Someone anonymously commented the other night that my writing has gotten better on this blog. How is it possible to be so enraged by a compliment, especially one that I hope is true about the writing throughout my life?
Why is it better? Because I am not so wracked with grief? Because I am able to think a little clearer without the refrain 'Lucy is dead' echoing in my brain? Because everything isn't so raw and tender? Because it is more palatable when I don't write about the fact that my daughter died every post?
Of course, the answer to all those questions is "yes". Yes, because the grief is not so raw. Yes, because I can breathe now. Yes, because I tend to fix my grammatical errors more readily. Yes, because my daughter didn't just die. Yes, because I am not a mess every minute. Yes, because I have written every day for a year. Yes, because my emotions aren't so dire. Yes, because I have become more than just grief.
Early in my grief, a multi-decade friend wrote on Facebook after a particularly goofy comment I made after months of silence, "Now, there is the Angie I know." There I am. There is the not-sad Angie. There is the light-hearted Angie without daughter death on the brain. There is the Angie without suffering. I was still there. I am still here.
The experience of losing my child affected me.
Is that surprising? If I wasn't outwardly affected, would people talk about my callousness or about my resilience? Wouldn't people wonder why I didn't cry and mourn so publicly? Would my morality be called into question? Instead, I am verging on the overly emotional/obsessed with my stillborn daughter. (By the way, I am also obsessed with my alive-born daughter too, but that is okay, right?) I am never quite healthy enough for regular society. Too much. Too little. I have given up the game.
My Face, as one of my friend's mothers accidentally called it, is one of those strange anomalies in life where you connect with all these divergent people in all these different spheres of your life. And while you can tailor your writings to whatever sphere you wish, mostly, you just post your life in a sentence or two to everyone. At least, I do. Too lazy to figure out who can handle what, I just put it out there. When your child dies, suddenly, you realize, like all the lights suddenly came on, that everyone is wearing clown noses and wacky wigs, and you no longer think it is funny.
On October 15th, which is Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day, I was de-friended by two people. I don't really care about those friendships; we were not close in any meaningful way, but it was a stark reminder of how unpalatable my grief had become. I hadn't even grieved for a year at that point. I had posted a remembrance of my daughter as a status update, and a video from the Australian Stillbirth Foundation. Within ten minutes, I was short two friends. And really, that is part of what you learn that those friends, the FB friends, the people who forwarded "You know you are from Pennsylvania when..." emails, the people who never said "I'm sorry," they really weren't friends to begin with. They were the illusion of friends.
I feel like my biggest struggle of this new year will be in confronting and reconciling my old life, my old friends and my old way of being with who I am now. As the shock of Lucy's death becomes less, uh, shocking, and a new baby, hopefully, will enter our family, I know I will confront the inevitable decision of what to do about the people suddenly returning when good news has trumped the bad (if it indeed does). Ignore the silence of the last year? Confront them? Reject them? What? What is the most compassionate thing to do for all involved? Part of me feels like this year has taught me how important it is to be self-compassionate, and yet, that has felt somewhat not at all compassionate to most everyone else in my life.
We have no friends really. No one we hang out with as a couple. No one we meet for dinner or drinks. In my desire to be honest with this journey, I have driven our friends away, or they never really came around to begin with. I recognize my place in it, yet I cannot imagine doing anything differently. If I didn't speak my hurt, I would have been dishonest to myself. When I spoke it, I risked losing those friendships. When I balanced those two choices, I felt honesty was my only choice. I know those friends felt helpless. Though they did the best that they could, I had to say when I needed more compassion.
One friend kept sending me her new baby girl's pictures posing with their older daughter. When I didn't respond to them immediately, she retitled her emails to read things like "Patrick Swayze" and when I would open it, there would be a picture of her daughters. I asked her if she wouldn't mind just sending me an email asking me if I wanted to see them before just sending the pictures. I told her that some days I cannot bear to see sisters or babies or both. It breaks my heart, I told her, though I was extraordinarily happy for her beautiful family. I just sometimes need to process what I am about to see before I see it. She apologized and never wrote again. It has been six months.
But what should I have done in that scenario? Keep erasing the emails and not responding? Wouldn't she be hurt by my lack of response to her daughter? I wish I knew. I could only follow what felt most important to me, which is be honest with a friend about which I cared deeply, hope she didn't take it personally and that she would continue to include me in the baby's life.
I understand that others feel awkward and impotent, somehow unable to co-exist with my delicate emotions and my new state of being, or maybe my new impatience and bitchiness. Perhaps they are waiting for us to reach out again, or maybe they just saw our grief as too much to handle with the other stresses of their life. They weighed their choices too. I remind myself of that. I feel like I have entered a new world, one where I have to be true and brave even in the midst of my grief. Some days, though, I just do not know what the truth is anymore. Or bravery. Or what is is, if you know what I mean.