Sure, it's one thing to scream at your baby "DON'T YOU STOP BREATHING" as they lay dying in the backseat of the car which is hurdling towards the hospital at breakneck speed.
It's another thing entirely to write about it.
It's one thing to feel your child take his last breath, give CPR to him for forty minutes, and then plead with invisible forces to bring him back as you hold his suddenly still body for hours.
It's another thing completely to share that.
For some, the writing starts as a form of therapy, a way to process, vent, analyze, cope. Sometimes it takes on a new form; one that was unexpected. The words which were so hard to string together are suddenly making sense to someone else. This person is a stranger, but they share with you their intimate thoughts and thank you for your words. They may have even found them helpful. Your words, your process, your pain. Helped someone else!
Someone may write to you to tell you that you reminded them to kiss their babies an extra time that night, to hold them close, to read them just one more book. To be grateful for them.
Once upon a time, a mother with too many tears, a mother with very few ties to a normal life left, needed to reach out to share the son who had just died. She was afraid he would be forgotten, and wanted to share the year of his life, and the time passing after his death. She joined some email groups. Groups which were full of other bereaved mothers and fathers and anger and fear. Military losses, murdered children, and the babies and children like hers. All gone too soon. Everyone reached out, every parent reached for a hand to pull them out of the shitty quicksand into which they had fallen the day they walked away from their breathless child. Nobody could save them. Nobody could save her. They were all in the quicksand together; not one of them had the energy to save another. They told their stories over and over, and received more silence. They could only read about how another child had died, how the little girl had accidentally wrapped herself up in the window blinds cord and strangled, how the mother helplessly watched her husband run over her baby in the driveway in his raised truck as his stereo blared and she screamed. They could only gasp and sob more and run up to check on their living children and cut all the goddamned windowblind cords.
After I realized I could no longer let my three year old out of my sight and forced her to accompany me to the bathroom every single time, I figured out that these email lists were not helping me, not one bit.
Once upon a time, a mother with too many tears decided to write a blog. She did not understand the rules, courtesies, or mechanics of The Blog, but she wanted to write. She needed a place to write it all down, the words which made no sense while they swirled about in her head, looking for an exit. She started to write about her pregnancy, and that was fine. She wrote about baby names and funny little stories which her daughter would provide, and this was also fine. But then she wrote about her son and his death. Nobody commented, but that was okay. She wrote it for herself. Then she wrote some more about him and how, in the aftermath of his death, it was difficult to cope with the stupid things people would say. She wrote about her feelings of loss and hopelessness.
Suddenly she created a stir. She must have offended someone or six, because she was put right in her place by the
She thought seriously about quitting this whole writing gig.
That mother had skin which had been thinned by the loss of her child, and could not, at that time, access her quick-thinking responses, so she deleted these comments and then closed anonymous comments on her blog. Even though she had closed the anonymous comments, she was still hurt by this revelation that she was a big downer, and just took a break from writing about her dead child. She looked for others writing about their dead children, but found nobody. Actually, not true. She found many women writing about their miscarriage losses, but however multiple or far along those miscarriages were, she felt separated from these women. She had experienced miscarriage firsthand before, and since losing her one year old child, the separation felt too wide...these were the stories of the loss of a dream, while she had lost an actual, living, breathing child. She found nobody who had taken the risks to describe their own losses and trials and how they got the fuck through it. Nobody who talked about their dead child in terms other than 'angel babies sliding on the rainbows of heaven', not that there's anything wrong with that...it's just...not...me.
So yeah, that mother is me. Was me, and still is me.
One day, with thickened skin and on a whim, I turned the anonymous comments back on. My friends were still reading and supporting me; even some strangers. It had been a while; and I figured I could handle it. I understood what a troll was, at least.
I decided to try and trust the internet again.
Some of the first anonymous comments came in, and they went something like this: 'I wept when I read your story/ My own child died and my family doesn't understand why I cannot get over it/ Thank you for sharing your thoughts on hurtful platitudes, I will put more thought into the words I say when I know not what to say/ Thank you for reminding me to cherish my children...' etc.
I was astonished. But gobbled it up. The internet did love me! I loved the internet and it was actually loving me back!
Around this time, I discovered Tanis. I laughed til I cried. Then I discovered her archives. I cried til I laughed. And when I read about how she started writing about losing her Bug and went from feeling cold and alone to warm and cyber-hugged and surrounded by supporters when she shared her story (and his), I cried.
I cried for myself. I had a big old pity party and wondered why I sucked so bad that people actually took time to reach out and tell me that I was depressing. And why didn't I go on prozac and get a therapist and shut up? (That last one, with a few years between us as distance, is the funniest one to me - since I did see a grief counselor for six months after Elijah died...until she suddenly died.)
I loved Tanis from the beginning, but I was insanely jealous of the fact that she got the big hug. Of the fact that her writing was accepted, her process was acceptable, and she was lovable. Of course when I met her last weekend, I had to pour my heart out to her and apologize for my misplaced (and to her..umm...invisible?) jealousy. At least I felt better. (And I re-directed my jealousy to a more appropriate arena, like her hot bod and consistently photogenic face.)
I had an interesting conversation about this with a far more seasoned (spicy, even) blogger friend last weekend, and she made me feel better with her enlightened take on it. She saw a shift over the years, from primarily troll commenters, to primarily groups finding each other and supporting each other. Wow. Simply bad timing on my part.
I got over it, obviously. I rarely get comments like that anymore when I write about Elijah, and I do feel the hugs.
I feel supported and I take the strength that readers offer me. I don't pray, but I accept prayers.
There is a huge gift in the realization that, when I woke up yesterday all FREAKED THE FUCK OUT, I could write, share, and get that damn hug I needed.
Thank you. You inspired this post, and this list.
I am starting a new links list on my sidebar.
A list of bloggers who are writing about loss as well as what they have. Parents who have lost children. Writers who write about smelling the flowers and wading through the piles of shit. Sharing their paths of grief and finding their way back to living a life.
They may need your support, or you may need theirs.
Find each other.
If you know of anyone who should be added to this category, please let me know, and I will.
To start with, I have:
Turtle and Monkey
Tanis, at Attack of the Redneck Mommy and Missing My Bug
Loralee, of Loralee's Looney Tunes
Kate, of Sweet/Salty
and co-founder of Glow in the Woods
Julia, of I Won't Fear Love