comment on what anonymous and Em said, I will tell both of you what I told my husband when he went back to work 6 weeks after we lost our daughter. He too was worried, if he made small talk, or laughed at a joke, what would his co-workers think? Would they think he didn't care. I told him....and I 100% believe this, most people are worried about you. They want to know you are ok. As ok as you will ever be. I really don't think our friends or families think we are no longer sad about the loss of our child, they think we are getting through the day as best we can. Most people don't know what to do for us. They know we are grieving, but we have to do what we have to do so we can survive the pain.

If we laugh at a joke, or enjoy a mommy and me class, people know, that we are sad inside, but we are doing what we need to do for ourselves, children, husbands, wives and the people who love us.

jessica said...

Dearest Abby, Anonymous (both of you) and Em - I am so sorry. I am so sorry that any of you have to think or worry about this. So sorry that you are missing your beloved children. I can't speak for everyone but I can say that we, the people who love you and stand by you as you survive through your heartbreak and grief, could never imagine you to be heartless. I am sorry that you have to worry about what people think (and so many other things that Abby so beautifully articulates here on her blog) in the midst of your greatest heartache. Thinking about all of you and sending you all lots of love. xoxo

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comments. What you said is exactly what my husband always say. He thinks friends and people around us are all worried about us and will feel happy to see we are doing ok or even have fun sometimes. But I feel nobody would truely understand how broken my inside is unless she/he has the same journey. Before I lost my daughter, I had no idea of how horrible and hard this journey is, and how long term impact this is - a life sentence.

emily said...

Abby, I completely get what you're talking about here. I dread the "how many children do you have?" or the "is this your first?" questions. The long pause where I mentally try out various answers is the worst.

Laura555 said...

i also get what the others have said regarding our outward appearances. What made me the most upset at the time of our son's celebration of life was people telling me how strong I was -- I know it was meant to be a compliment, but it felt like a slap on the face because even if I was holding it together on the outside (more or less), I was screaming inside and I didn't want people to not understand that either.

Anonymous said...

I read this one blog...she doesn't post too often. She lost her daughter to SIDs then had another daughter. When she posts and does not mention her first born daughter, I just always feel that something is missing. Obviously she is thinking about both of her daughters all the time. I started to wonder if people were saying things to her to make her think that she needed to not mention her daughter...that it would make people feel uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable when her first born isn't mentioned. I always think of her as having two girls. Always. As you've said so many times, your Maxie is on your mind at all times. You write about him so beautifully that anyone who comes across your blog for whatever reason will never forget your sweet boy. Keep doing what you are doing.

Abby Leviss said...

I think that people in grief know that their honest feelings are unpopular and that we generally feel an enormous pressure to show the world how quickly we've recovered. I don't feel like real grief has a voice that can be heard by the general public because it isn't pretty. I believe that it is important that this changes. Life isn't always pretty.

Blog Design by Nudge Media Design | Powered by Blogger