Saturday, September 19, 2009


Right now, there is this heavy humidity hanging over this loss corner of the blogosphere, like before a storm, where the heat is oppressive and the air thick. The clouds need to just open up and rain.

I believe that our community is facing a deep existential crisis. From what I can see, we are wrestling with some deep questions about unconditional support, about what is acceptable and what is not, about where empathy ends and self-preservation begins. We have an inclination to accept people unconditionally in this community. It is a good instinct, except when someone pushes the bounds of decency.

Sometimes a post really embodies the extreme fringe element of our community's feelings. So many of us have had fleeting, and not so fleeting, thoughts about who has it harder, why isn't that person commenting or following my blog anymore, loss of hope, jealousy of pregnancy and parenting, deep questions about why me. I can say when I read that as a normal, daily moral crisis on someone's blog, I think, "Those feelings are normal. Accept them. Forgive yourself for them. Move forward." But when does it go too far? When does the anger, fear and vitriol become too toxic? When does the grief anger cross a line?

We all make deep choices about how we want to learn from our experiences of loss. Some of those feelings, while natural and normal, suck us into an abyss, obsess us, haunt us. But ultimately, we must choose where we want to reside--in the darkness or in the light. We can choose to transform our loss. In my case, the death of my daughter has made me feel more compassion. I feel more able to understand suffering in all its forms, not just mine. When someone tells me of their miscarriage, I don't hear a challenge. I hear someone connecting with my grief, my suffering, and my heartbreak. It is a gesture of kindness and empathy, not dismissal of my stillborn daughter. But then again, I am seeking connections, not rejecting them.

In terms of blogs and blogging, I have taken this philosophy. It is what I call the "Turn the fucking channel" (TTFC) approach. This blog is my space, and each blog is its writer's space to say whatever it is they need to say. It is also my choice about what I want to read. I have felt a great devastation for some of the losses in this community, especially this month. It has affected this community a great deal, and personally, destroyed what little faith I had in the universe. I am still reeling at the injustice of it all. But it is also difficult to read so much vitriol and violence in the wake of that loss, even as I am deeply empathetic for the grief from which it stems. I understand grief expresses itself in anger and rage, but when it edges into violence, I need to draw my line. TTFC, so to speak.

But in doing so, I don't want to walk away from this community, even if that move feels safest some days. It feels safest because I come to this place to be understood, to be gotten...I am fragile. Sure, I become steely and tough when I leave my little house, but when I come here, I give this space my worst moments, my most beautiful revelations, my most shameful thoughts. Though others have it worse than me in this chaotic world, I still need to speak of my suffering, acknowledge the grief, mourn my baby. To have my grief invalidated over and over again in a space I have freely chosen to read feels masochistic and cruel, even though I have gone there to give my support and love. I have read those words slack-jawed and saddened. I do understand where they come from--the depths of grief. That I understand, but when I read people normalizing such violence...have we gone mad? Have we forgotten who we are? Our children died. As a community, I am deeply troubled to see people echoing this violent language, and honestly, this bullying. No matter how shitty life has been, it does not excuse death threats, threats towards someone's fertility or babies, or even the comments that equally express rage and curses. (Not f-bomb curses, Lord knows I am not throwing any fucking stones about that, but literal curses--"May you suffer" curse.)

And yet, the beauty of this blog community is that in your own space, you are free to speak your mind, to reveal your pain, your anger, your hatred, and yes, even your violence, but I for one am too fragile to be part of it. I guess I am turning the fucking channel and walking towards the light, but not walking away from this community.


  1. I understand that Angie and I know what you mean. I don't know why I felt the need to apologize for not being the worse off. I too believe that I have to 'TTFC' in order to have more peace with this community.
    Regardless of our difference in opinion, I can't take the insane anger and curses either. I actually spent a while thinking on it and decided that it doesn't matter the facts as much as the fact that I suddenly feel like less. That isn't fair for any of us.

  2. Angie,

    Words are powerful things. Powerful enough to destroy. I hurt for you that you've been wounded- I'll save the rest for a long email.

    Love and light to you.

  3. Yes, to all of it. And big comforting hugs. xxxx

  4. I agree wholeheartedly that we need to chose between the darkness and the light. I have chosen light. I chose it the moment her little heart stopped beating and while sometimes it feels as though the darkness is consuming me, I consciously try to seek out the light each and every day.

    I'm certainly not immune to "grief anger". In my life it has been directed towards unsupportive family and friends. But, with a few minor exceptions, I have not lashed out (at least not IRL). While it may not always be apparent from my blog, I have chosen the "high road". I have forgiven. In some cases I have had to distance myself as an act of self-preservation, but where I have done so, I have done it without anger. I have chosen this route not only because I seek to treat others with kindness and understanding as often as possible, but because it feels best for me. I don't want to walk around bitter, envious, angry and acting on those emotions. That is the darkness from which I actively try to escape.

    It's interesting because when I first joined this community, I had to TTFC myself. I read that space and thought to myself, I don't want to become this. I sought and still seek out fellow members who were ahead of me on this journey and who had let the light back in. Mothers who grieve and remember, but who also live and love, and can see the beauty in this life despite all the pain and suffering. That is who I aspire to be.

    But then one day, not very long ago, I gave it further thought. I realized that I don't know what it is like to walk in those shoes, so I gave up my judgment, and I decided that, while I often found the space toxic and personally I never want the darkness to consume me in that way, I could still abide. Then tragedy struck again. So I kept the channel tuned in and continued to abide. I guess I hope that by doing so, they too will find some light.

    I have thought about the impact on me and the need for self-preservation though. I have found myself turning the channel on most other posts that aren't full of hopefulness and light and love right now. I have literally been seeking out those posts and disregarding the others. Not very supportive, but it is what I need for me right now.

    I actually hadn't read it the same way (mind you I don't have living children). I hadn't read it as vitriol, just an expression of despair, but on further reading I do see it. I also hadn't internalized it. I still feel I am entitled to my grief, the full depths of it, as my loss is profound. And, I am grateful for my hope for future pregnancies and living children. I don't feel guilty or apologize for that hope. The hope is part of the light, and if my dreams of parenthood never come true, I hope I can still seek out the light and live in a world full of suffering and pain, but also much beauty.

    I have turned to this community to validate my grief when I feel it is so often invalidated in the real world, so I am terribly sorry this place has also made you feel as though your grief is being invalidated. I never want anyone to feel that way.

  5. And this is why I love you.

    Yes, yes, yes. A million times.

    I think the despair of the post one one thing, but the comments towards the 'troll' were unbearable for me.

    It was deeply upsetting for me to seen those sentiments expressed in the way they were.

  6. And this is why I love you.

    Yes, yes, yes. A million times.

    I think the despair of the post one one thing, but the comments towards the 'troll' were unbearable for me.

    It was deeply upsetting for me to seen those sentiments expressed in the way they were.

  7. Thanks for putting this into words. I think what's hard for some to see, is that we are all just trying to get by with our grief. It is self preservation, not a lack of caring. It's a hard struggle to balance your own grief along with those of internet friends/strangers.

    I have been struggling with this notion for months. I want to be supportive towards the new babylost mamas who find my blog, however, I feel that every story I read throws me into the pit again. So I find myself just avoiding this place more often than not, because I can't handle any more stories of babies who should be here, but are not. It's not that I am lacking compassion. I feel like I have too much of it, if that's possible. I feel the intense pain over and over with each story. And, honestly, I don't want to feel it anymore. I want to move on with my life and not let my grief continue to dictate it. I want to be happy. I want my family to be happy. I don't want to feel bad about not having suffered as much as others (it's like survivior's guilt). We have all suffered in this community, some more so than others. But we all still live with grief.

    I have come to think of this community like school. I still relate to those in my "class" best. (My class being those who lost babies around the time Hannah died.) Because it really is a journey and the feelings, anger, and hatred of the world changes with time. For me, it has subsided to just a deep sadness. And I think that many of the women I read who are approaching the 2 year mark are feeling similarly. It's not that I don't relate to others, like yourself (I wouldn't be here if I didn't relate to you!), it's more like just trying to find the light, like you stated. I guess I can see how this rambling comment may sound selfish to others, but for my family's sake, I can't continue to dwell on the raw stories anymore. My dwelling negatively impacts my relationship with my husband and my baby when I do. We have had long conversations about it and my husband would prefer that I give up the blogs completely because they can drag me down so much (emotionally speaking). I don't intend to give them up, but I have taken a step back. So call me selfish, but I call it self preservation. I still read a crap load of blogs, but I don't comment often anymore. That's about as much as I can offer right now. And I accept that that may not be good enough for everyone.

  8. Angie - I hear you and agree 1000%. Thank you for putting into words what so many of us are feeling.


  9. Hi Angie Thank you for posting your thoughts on this you are right it's a bit like heavy humidity... Ripples...

    I have been watching blogger/blogs delete themselves or people saying goodbye. I have seen in-excusable outbursts comments of pure destruction... I have always struggled with the differences of grieving (I feel/felt different in many ways) and yet am fascinated by the overlap and how we, as a group, work through certain issues, feelings, understandings together or at least at the same time. To me it seem like a form of group therapy. But maybe it's not therapy... self-help? -I don't know and it doesn't really matter.

    I want to just comment/respond to your questions on the quantity of suffering. I don't think anyone can quantify the amount of suffering any of us is going through. Nobody from the outside, nor anyone from the group within. Your grief is unique, for it is Angie grieving Lucy. This mother, this one unique woman, grieving this one unique child. Whatever the circumstances of this one mother, this one child (it being this first, last, one of twins, triplets, healthy, ill, stillborn, born alive...) it is their world that has changed and that is not my world. I can compare, yes. But I am not them, AND they are not me. Pain and suffering can't be measure. They are subjective. How we deal with them is as unique as are all our other features.

    As to when does it go too far?
    Well, we all navigate to the blogs we read... And we choose to read them. In my book certain things have been said on other people's blogs I wouldn't want on my blog, and so I edit. It is simple. I don't let it happen. There are people out there who's ideas I do not share. I can't nor want to change that. And I (can) choose not to read them. It is difficult to do that sometimes, and yes I see how partners/husbands in particular see the bad side of the uncensored reading habits we engage in at times, which result in emotional turmoil and upset... A long time ago I had some professional training on therapy etc. and one of the things i remember from then was the warning not to "open a can of worms unless you have the skill to close it"
    We have some very skilled/wise people amongst us here in this corner of the blogoshere... (and I personally see you, Angie, as one of them) I think there might be the skill base available that we can put the right lid on all this, together.

    Oh dear, a long reply which could/should really be a post on my own blog...

    I'm here, I like it here.

    Love to you

    xx Ines

  10. Thank you for saying this so elegantly and eloquently. xo

  11. oh, and just as i was re-reading this post... the uniqueness of the one woman, and the one child... I was thinking about the one woman grieving the child that wasn't her biological child? The surrogate child? The donor egg child? The step child? The adopted child? The fostered child? Does anyone dare to quantify any of the above as more or less?

  12. This is wonderful, Angie. You have a gift and I think you speak on behalf of so many. More than you probably realise as I'm sure many wont have the courage to step forward and speak up. There are so many of us right now feeling so tongue-tied. Scared about saying the wrong thing or anything at all for that matter. So a hush has fallen over this space. Many of us now feel our grief is no longer worthy - and that is of course not true - we all buried a child. The storm analogy is absolutely perfect.
    I support this post, and all the other commenters (and there were some really valid points raised by your readers - they are all as insightful as you) and I'm proud to call you a friend.
    Thank you for saying this.

  13. Thank you Angie for this - you have a gift for gracious speaking ... and Ines, thank you. Your description of one woman mourning one baby, our uniqueness within a community of shared experience was so profound.

    Thank you both!

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  15. Ach Angie. You always manage to get to the bottom of things with grace and eloquence. Thank you for writing this post (and to everyone else for all the perceptive comments)

    I don't know. I don't think I feel comfortable here anymore (as in blog land generally, not here at still life with circles specifically!) Maybe I need to do a bit of that old TTFCing myself.

    I didn't start blogging about my daughter's death until about eight or nine months after she died. Maybe my own blog would be a different beast if I had started sooner, at least initially.

    I think that CLC's comment about 'classes' rang very true for me. I've noticed that 'classes' tend to stick together and that the blogs I felt the most connection with myself were written by those who lost babies at a fairly similar time or just slightly earlier. Or in similar circumstances. I felt that these writers were lighting the way forward for me, showing me how to live without my child but that I could still love her and remember her.

    I think I started my own blog in a strange attempt to mother my dead daughter. I didn't have any other outlet for the frustrated love I feel for her. I love my girl immensely and there is nowhere in the real world that I can talk about her or her death freely. I can't claim that I came to this insight on my own (thanks afteriris!) but I think that was my motivation. I hope that is the message that people take away from reading any of my strange half-baked thoughts.

    Ines - I agree with every point you've raised but I could never hope to write with half the grace that you have above.

    Sorry for the long jumbled comment. xo

  16. Powerful post, Angie. Just absorbing it...

  17. thanks angie for this- you definitely put into words a lot of what I've been feeling. I agree with all the comments here and don't feel that I have much to add.

    I ttfc as much as possible for my own journey towards the healing. sometimes i find myself needing to connect with all the babylost mamas out there and other times, i just want the old me and my old world back and i forge ahead just living my life and ttfc.

    i also get the whole *class* thing- I find myself gravitating toward blogs where mama's are in the same place as me.

    anyway, thanks again for bringing to light something that is definitely a dark cloud over our amazing community.

  18. I have been wanting to write about more about this for some time now Angie. I have written about it in the past but people though I was attacking them saying that by choosing light I am making them hide and shut out their grief process.

    I could never express my feelings about this the way you just have and I thank you for writing it my friend.

    Threats of violence... I have turned the fucking channel. And I do believe that is the first time I have ever sworn in blog land :)


  19. How bad is my writing? Sorry Angie - I should proof read before I comment!

  20. Exactly. So well said. Thank you for putting into words what so many of us have been unable to.

  21. Thank you for putting all of this into words Angie...yes, yes and yes.

  22. I won't needlessly repeat what others have said, but I completely agree with everything you've said. I've felt the humidity hanging but as I'm trying desperately to see the light, I've found myself TTFC more and more often in an attempt at self-preservation. Thank you for this brave post. Much love to you mama.

  23. I've been trying to leave a comment here since yesterday, not because of a blogger glitch but because it's all been said already, and far more eloquently than anything I could write.

    Angie, I come here for your wisdom, to support you in your dark moments, cheer you on in your good ones and most importantly to grieve our children together. To connect.

    I disconnect from a blog when the grief olympics begin. Anger I can deal with, it's normal, but I can't and won't hang around with hatred, whatever form it takes. TTFC indeed.

    I choose to stand in the light alongside you and others in our community, however hard it might be at times.


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  25. I'm choosing the light here. I'm choosing to connect to hope and trust and LOVE. Aggressive energy brings out more aggressive energy, and I don't have time nor the need for aggression or violence. Nor do I have time or patience from a competition about which one of us is worse off. Where does that get us?

    Life is too short, too precious. My daughter taught me about love and compassion, and she lives on when I express it fearlessly. Thank you, Angie. You took the words right out of my mouth once again... so beautifully and perfectly.

  26. I think the point of this space is for each mom/dad to find a place where they feel they fit and that offers them healing and a place to be honest about the nightmare they find themselves living. I don't know exactly what happened that resulted in such negativity, but I do think you are right to choose not to let it drag you down into a place emotionally you don't want to be.
    I am with CLC, stick with those who you relate to the most, who you can share honestly with, who lift you up when you need it and who make you feel better not worse about where you are on this journey. I think the vast majority of the writers here do it because it helps them and in return may help others. That is a good thing. But if there are those who seek only to destroy and harm than by all means, leave them to their own devices. There words have no power if no one listens to them.
    I'm sorry you have been put into such a place. It isn't fair.
    Do what you need to do for you. That is the most important thing. Absolutely.

  27. This, yes. Thank you for writing it.

    I know that I am incredibly lucky right now, but I also know that I'm the most vulnerable (and superstitious) that I've ever been, and concentrated ill will (even when understandable and driven by deep, deep pain) isn't something I'm willing to face right now.

    But I'm not willing to leave this community, either. To come here, where there is real understanding, relieves much of the burden of living most of my life in a world where people don't even try to understand.

  28. thank you angie. this post is so important and well written. being away this summer i seem to have been TTFC quite a bit myself. and that has been good for me. i have allowed a little more light in. and in general i often don't have the energy to follow many blogs. i too stick with you mamas who are in my class.

    i have definitely gone into the darkness, the rage and perhaps my words have been too intense and violent for some. there is time for the light and also for the dark. and we are all free to TTFC.

    i don't think i haven't witnessed the recent blog issues you are referring too but i know that this blog community can bring up so much and i'm so proud of you for naming it honestly and eloquently.
    love to you.

  29. Angie, yes powerful post, and one I don't disagree with, however I do feel that perhaps we need to remember too that often it is not the blogger who offends but the comments. The blogger is simply blogging out an emotion, they are the one that is suffering at that time and an emotion is not up for judgement. The comments however have sometimes been left to question. Question why someone felt the need to leave something that is ultimately hurtful and destructive, and subsequently invite further comments which offend through threats and curses. I myself have felt a little disappointed with some of what I have read in blogland in recent months, however the bloggers I will not judge - heck I've probably blogged similar emotions in the earlier stages of grief.

    This is a strong community. The need to remain non-judgemental and to think of the consequences of what we write is important within the realms of 'ownership' of blogs and emotions. If that makes any sense at all...


  30. p.s. Yes, sometimes we all need to TTFC. But if we're standing in a room do we announce to all and sundry that we need a break from the drama that may be happening? I think not. I for one TTFC from time to time too. I haven't announced it. I'm sure no-one noticed me gone. And I hope that in doing it that way nobody was hurt by my distance either. That's just me - the way I prefer to do things because I always want to be here for you guys!

  31. Bir, totally see your point. I normally would not have announced my ttfc-ing. I don't normally do that, but reading criticisms of those who backed away, asking why, and reading very ugly comments defaming those of us who felt the need to backoff, I felt like it was time to say this isn't about not being empathetic. I am grief-stricken for such a profound loss, but I am also grieving for my daughter, and I need to protect myself. Her blog didn't feel like the place to begin that conversation, which really transcends one blog, but my own blog is a place where I can explain that point of view.

  32. Angie: I've come back to this post, and the attached comments, about five times over the last few days. The discussion here is so important, precisely because it's not involved in finger-pointing or doubting (and there might well need to be a place for that for many people, in discussion of the source blog referenced, but others are taking care of that discussion), but in looking at the essence of doubt of ourselves and how we survive and take solace from one another.

    This is a long way of saying thanks for, in your own need to TTFC, giving us another channel to watch and tune into, here.


  33. Angie, I've not commented on your blog before. Thank you for your post. I'll be digesting your words for a while.

    From my own point of view, I've come to blogging a number of years after my losses. I had not realized that there was a community such as this until I started blogging myself. Therefore, my blog ranges from crafting to grief - which sounds a crazy combination when spelled out. In a way, my interests allow me the opportunity to TTFC frequently.

    What CLC said about 'classes' strikes a cord with me. So often, the further one travels on this road, the less the grief or experience is discussed. I feel greatly connected with those who entered this bereaved world at the same time as me. Even if we may not talk about grief as much as we used to, we know from whence we came. For me, I'm always learning something new, which is what I want because I always want to be able to continue learning from my children. It's part of my connection to them.


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