Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The differences

We are just different.

My husband and I, that is. Grief makes that difference so stark. Oh, the early days, Sam and I both lost it at the slightest provocation. Now, it is different. Our grief has changed, and our grieving has changed. The quantity and quality of it. I am often moved when he brings Lucia up in conversation, and when he thinks of her. And yet, with all this talk about the photos of our babies, it reminds me that we have none up in our house. It is his trigger. He doesn't want to see her in our bedroom, or in our living room. He says it is too painful.

I understand that, but I do want to see her. I want it to be normal to see my daughter around my house. It don't want to gasp when I see her pop up in the little preview window on the computer. I don't want to shiver when I open an unmarked envelope in our photo box. I don't want to have my daughter be some kind of taboo. She was in me. She is part of me. Like Beatrice. Like Thor. Why have we made her so different?

In August, I wrote about my marriage.  We have an amazing marriage and life together. We laugh a great deal in our home, delight in our daughter in the same way, dream and deal with our grief in ways that complement each other, though we are different. I miss my husband when he goes to work. He is my best friend, staunchest ally, artistic cheerleader, beautiful muse, perfect lover and the reacher of things on high shelves. I hit the husband lottery. Sometimes I think the biggest issues in our relationship are that we are too similar, get our feelings hurt in the same way at the same time. But, some other moments, particularly surrounding our grief, catch me off-guard and I turn my head like the Victor dog. "Whaaaaaa?" He begins speaking a different emotional language than me, and I am suddenly aware that the babel fish has fallen out of my ear.

I have tried to keep Lucy close to me in other ways. When Lucy first died, I bought this antique glass pendant. I wanted a momento mori. I meant to put a bit of hair in it, and wear it. Even for me, it looked beyond creepy. I just am not that Victorian no matter how desperately I love the MΓΌtter Museum. Then I imagined the questions I would get from strangers. I opted to write her name on a piece of onion skin and put a flower in there. The flower died, and the piece of paper floated sideways awkwardly. I wore it very briefly, like all my remembrance jewelry. I don't know why that is. My antique glass pendant is now rusted shut because I left it in the bathroom junk basket. I thought about and designed a tattoo. A friend once mentioned to me that if I had a tattoo of Lucy's name, I should get one of Beatrice's as well, and then that should translate to the jewelry. She has two living children and is very conscious of sibling rivalry. I can appreciate that. I would never want to make Bea feel like she is competing with someone who never is naughty. If I had all my children living with me, I would never tattoo just one child's name on me. But this is all I would have of Lucy--her name written on my body. Her birth and death date carved in metal around my wrist. A clump of hair. A grainy photograph of my baby covered in vernix, her skin torn across her face, in my arms as I weep. I wish I could explain it to her, but I imagine this is what everyone thinks when they see Lucy's name on my jewelry--they see the absence of Beatrice's name.

"Lucy is sick," Beatrice points to the computer screen.
"Yes. Lucy was sick."  Was she sick? Is that fair? And yet, she doesn't look healthy. She doesn't look alive, though she looks beautiful.

I understand that my husband doesn't want to walk into a room for his slippers and begin crying as Bea explains that Lucy is sick, or later when she begins to understand more deeply, that Lucy is dead. To think of all his daughter is missing. To think of all that he is missing. And yet I want to be surrounded by my babies, anyway I can. We stand at two sides of a large, plunging chasm. I would never want to hurt him purposefully, and he would never want to hurt me. And so we stand facing each other, arms extended, weeping.

Recently, when I mentioned my post about friends, Sam talked about how he has no male friends. None around here. He misses his brothers. He misses his frat bros, as I condescendingly refer to his other friends. And here he is living in a place where he never quite met people to hang out with. He moved here five years ago for his second graduate degree in nursing. Most of his classmates were female, and his male nurse anesthetist friends moved away from here after graduating. His workmates are like him--married with children, which doesn't exactly lend itself to hanging out. Philadelphia is one of those places where people are born, live and die. When you move here and meet locals, you realize their friendships were formed in elementary school. It is hard to negotiate the having of a beer. We have awesome neighbors who we have a beer with here and there, but it is different.

We recently bought a new computer with a video camera. I thought it would be cool to chat with my friends around the world. To hear them and see them. And after I set it up, I mentioned to Sam that I could try to chat with his brothers. As the fuzzy screen cleared, my nephew, niece and brother-in-law living across the country came into focus. And Sam's face lit up. I sat on the couch in the same room needle-felting and watching them. Sam spent fifteen minutes making goofy faces, and warping the image with some camera settings, pretending to pick his nose, as the kids and his brother laughed. He held up Bea's belly and tickled her. He made his smile gigantically warped and laughed. They joked about watching television together. They scratched their butt. Obnoxious words popped up on the bottom of the screen. They didn't talk about anything. They hung out together. Drank a virtual beer.  When he got off the computer, he gave me a huge hug. He teared up. "Thank you for doing that for me. I miss my brothers so much."

We are just different.

And that is okay.

I edited this post to read my husband and I are different, rather than men and women. I should not have made sweeping generalizations about men and women grieving differently, since the first two comments have mentioned that it is not like that for other couples. It is for us. So, I will keep this personal.


  1. I'm actually not entirely convinced that we are different, truth be told. I am, however, completely convinced that we go through things at utterly different times and that the men often lag behind where the women are grief wise. I suppose if I had to point to specific items on our list and how we felt about them, there'd be some points of difference, but the most glaring would be that my husband went through many of the same things I did -- just about six months after I did. I completely fell apart, he ran the show (much to my amazement), but when I got my shit together HE fell apart -- six months later. Etc., etc. etc. I guess what I'm trying to say is: perhaps your husband will come around, eventually. That you're there now, but he still needs to process a few steps before and who knows, maybe by next year he'll be much more willing to view pictures.

    Maybe not, maybe we're just the oddball couple.

  2. this is such a sweet post.

    we don't have any pictures of serenity up (except for one of me preggo), but I have been thinking about it, for about a month. I think I might put one up for her second birthday.

    and we dont have any other momentos, I didn't have any jewelry until last month when I got a family set, nor an alter like I see a lot of folks have. Her urn sits in the old nursery, and Triple S goes in to talk to it, but I never do. Hm, which reminds me, it probably needs dusted. I ought to do that. I see her in the birds at my bird feeder, not in some stagnant memorial setup.

    anyway, all that to say, that, yes we are different, but for me it's just because we are different people.

  3. De-lurking to say I love your blog and the way you write. Though I am not a babylost mama I do have tattoos of my daughters names. Also wanted to say that I didn't know you lived in Philadelphia - me too. Center City.

  4. This post got to me in so many ways. First, my brother and I have been communicating online. We live 800+ miles away and hadnt really chatted in a while. It's been nice to help alleviate some of the missing feelings, for both of us.

    The other really nail-on-the-head is when you talk about your husband not having male friends to talk to about Lucia. Peter and I were chatting over the weekend about how the loss and IF community is a tight knit group of women... That there are few fathers who blog... I had mentioned possibly going to the east coast gathering of women who have lost children and he said "Is there a group like that for dads?"

    We have pictures of our kids everywhere. Both of us need, love, want to see them. But we've had family and friends who come over and are very uncomfortable. Even those who have lost kids. Because they arent able to look at pictures of their children and grandchildren. Some have been gone a year, others 20 years. It's hard. But I can imagine how you feel. I cant even begin to think how I would have felt if Peter didnt want pictures up.

    Sending hugs...

  5. I'm fairly certain that men and women are different, and people are different from each other.

    This was a beautiful post.

  6. I think I hit the husband lottery too. And yes, we are just different too.

    I have a dragonfly pendant that represents Jordan. I wear it when I particularly feel her 'missing'. Birthdays, Christmas, memorial days. But I don't wear it all the time probably because the grief weight of it is too much to bear 24/7. But I like that I have it. It is special.

    I don't think I have to include my other children in the memorial things that I do; ie tattoos. I view it like I view Carly's sand pictures. It's special because its for the dead. It's all we have of them. I DON'T WANT my sons names written in the sand because to do so would mean something horrific.

    They see Beatrice's absence? I find it frustrating that people think focusing on the dead equates to not paying attention to the living. There is nothing absent about Beatrice or my boys. They are here. That is the point, our lost babes are not and the things we do to remember them serve as inadequate (though much wanted) substitutes.

  7. Precisely what Soph said. In fact I have been meaning to blog on this topic for weeks and weeks. Because people keep asking us if we're going to get Angus' name added to our tattoes, or if we're going to put his photo up next to Hope's. They are missing the point. We don't need tattos or photos or necklaces of Angus. We have Angus.

  8. Just hugs. To you and to your hub. Indeed, we are all each so different. I often wonder if what I see out of my eyes is really what others see. How could we ever know really? Philosophy of being alive, the wondering, bodies of energy bumping against one another or not.
    Just hugs.

  9. We're different. Definitely. He imploded. I turned outwards to blogging and people and cutting up bits of paper and sticking them to other bits of paper.

    We have the pictures up, but I sometimes think we'd honour her more if we didn't. Our eyes slide over them now, like they do all familiar things.

  10. The same, yet different. I get that. I am so glad you've shared this, Angie. We have George's babybook on the sideboard in our dining room and the children are free to pull it out and look through it any time. My oldest boy shared it with his friend who came for dinner last night actually. I want photos up as well - and the oldest two boys have asked me to add George's photo to the line of baby photo frames. I have to do it but everything seems to take such effort right now and my husband would be okay with it but isn't rushing to get the photos out on display. We've hardly hung up anything since we moved here. Our excuse is we're still painting... xo

  11. Ang, I could so relate with this post. David and I stand on opposite ends when it comes the grieving, and the same subject about the photo's has come up in this house. No photo's anywhere, not in the room, not on the wall, not online, not on the blog... I want to see Logan. I put him in a tiny slideshow window on my sidebar (Vista) and told David, its my computer, I can alteast have him there. And, he is on my phone. I didn't want to gasp either. I've had the same thoughts about the jewelery, and my Aubrey. But it is what it is. We have so little of our babies, some day our living children will know and understand. And I agree with Tash, it seems that I grieve at different times than David. Like lately, he's snapping at everything and seems extra blue. As you know Logan's date is coming up on the 24th. Sigh. I think its hitting my dh harder than it is me...or it hasn't hit me yet.
    BTW, thank you for mentioning Logan in your remembering this month. That meant a lot to me. :)

  12. I admire your ability to recognize that in yourselves.

    I still don't know where my honey stands. I can't see his grief like my own.

    Well said.

  13. Sam and I are different too.

    We don't have any photo's of Christian up in our home. That has really been the only thing that we feel the same about. They give me a lump in my throat each time I see them. They were taken after we left the hospital. He looks really dead. Not at all how I remember him.

    I wear his ashes in a silver sea shell that my friend made for me. Felt so strange posting some of his ashes across the country to her. She also put a few grains of sand inside the shell from his beach. I treasure that pendant.

    Love to you Angie.



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