Sunday, August 1, 2010

On blogging

I haven't much written in this space lately. I want to. But I just haven't managed much time for myself to write. Or rather, I should say, that I choose to paint, or draw, or email rather than write on here. Sometimes, particularly this week, I admit, this space feels really unsafe.

Well, actually, the problem is that this space feels really very very safe. Most of the time. And then, someone calls me out about my blog, and confronts me about something I have written, and it feels very very unsafe. After blogging for almost eighteen months and existing without my daughter for twenty, I have some insights into blogging about one's worst moment followed by a thousand more moments all with little daggers of awful. If someone was starting a blog about grief, I would advise these two little things:

Do not tell anyone in your real life about it.
People want to understand and help you and think that your blog is their way into your brain and grief, but they sometimes read only themselves in your words. You need your blog space to be wholly your own and safe. Once you tell them, you can never take that back. But you can always tell them. It is like virginity in that way.

Do not use your real name, or your children's real names.
Everything is google-able with the right combination of words. And the anonymity of Google for the searcher makes combinations of words virtually untraceable and heartbreaking when they end up in your site tracker. And your friends, no doubt, will be clever about finding out if you are blogging, particularly if you are talking about reading blogs.

And now, here are my insights into blogging as a whole:

Any jackass can tell you that a blog is an on-line diary or a journal. I remember my diary from junior high school--"I HATE So and SO. She totally thinks she is a hotshot." Next day, "SO and So is my best friend. Forever." Yeah, a blog can kind of be like that. Hopefully more mature, but I admit not always. It is still a diary. The beauty of this kind of diary, though, is that brilliant, smart, funny, kind grieving women respond, feedback and tell me--"Uh, honey, that is not about you being crazy, that is grief." Or "I feel that awful emotion too." And it feels soothing to be validated, even if y'all agree that the said negative emotion is not the goal, but a step on the path, maybe even a step backwards some days, but a step nonetheless.

The permanence of the interweb gives each post the gravity of an eternal emotion, but on my blog, at least, my emotions and feelings pertain to that one blog entry on that certain date regarding that one experience. This space was never meant to be a bible of how or what I think. This is not the inside of my brain. Each entry is the inside of a moment of grief, an insight into how I am feeling at the exact moment of the time stamp, not any longer.

Part of the brilliance of the blog is the time stamp. There it is. You can edit your words, but once a post is live, there is a moment connected to it. Some people might not think that time stamp is all that important, but I do. When I read through March 2009, I cringe. Such a different voice than I have now. The grief was different. The tone was different. I think I wrote more for an audience then, even if I engaged with the audience less. It was just different. As well it should be, it was three months out from my Lucy's death--storytime was a form of self-flagellation, the playground a minefield and my mother hadn't talked to me in five weeks. I couldn't quite conceive of how to be, let alone what blogging was all about.

Not one experience from my first year would I imagine to experience in quite the same way I did back then. Am I proud of all those thoughts and feelings? Not particularly, but they are mine and they are true. My blog deals mostly with the worst of those single, isolated moments and feelings. I was angry she was gone. I felt vulnerable, heartbroken, defeated, detached from my surrounding world. That is why I channeled this experience into writing and art. As a writer, there was something soul-soothing about writing about the good, the bad and the ugly of grief.

I feel I have been clear about what my blog space is, and very forthright in taking responsibility for misplacing emotion or feeling those ugly parts of the human psyche. I try for insight. I work towards growth. Do I fail? Yes, I fail. Miserably sometimes. I am not objective. I am not a bastion of justice. I miss my daughter. I miss being able to engage with the world and its humans like one of them. I miss every little part of the life I once had. Some people might see this experience and my insights garnered from loss as negative, I don't see myself or my writing that way.

It might just be something that you cannot understand if you have not lost a child. I never believed that before. I believed that each person had the capacity to feel empathetic about grief and the loss of a child, but now, I think there is just some parts of this experience others will never understand. How narcissistic it feels, for one. How the world seems to be absolutely aiming directly at your heart. And frequently hitting the bulls eye. Like Robin Hood, an arrow split by another arrow. Rinse. Repeat.

But the other side of blogging is that there are issues when you read someone's private diary. You read about their demons. You read about emotions and thoughts that are private. You either grow to like their inner life, or you grow to dislike their inner life. Some friends in my real life, I believe, have grown to dislike me through my blog. Not everyone likes me and I am comfortable with that. I, like most people, show people a very palatable part of myself. I have opened up and explored the nasty nooks and crannies of my grief and my personality through this blog. I have admitted things here that I am not proud of. Never with the intent to simply bitch about someone, though at times I have indeed bitched about something or someone. Never with the intent to hurt someone, but I know I have hurt people here. I guess my small snippets of hard times was really a way of me engaging with this new world after losing my child. Here is my gut reaction to a scenario. Sometimes I just need to vent about it. Other times I am just working through it. Some blog posts are the first reaction, others are the fifteenth. I wish I could say there is a formula, but there isn't. This is just me grieving. It is not pretty.

What I write about on my blog is about me. I know there are other sides of every story, believe me, I know them. I have justified every thoughtless word, hard scenario, unkind interaction. But the truth is, I don't really care what caused someone to say something insensitive. I am concerned with my reaction to their insensitivity. One thing I have come to realize is that you cannot protect yourself from every errant, empty, soul-piercing comment or dismissive platitude. You can become agoraphobic and not interact with people, but you will still read a book that guts you with insensitivity. So, for me I am interested in rebuilding myself within this world. This exact world full of hurtful comments and silly advertisements.

I can only compare losing my child to having all my skin removed. The world, though it looks exactly the same, is a dangerous world of bumps, vinegar, salt, and things that irritate and harm. As your skin regrows, you need to figure out how to reengage with the world around you. That new skin will always be sensitive to some thing or another. But as I am regrowing my own skin, judging my own immediate and sensitive reactions to the world and very normal human experiences, so I learn to engage with those immediate and sensitive feelings. So, if someone says, "It's in God's plan." The first time, I may blog about that experience and how I immediately felt about hearing someone say that. I develop nasty, angry responses. The second time someone says it, I am say, "I just don't agree." And engage that person. Maybe the third time, I see that it isn't worth the effort. But I need that blog experience to figure out if that will always be a tender spot and help develop a kind of band-aid to protect my wounds.

For me, the blog is not about getting attention, but gaining connection. There is a massive and important difference. The need and desperate pull to feel connected to other women going through this hell consumed me in the beginning. I feel normal and funny here, even if I look broken and sad to everyone else. I am not at the point, nor can I see one, where I would stop writing here, even if it stops being about grief at some point. Mainly because other blogs, especially those further along my path, gave me the strength to examine my grief, and society's engagement with daughter-death, and talk about it. I wasn't saying, "Poor me", but rather what can I learn in this moment of desperation? Why did I do that? Why did she? How do I go on living without my beautiful second daughter?

I have never answered those questions for the long term, but sometimes, I have answered them for a moment. And that...that is invaluable.


  1. This is an absolutely amazing post...and I am in complete agreement with you on everything. I have realized the dangers of blogging but that the therapy of writing has greater impact on who I am and how I am going to deal with my grief. Although, I haven't read everything on your blog, I love your honesty and "realness." I am glad to see that you are going to continue to blog and share your story...wherever life takes you. Thank you...and take care.

  2. I'm another in total agreement with all you have said here. The connection I feel to so many parents across the globe has become my lifeline, without your blog and many others, and without wise words from so many bloody wonderful women I'd be lost. I was lost before I found you all. x

  3. This is the reason I just moved to the new blog and hid the old one. I decided my blog world and my real life world were getting too close.

  4. Amazing and true as always Angie.

  5. Amazing. Yes and yes to all of it.
    Especially this:

    "It might just be something that you cannot understand if you have not lost a child. I never believed that before. I believed that each person had the capacity to feel empathetic about grief and the loss of a child, but now, I think there is just some parts of this experience others will never understand. How narcissistic it feels, for one. How the world seems to be absolutely aiming directly at your heart. And frequently hitting the bulls eye. Like Robin Hood, an arrow split by another arrow. Rinse. Repeat."

    I'm sorry for whatever the trigger was though that lead you to write this post.
    I think you offer this community so much and I would be so very sad to see you go.
    One of my biggest regrets to this day is telling a handful of friends and family. Now I really have no idea who is reading. It does make it hard.
    I hope I have the courage to keep going, as I right now I feel very stuck and I sure do feel like I still have a lot more to say.

    Amazing blog post on blogging.

  6. Absolutely brilliant. Thank you.

  7. This is such a great post. You have such an amazing talent for crystalizing and encapsulating in words the emotions, the reality of being the mother of a dead child. You are right--as much as someone can empathize, no one can truly understand what we live like every day. How even the littlest word, nuance of speech can cause the house of cards to tumble.

    I have shared my blog with maybe too many people, and it makes me cringe when someone wants to talk about what I've written. If I wanted to TALK about it, I would have. It is limiting what I can write about as many friends and family members read it . . .

    But I thank you for writing and being real--you can't imagine how it helps to read and then think, "Oh thank god someone understands." Well, I guess you can imagine . . . anyway, thanks.

  8. Agree 100%. I feel the same way and yeah, I wouldn't recommend sharing a blog with people you know either. Although initially it helps them to understand, eventually it turns to crap.

    Great post Angie. xx

  9. Wow... overall a brilliant post. I read it nodding in agreement. Glad you'll be around in the future.

  10. sometimes I don't feel like interacting like a 'normal' human either.

    And I don't think that non-deadbabymamas get a blog like this. So, of course, friends that know the personable you definetly won't get it, because they are seeing your inner thoughts that they never knew (and perhaps never cared to know) existed.

    Sorry someone found you and you don't feel safe expressing yourself.

  11. Your words should have come from my mouth, they are exactly what I have been trying to say. thank you for being my voice, our voice with this blog!

  12. Thanks for this. I sometimes feel guilty for not sharing my blog with family or IRL friends, but on the whole I feel much safer holding onto some anonymity. I think there are a few people out there who can get it without going through it, but not many. Not many at all. Sad, but it makes me all the more grateful for blogs like yours.

  13. This is a very powerful post and like most of your posts, you've given me a lot to chew on. Even without the huge emotion, I look back on old posts and cringe. I'm not that person from two years ago or four years ago. And yet, I am. Thank you for this.

  14. Great advice Angie :) Like Sal said, I am sorry for whatever has happened to trigger this post.

    This community is so grateful for your words and art Angie. Thank you for writing :) x

  15. I hope you keep writing - I really love your voice in this messy, fucked-up world of grieving we now inhabit. Sending much love. xo


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