Friday, September 16, 2005

What do I know about Loss?

I realized a few months after my son Elijah died that when people asked how we were doing, they would listen to me say how I, my DH, or daughter were doing, and then as soon as I mentioned Elijah by name, they would look the other way, change the subject, cough, become visibly uncomfortable. I am guessing it is because to talk about a dead child, it means that they have to somewhat project themselves into the situation and imagine their own worst nightmare...losing a child.
After a few mos of encountering this over and over, I just decided that I really didn't care - it wasn't their 'cross to bear' as it were, and if they asked then they would damn well hear about whatever I had to say. I'd say about 98% of the time, I answer that question with full disclosure. I get asked alot right now if this baby I am carrying is my second. I say no, my third. And then they see supergirl (#1) and look around for #2, look back at me questioningly, so I usually have to fill in. My son spent over a year (13 months and 11 days to be exact) with our family - in my mind he IS my child, I want that acknowledged, and I also want the 'credit' for carrying him and bringing him into the world. I want my daughter to know that I am not discounting him in any way - she remembers him, so how could I act like he wasn't here? I think it's a bad message to give her.
Plus, some days I just feel like"it's nobody's fucking business but since you asked I'm gonna get in your face anyway and hit you with 'the sledgehammer'"...I guess you could say I am still pretty angry about my loss.
I struggle with this question, for often I find myself more engaged with a stranger than I would like to be, but how else to answer it without having that pit in my stomach later?
I don't know,maybe it will change someday, but even the thought of that makes me sad. I need for him not to be forgotten - he was my living breathing son. And if that makes other people uncomfortable, well, they get to make a choice about who they hang out with too.
One of my best friends now is someone I met AFTER Elijah died. She is totally amazing, in that most of my friends really weeded themselves out after this happened. I met her at a bday party with my daughter about a year ago. We had just returned from the summer away, and some moms that I knew were asking me how my daughter was doing. I replied that she was doing pretty well, but she spent the first 2 weeks in Maui going up to strangers and telling them that her baby brother died. The other mothers gasped, and this one mom who had her back to us but was listening turned around and said, laughing, 'Wow! That's a good way to get attention - did it work for her?'
They all gasped again, and I kindly told this new mom that yes it did, but unfortunately it was true - her little brother had died 4 mos ago. Well, this mom just turned beet red and said 'wow - could i put my foot in my mouth any further? I feel like an idiot! I just thought that was such a great way to get attention....very creative.' and I instantly loved her....because she reacted in such a real way and didn't try and backpedal out of it. I actually cracked up. Probably for the first time in four months.
A few weeks later this new mom invited me to her house for a playdate for our kids and lunch, and the first thing she said was 'Would you tell me all about Elijah? What was he like and what do you miss about him most?'
We became great friends immediately and I love her to this day. She is going to be at the birth of Bubbles if it all works out okay, because she is a bit of a bulldozer -like me- and she will make a better doula than any doula I know. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

ali said...

you know, after my son Travis died, I wish I could have had the freedom that your daughter chose to have....i wanted to go up to people and say "my child has died". But all of the "social politeness" I learned in life, coupled with my desire to not be locked behind doors that I cant open, prevented me this freedom of expression. But i wanted to....and inside of my head I did.
Now, almost 2 years later, I dont have that same need. But, like you, i will always freely speak of my son and the incredible love he brought to our world!