March 14, 2012

Half Truths Come In Pretty Packages

Eleven months in, going on a year, and my grief feels so civilized. Balanced. Healthy. Evolved. Appropriate.

Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst. 

I curb my anger by doing the dishes. I tone down my writing so that it's more widely acceptable, with less cursing and zero polarizing references to religion. I put on a happy face for the world even when my heart feels so broken. I keep my mouth shut every time someone tells me that my daughter died for a reason. I bite my lip when someone talks about this subsequent pregnancy casually, as if being pregnant for two years straight is no big deal, as if carrying one baby while grieving for another is an easy task, as if this new baby is guaranteed to live. I keep Margot's things in a tidy little corner, her ashes covered, her candle unlit in the presence of company. I engage with friends, making small talk, largely ignoring what actually consumes my thoughts every single day. I choose, with all of my strength, the hard road of hope and acceptance. I try to pull gifts from the gutter of this tragedy, to grow and learn and become a better version of myself.

This part of my grief feels like this pretty little package with a bow on top, one that can be easily accessed and casually touched. It doesn't offend, or shout or make people feel uncomfortable. It has manners, says please and thank-you and whispers calmly in the night. The ring leader is my mind, with it's persuasive logic and comforting presence, forcing down the two fists that my heart has raised up defiantly.

Truth is, it's only half the truth.

I really feel like taking what's left of her ashes and smearing them all over my face, rubbing them into my pores, breathing them into my lungs. I feel like spreading them around the house, kamikaze style, so that the air we breath is her, the cloud of ash a symbol for the missing that rages within.

I feel like throwing my fists into a tree, like breaking glass, like screaming at the top of lungs: MARGOT, MARGOT, MARGOT, WHERE HAVE YOU GONE?

I want to rage against those who tell me that my daughter died for a reason, or that judge the perceived longevity of our sorrow or that act as if it never happened.

I want to undress and crawl on all fours and pierce my body and cover myself in mud and grieve like they do in the developing world, where sorrow and ritual are commonplace.

I'd like to send a fuck you letter to several people for the insensitive things they have said or the ways they have ignored me, and another one to my own mind and heart, for suddenly caring so much about what people have done or not done.

I want to stab and pluck out the loneliness that is felt because of the inability for anyone to understand who hasn't faced the death of one their children.

I'm not always proud of the rage and angst when it comes to relationships. I want to trade grace for grace, understanding for understanding. But the raw truth is, eleven months in, my grief is complex and twisted, a vast labyrinth of civility, strength, grace, heartache, rage and brokenness, all parts equal in importance, whether the piercings get done or the letters get sent.


still life angie said...

Oh, dude, I get this post. It is perfectly put. Just precisely how it is. Eleven months, oof. It feels like grieving forever, and yet no time at all. I say it all the time, but that is how it was for me. Like I had to keep saying, "Are you sure she didn't die twenty years ago? Or twenty minutes?" This eleven months, or a year, or whatever, it doesn't seem right. It doesn't fit with how I feel inside.

Sending you love, Josh, and Kari too. xo

Jeanette said...

perfectly put Josh, totally in agreement with Angie too, wish I were eloquent enough to say more, but I'm not so I'm just going to send love. x

My New Normal said...

I can so relate to this. My grief also sits in a pretty little package. I sometimes wonder why those of us who have lost children have to put on such a brave face when people who lose other family members can openly talk about their sadness and those that they have lost.

Oh, people who say that our babies died for a reason should be shot on sight!!

Hope's Mama said...

Oh man, so true. Every word of it. 11 months is brutal. Such a build up to the big one. Felt like the lid was going to blow on my pressure cooker of grief at any given moment, and sometimes it did. And like Kari, I was so very heavily pregnant again at 11 months out, so that of course complicates the fuck out of everything some more.
People can be assholes. I know they don't mean it, but it doesn't help us one little bit. We are the ones trying to live through this mess, each and every day.
Wish we had more rituals. What I really wish though was that Margot was here.
We grieve with you.

Molly said...

Yes... That build up to 12 months is heinous. I was full of anxiety, wondering if I could do it--handle a year passing. I hate that we must hide our grief in pretty packages at times. It's hard. Beautifully put. And love, love the way you signed you comment the other day... I will be copying you. Love to you all

Anonymous said...

it has been years since we lost our daughter, and we have been thru 2 years of grief therapy, so much online support, and even i sometimes think that i "get it", i've done the grief thing and i have successfully gone thru all the stages of mourning. check, check, check, check, and check.

but then, her birthday comes around, and i literally want to go outside my front door, into my yard, and lie on the ground and weep. weep for her. "how could this have happened, my sweet, sweet baby??".

and then i realize that even though i have gone thru the steps in the healthy way, there will always be that part of me that will suffer from her death. never get over it. it just doesn't disappear. time doesn't make it go away. another baby doesn't make it go away (athough it sure seems to make other people think it does...).

its ok though. grief is an ongoing thing. a lifelong thing. i will continue to want to throw my body on the ground and wail for her, year after year. but somehow that grief gets incorporated into my daily life in a manageable way, i have no idea how.

the thing is, how many months, how many years, does it take to make it "OK" that your baby died? is the grieving expected to make that happen? no. no its not. because its *never* gonna be OK that your baby died- can you imagine if it were?! how wrong would that be? its never gonna be ok. but we do heal, we do manage, we do live beyond it.

approaching the first anniversary is so hard. so much pain. she is barely gone.


Anonymous said...

Ugh! Josh... I hear you. Only I seem to be cussing more than you do but almost exclusively on my blog. When people ask me if I'm doing better I say "No I'm just getting better at compartmentalizing." that doesn't even work all the time. Our daughters didn't die for a reason, they just died and we got fucking shafted! I wish that I believed that a baby's spirit got to come back in the rainbow baby. I wish I believed I would see her again.

I was thinking about this yesterday. We were out as a family in our front yard with a couple of neighbors. One set knew about our loss, the others just moved in last week. All our children were playing and there was a lot if laughter and easy talking. The new neighbors have a 3 year old daughter, two months older than Kai. She is pregnant with a boy due in June. Camille should be one in June but I can't say that. I can't tell the pregnant lady that babies don't always live even when there is nothing wrong with them. And so I feel like out conversations are trivial and superficial, not because of the words we say, but because of the words I don't say about my daughter.

I wish we could always be true to our sadness. I'm trying but it's hard. But... Please always be honest here. It is better for your soul if you dont tame your grief at least in your writing

-- Renel

Anonymous said...

The explosiveness of your writing, in contrast to your more "civilized" presentation of grief... it says it all, so perfectly.

- Crystal Theresa

Anonymous said...

Wow. Thank you for so beautifully articulating the disaster of grief.

Everything happens for a reason is such a shitty attempt to make others feel better about the unthinkable, wrap up our children's lives with a bow and try to rationalize something that will never make sense.

I want to scream: NO, sometimes horrible things just happen! Usually I just say nothing.

-- Mama Bear

Peg said...

while the source of my grief is different, so many of your words stuck true with me. Everyone wants us to be better and don't understand that 2 years out from our tragedy I am still so stuck in the dark. I can't imagine losing a child, but I certainly have had moments of wanting to drop some f bombs on insensitive jerks or friends who have dropped us because they just can't handle the enormity or our loss. Beautiful, touching writing. Thanks.

Stefanie said...

Josh, your words came across loud and clear. Now if we could just get others to hear it...others who are making stupid ass comments or none at all.
Please don't ever tame your posts, I love reading the raw emotions of our community, it makes me and I'm sure others feel normal.
There are days that I can't bring myself to leave Sam's mausoleum. I literally want to camp out there and use my grief as a sleeping bag. I just had 10 months on the 9th so my 1 year anniversary is fast approaching too. I'm scared shitless of the emotions that will come on Sam's birthday. Seeing that it is also my husbands birthday. I struggle with how to honor both of them on such a sad day.
I get your fuck you letter too. I want to send one to myself too for caring so much about what people do or don't do. Why should I care?
Thank you for sharing. Sending love and thoughts as you approach your 12 month marker.

Brooke said...

This was EXACTLY how I felt at 11-12 months out. That first year was the longest, shortest year of my life. And still I have my moments when I almost resent how much easier it has become for me to carry the burden of my grief (in a tidy little package, as you say), when by all rights the loss of that perfect girl should have crippled and deformed me for life.

I've only had a couple people tell me that my daughter died for a reason, and I said to them, "A lot of people find that comforting, but I don't think that's helpful." And then I change the subject because I'm not really that confrontational and I won't engage in a debate about it.

Sigh. Sending love as you navigate this tricky time of anniversary and expectation.

Em said...

I'd like to send a fuck you letter to several people for the insensitive things they have said or the ways they have ignored me, and another one to my own mind and heart, for suddenly caring so much about what people have done or not done.

Well, thank you, this about sums it up for me.

Nika M. said...

We are also at that awful 11 month mark...and pregnant again. A pregnancy that is only about 4 days apart from everything in the previous pregnancy. It's so incredibly hard.

Jamie said...

Oh man Josh. When I think about how you and Kar must be feeling, this is what I would imagine it to be. Then to read it written so truly, I just can't imagine. I really can't. And I just break for all that you've lost and this journey that life has taken you on. I know I can't relate, I know, but I think about you guys all the time and wish you didn't know grief like this. I am sorry.

Tash said...

Josh, I get so much of what you say here. The pretty packages, the hard road of hope, the raw truth. The fuck you letter. I have one of those sitting in my draft folder. I don't know that i'll ever send it but I needed to write it. People can be so heartless and ignorant.

As soon as I started talking openly about my hopes with IVF treatments, most people in my life have completely forgotten my little boy who died just a little over 7 months ago. Yes IVF gives me something to focus on but it doesn't take away the fact that my son is gone. Life without him will always be our reality no matter what the future holds for us. One baby doesn't replace another. It's beyond cruel that some could even think such a thing. I can only imagine how difficult it is when there is another baby on the way. I think about you and Kari often. I follow you along on your journey and as a follower and a friend i'm sending so much hope your way. I also think of Margot June. Your Margot has touched my life.

Groves said...

"I, like most cognizant folks of contemporary culture, am saturated with doing good, feeling good, feeling virtue, feeling Zen-like, seeking to understand the positive pathways of the brain and how to ensure them, being mindful, counting my blessings, listing things to be grateful for, etc. etc.

Every now and then, though, I'd like to surrender. I'd like to say to those people whose kids are really young or newly diagnosed that you know what? It's not going to get better. It's going to get worse.

Your mind and your nature will be chipped away to such a fine point, you'll be capable of pecking at any closed door and slipping through.

You'll be bitter and angry and self-righteous and you'll get things done, but you'll also do a lot of crying in the shower and sliding down the proverbial wall.

I would like to be the John McEnroe of parents of disabled children. I'd like to curse at the ref when I miss a shot, scream at the fans and maybe even throw my racket and storm off the court. I'm out of here, I'd shout, I'm through with this shit."

Elizabeth, of {a moon, worn as if it had been a shell}


Life-threatening disability and the death of a child are not, *not* the same.

Not the same, but the words echo.

"At the beginning of every journal, I'd write the same phrase...: hinc illae lacrimae -- hence these tears. I should have stopped there. The rest is commentary." {Niobe}

Margot, Margot, Margot.

hinc illae lacrimae,

Cathy in Missouri

Catherine W said...

This is perfectly written Josh, so true. I often feel that my grief, and perhaps even my emotions in general, are now socially unacceptable. And sometimes I just get tired of toning everything down and biting my tongue and trying, trying, trying to be gracious and accepting and many things that I am not.
Thinking of you and Kari, Stella and Margot, especially over these coming weeks. Such a difficult, difficult time xo

loribeth said...

Those last few weeks before the first "anniversary" are so tough. Sending you, Kari & Stella much love.

Jo said...

Such an incredibly breathtaking post. It is raw and complicated, like your grief. I can't imagine the courage it took to post these words.


MissingMolly said...

Your words knocked the breath right out of me. This grief is kicking my ass, and I feel like I'm losing the fight. There are moments when I'm so full of love, yes, but lately I've been increasingly angry and bitter. Sometimes I feel like a rabid dog, and I want to take a bite out of everyone. I have an urge to alienate because I feel so alienated.

I have written a fuck you letter. Actually, it was a fuck you email. I just couldn't stand for that person not to know how fucked up I thought her response was to my daughter's death and my near death. But frustratingly, even after I explained myself in no uncertain terms, she still claimed to not get it. And another totally fucked up thing? She had a stillborn daughter herself 20 years ago.

My husband and I lost our daughter, and we continue to lose, lose, lose. So now, instead of howling to the world, the beast stays trapped and claws at my insides. I'm afraid of what else would happen if I let it out. I'm already so very lonely.

My grief isn't wrapped up in a nice little package with a bow on top. It is wrapped up sometimes, true, but it's not pretty. It's ugly and scary and promises a bad time if opened. No one wants to touch that shit.

Crystal said...

I get it. Eight months in... and I mainly get ignored. I still struggle with so much anger and hurt. People who are supposed to love me and be there for me... just aren't. It hurts.

Anonymous said...

I'm now four months out from the death of my daughter. I feel this way a lot - I go to work, I see friends, I see family - I am externally as though nothing has happened. But inside is raging grief. It's exhausting. Thank you for articulating this so well. It helps in some way.

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