Thursday, January 7, 2010

Brave new world.

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.


  1. Patrick Swayze? To trick you into opening them? That just seems cruel.

    I wish it didn't take such a special person to truly walk this path with us, embrace us in all of the sadness and all of the ways in which we are forever changed. I wish more people were capable of that. xo

  2. We too, lost many of our friends. We are not particularly welcome at church, we don't much fit in.

    it is such a hard thing.

  3. I don't know the context in which the comment about the "old Angie" was given, but my first instinct is that of the friend being glad for YOU that you were doing better (her perception).

    I'm not a babylost mom, so I can't relate. But I just cannot imagine it. My head screams "what sort of people were you friends with?!" but I suspect many "nice" people just don't know how to deal with grief.

    As for your writing, I've been amazed by your eloquence since I first started reading.

  4. We never really had a lot of friends in our area to begin with so there wasn't much to lose. Prolly a good thing I guess.

  5. yes, i know what you mean.

    i haven't spoken up to my friends, and i feel like i am losing them anyway. partly b/c whatever head space i'm in, they just don't want to visit. and partly b/c my silence has made me resentful.

    so. we put it out there. or we don't put it out there. it may come to exactly the same thing in the end. boy, that sucks.

    i'm with paige - the patrick swayze thing is just mean.


  6. I should say that the baby was wearing a shirt that read "Nobody puts baby in the corner," and Patrick Swayze just died, so perhaps it was supposed to be funny rather than cruel, but yeah, the ones with New Baby as the subject were much easier to avoid.

    Misc Momma, I thought all my friends were funny, confident, supportive people.

  7. God that sucks on so many levels.
    Fuck em.

    It hurts that you have to deal with others percieved fragility as well as this enormous loss.

    You dont want to be the old you anymore because the old you has gone through a tremendous loss and that to "pretend" differently disrespects you and your daughter who is no longer with you.

    I am sorry about your friends. I admire your honesty. It shows strength and i know there are people out there who can be friends to you for the right reasons and respect your choices and life.

    I hope that you meet some of them.

  8. Tricked into opening photos - that is just awful.

    We lost many friends also. Perhaps easier as we already lived a long way from most of them. One, who had been a very close friend, spent an evening complaining to another old friend (who didn't know about Alice) about how I was slack and had not been in contact and was being selfish. Late in the evening she let slip to the old friend 'oh her baby died a couple of months ago but...) I still keep up FB contact with her but that's it - she can get f&cked for all I care. And yes, I am sure the old 'friends will all creep out of the woods once a new baby is here and they 'don't have to mention the dead one.' I will not be making time for them. They didn't make time for us when we need it.


  9. I think you dealt with your 'friend' sending baby photos in the best possible way.

    I'm being honest with my friends and am preparing to lose some along the way (it's only two months since we lost our beautiful Matilda). To start with I was worried about upsetting them but now I can't see the friendship surviving without my honesty.

    A lot of my friends have been amazing and somehow know the right things to say and do.

    But some just don't get it - one sent me a text 2 weeks after asking me out for lunch and actually said 'it would be good to catch up'. No mention at all about Matilda or even asking how I was. I replied and said I couldn't even fathom leaving the house and this was going to take months not weeks. I thought that made it clear. 2 weeks after that (so 4 weeks after) I got an email asking if I wanted to catch up soon and was I ready to go cycling again soon (we used to cycle together) - again I was flabbergasted and replied and said while I appreciate hearing from people, I'm not always going to reply and it was probably going to be 6 months or more before I felt like doing anything like that. Since silence so I relaxed and thought she now understood. But no, I got a letter in the post that starting with this sentence:
    'I hope things are starting to get back to normal for you guys'. WTF - how can she possibly think this is possible this soon, if at all.

    I know she's trying but now I don't want to see her at all for fear of what she's going to say given that she really doesn't seem to get how devastating this is to us.

    Another friend told me she found a 'things to say/not say to bereaved parents list' and said she was almost laughing, some of things were so obvious. I said 'like what? you'd be surprised what people actually do say'. She replied 'Well - at least you can have another child - really, how could anyone really say that'. How can it be so obvious to some people and just not to others.

  10. It's hard, you do lose friends. I know I took a step back and withdrew and found that when I was ready to be a friend again, most had moved on. It sucks.

    And OMG on the email trickery, my jaw dropped reading that BS!

  11. In my personal opinion, your writing has been consistently brilliant. No matter how many months out you've been from losing Lucy. And secondly, I'm grappling with the same bullshit you are with friends. Trying to figure out which ones are worth it and which ones aren't. Mostly, I am just happy with me, Simon and Angus these days. And I feel lucky for the small handful of friends who have stuck it out and who don't think I'm all better now, Angus is here.
    Keep up the brilliant posts, Angie. This was certainly another one.

  12. Another fab post, thank you. So true about the Patrick Swayze email, seriously? Wow, some people amaze me. I can relate to your whole post, all that is going on, trying to be brave in front of people when you just want to say my baby died and cry, the "obsession" with your children, I think that about covers it for me too. What I "cannot imagine" is that there are people out there who live in a state of ignorance that bad things happen to good people every day, all the time. It is called life...All is needed is "I'm sorry..."

  13. I agree with Sally. Your writing has always been spectacular. Anonymous obviously hasn't been paying attention.

    Too much. Too little. Perhaps we just can't win.

    It is a difficult decision to take. I found that most people got back in contact with me when J was discharged from hospital but I found it very difficult not to resent them. For saying nothing when her sister died. For saying nothing when I thought that J herself might die.

    I'm sorry that your friend didn't think before she sent you those photographs and I'm sorry that she disappeared when you tried to gently point out to her that you found them difficult to see

    Truth? Bravery? Is? Don't ask me either, I'm all out of everything at the moment. Sigh.

  14. I am not sure how to begin - so here goes. I am not a babylost mom and I am not a mom either. I have a handful of friends who are mothers and I often try and place myself in their shoes to try and fathom what it is like to conceive, carry and give birth to a little person. I can only imagine that there is nothing like it in the world.
    For that very reason-I also cannot imagine what it would be like to loose that little person- but in reading this blog, I try to.

    As someone who has not experienced this I relate in the best way that I can- having lost someone so close to me- and unable to wrap my head around it. The loss was almost 20 years ago but I can honestly say there is not a day that goes by that I do not reflect on my father and our amazing connection/relationship. I know that it is not the same thing- quite the opposite in fact but, that is my 'stepping stone' if you will.

    I follow this blog and always look forward to Angie's posts and your comments. I find myself wanting to comment and yet I don't want to say the wrong thing. I know that I would love to say the thing that would ease your day, bring a smile to your face and for one moment be a release. And then I will find myself deleting a comment simply because I have not experienced this and I would hate for something I post to be received in the wrong way.

    I remember reading that blog post in October and then making a phone call to see if I understood correctly, that you and Sam lost your daughter. My idea was to write you, Angie- a letter- yes! a hand written letter, as though the hand written part would help in some way! my instinct roared EMAIL HER RIGHT NOW! and do it right now! forget the handwriting for goodness sake!!

    I know that sometimes when the people close to us hurt so badly we want to do the BIG thing to take it all away and in fact that can limit us to not doing anything- because we kind of edit ourselves- and we might not listen to our instincts-this is not in any way an excuse for anyone- I just know that this is how I work sometimes and I think it might be kind of 'human' in a way.
    I do not understand why friends would fall away at a time like this-I understand that their are different 'types' of friends- from your 'casual' to your 'drop anything at any moment' - there are those that come out of the woodwork when least expected and those that drop off the way side.

    Giving birth is the most amazing thing that we do- the most amazing collaboration with another human being there is- so if that is lost I can only think that that heartbreak/sadness is like no other. Perhaps people fall away because they cannot relate of find in it themselves to try because it is so great- perhaps it is not being able to physically 'do' something. I just don't know - I do know that I am saddened by it. I think that you are correct in being honest about it and writing about it. That is what a true friend would want- yes? It is awesome to see the friends that you have here, in your readers,in each other, on this blog.

    In response to 'the old Angie'- we change everyday- everything we do, experience,eat,see etc. puts us on a new path- how we choose to incorporate those experiences, cope with them, adapt with them- is growth- not to sound kind of 'woohoo' but you are the Angie that is and that is the Angie we embrace. I certainly hope that I have made some sense and in no way have offended.
    You all have my love and good vibes- thank you for letting me post.
    continuing to read here,

  15. I know "Dirty Dancing" by heart, and I still would have chosen my subject header with more care. Damn.

    I find myself wondering, as my spirits lift a bit, if that means that I am now supposed to welcome back those whom I have told that they should stay the hell away if they can't take the journey. (Convoluted sentence, but you get the idea.) What if a year from now I'm much happier? Is my spirit of forgiveness supposed to exist in inverse proportion to my degree of personal despair?

    I miss having friends. I'm just not sure if I miss the friends we had. Or if missing them means I should invite them back in.

    This post is one of the many reasons I wish we lived closer, because we would love to join you for dinner and drinks.

  16. With Catherine and Sally on this one.

    Great post.


  17. Mind boggling. All of it. I think it's very mean of your friend to send those emails, too. I so identify with not feeling supported by friends. It's so sad to me that there are women I thought were really close friends whose silence since George died guts me. I'm sorry that you and others have experienced this, too. It makes me think of Mirne's post in the summer about the novelist who wrote, "Grief lasts longer than sympathy." I'm glad you're honest and I think your writing is always strong. xo

  18. ah the ol' friends thing. lately i'm finding that some of our good friends, aren't so good.
    one just told me she can't be around me b/c i'm just too sad. what? are you freaking kidding me? you're never around me so how do you know how I am? she's sad when she sees me, not the other way around. i work so hard to not be sad all the time. and yeah, if i am, i am allowed to be.
    so yeah, i get it. i have a post lurking around in my brain right now about this incident but i still haven't gotten myself to sit down and write it.
    i'm sorry angie. its all so hard. just know that all of us out here loves you no matter what.

  19. I lost most of my friends too. I was so suprised to learn that the very people that I just KNEW would be there for me, just fall away.
    I thought it was my awkwardness. I still struggle with losing the sense of belonging I once felt.
    I hate that this happens when we lose a child. It's like the loss itself is never enough. Most of us lose so much more than our little ones. We are forced to learn 'the rules' again when we barely have the patience for our own healing.
    I'm sorry friends didn't know how to be happy with their own lives and give you the space to mourn Lucy.
    The lessons we learn seem so unfair.
    Thinking of you..xoxo

  20. I hate when people say "Oh, you are back to normal." I feel like saying "I'll never be "back to normal". I live in my new normal."

  21. What I don't understand is this: your blog, here, is a blog about losing your baby. It's not about your family as a whole, really, unless they kinda "fall into" it - it's a blog about your changes as a person after losing Lucia. So what is the problem with writing about Lucy? I don't get it.

    If people do not want to read about your journey through grief and your emotional state from day to day, they should...perhaps not read the blog! Ya know? Yes, our babies being gone affect us every single day. Every day. God only know Josie's death affects me each day - there's never a day I don't think of her many times. Her death changed me, similarly, Lucy's death changed you.

    Keep doing what you're doing: sometimes other people can't take the path we walk - they can't walk along with us because their brains get overwhelmed and they crack. You win some, you lose some. You've won me!

    *HUGE hugs* XxX

  22. I read so often in this community about lost friendships, and I'm waiting for it in my own life. I have one friendship that's not as strong as it was, a friendship I thought I'd have forever, and probably will, but it's not how I imagined, and that makes me sad.
    Angie, your blog is beautifully written every day,I read it and you touch on so many things I struggle to explain, or to even pinpoint.

  23. I most definitely get you...

    I like most others have also been disappointed by friends. But others have been great or at least honest enough to say they don't know how to be with us. I don't really have the energy to care about the ones I've lost at the moment.

    Take care*

  24. Strangely, I got a very similar anonymous comment this week and while I tried to put it out of my mind, I wondered repeatedly why the commenter would say that my older posts are not as good. It would have been gentler to simply say that my recent posts were enjoyable or whatever. Because I only recently made my blog public I chalked it up to my own newbieness and because my parents are immigrants I decided that English was perhaps not this commenter's first language and no offense was meant...

    In any case, I look forward to your posts and am really amazed at how articulate you are. At one year out from our loss, I was just starting to understand what happened.

  25. It's really hard to know what the most correct thing to do is when a friend keeps doing something that hurts you, without meaning to. But to keep ignoring e-mails that are too painful to read would not allow your friendship to develop positively either.

    I have 3 friends now. That's it. But really it's easier to keep friendships going with just them than to pretend to feel a way that I don't for those who kept waiting for my "old self" to return.

  26. I don't understand that insensitivity and the need for you to HAVE to open her email and see photos of her girls. ((hugs)) I just wish they will not understand how it hurts to have someone force something upon them, to turn one's eyes upon the happy, knowing that sad is the other face of the coin.

    I too feel your writing had always been brilliant. xo


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