Sunday, September 30, 2007

undone

It was after my birthday and before Halloween. I'm pretty sure it was the first week of October. I think it was a Wednesday or a Thusday. That's when, last year, I went to the hospital and when, a few days later, the second twin was born and died. With grief comes the feeling that you've been stripped of your citizenship in the ordinary world; that you've become subject to a harsh new regime with harsh new rules.

My parents were overwhelmed by my sadness. My father told me that he couldn't come to see me in the hospital because he had promised to babysit my stepbrother's kids and because he needed to visit my sister, who had recently gotten a cast taken off her arm. After I went home, my mother stayed with me for ten days or so. I couldn't eat and refused to leave the house. My mother said I had to stop wallowing in my grief. A few weeks later, I went to my brother's house for his daughter's first birthday party. One of my stepbrothers and his wife were standing in the dining room, laughing. She was seven months pregnant, due a week before the twins should have been born. She said hello, but I didn't answer. Instead, I went upstairs and lay on a bed, sobbing. My mother came up and sat next to me. She patted me and told me how sorry she was that I seemed unable to take pleasure in other people's happiness. She went back downstairs and I let myself out by the back door. Later that evening, my mother called and told me how angry she was that I had left without saying good bye.

I think about all this and feel sorry for myself. I wish my parents were different. Still, I'd guess that most mourners feel abandoned. Only time can blunt grief's edge. No amount of love or support ever seems like enough. I try to remind myself that all of us are limited. Some things are beyond our capacity. We can only do the best we can.

Edited to add: Thank you so, so much for your sympathy and support. If I weren't, y'know, as cold as the Arctic pack ice, I'd be choking back tears.

56 comments:

thirtysomething said...

The last line of your post pretty much sums it up I think. your parents obviously could not begin to comprehend your sadness and deep pain at the loss of your twins. Such vulnerability probably scared them blind. NO one that has not walked through such heart wrenching sorrow could ever understand. For them it was easier to just displace their feelings as other emotions, it appears. But that certainly does not change the fact that you were hurt by their behavior, and rightfully so.
If one's family is not emotionally supportive in times of loss and grief, then that in and of itself is something to mourn also I think.
I am sorry Niobe.

Bon said...

you're right...no amount of love or support ever seems like enough, when you are kneecapped by grief and feel alone. but, in a way, you kinda seem to have gotten very close to no amount of love or support from your parents, at least in terms of what i would deem those words to mean. it's not my place to judge them, and i assume they were blindly trying to push you into feeling better...because your pain frightened them...but that lack, too, is something to mourn.

you had one profound loss compounded with another.

chicklet said...

I haven't gone through anything as awful as you've had to, but in my infertility struggle I get the same thing from a close friend "why can't you be happy for x?" and it makes me so sad that she can't be better to me because I expected more out of her. I'm so sorry that it's your parents of all people who can't support you when you need it most.

Elizabeth said...

I'm so sorry you had pain piled upon pain in the aftermath of your loss. Words fail me.

LeRoy Dissing said...

Just sitting here reading and wondering what it must have been like...and obviously not fully comprehend the depths. Sometimes just being present and listening is all a person can really do - for sure not being judgemental.

thailandchani said...

I really wish this culture was less invested in rushing people through grief. It's more often concern for their own comfort than for your well-being. You have the right to process this through as you see fit ~ and no one has the right to tell you differently.


Peace,

~Chani
http://thailandgal.blogspot.com

Waiting Amy said...

I think all mourners feel misunderstood, but not necessarily abandoned. No one can understand the pain you suffered except you (and a close second may be your significant other). I'm sorry you parents, in effect, abandoned you. This is probably the most difficult type of desertion. Sad it was not in their capacity, but frankly it makes me mad for you. I guess it's not my place to judge, but it just feels that what they did was wrong.

I hope you and L work though this tough time with love and understanding. Thinking of you niobe.

slouching mom said...

No. NO.

I'm sorry, but that is not right! Especially when your mom is a psychiatrist, isn't that so?

Both your parents' actions after your loss strike me as totally inappropriate, and I am angry on your behalf.

I've gotta call it like I see it.

Two weeks after you lost the twins, your mother told you that she was sorry that you couldn't take pleasure in other people's happiness?

That is just SO WRONG.

Catherine said...

We can only do the best we can.

That was not the best they could do. That was not even an effort at their best. They didn't want to even try because it was too hard for them...too scary. Shame on them.

Beruriah said...

I agree with all that is above, so I don't need to repeat it.

Have I felt abandoned? Yes and no. Not at all by my family, although some have misunderstood and made mistakes. Those are easily forgivable. I feel very sad for you for how your parents responded. I felt abandoned by some friends, though, and have for the most part not been able to get past that and repair the relationships.

I don't know, having followed parts of this story for awhile, that you can ever get them to understand. So like you said, they are limited. Have they done the best they can? Only they and you can really know that. Are you ready to forgive them for their limitations?

I've told you before how my husband's family treats him similarly, and has a similar structure. He's managing to get beyond by shutting them out emotionally, but fulfilling all obligations.

tipsymarie said...

I really don't know what to say, only that I could not read this entry without some kind of response.
There are no words to describe the response of your family - not only your parents. I honestly cannot believe you were expected to perform as though nothing serious ever happened. It's one thing to avoid the sadness, it's another thing altogether to expect the griever to go on normally for your own selfish benefit.

I am so sorry.

LAS said...

I know what it is like to be abandoned by a parent - I have been abandoned repeatedly by my mother, my father really too. I guess I try to believe that she did the best she could - I try to believe that - but the fact is, it wasn't good enough. It just wasn't good enough. Sometimes I feel like I am excusing her by saying she did the best she good - like she gets a free pass for being a terrible mother to me when in fact she could have made different choices. Did my mother really do the best she could? Am I obliged to forgive her because of that, even in her utter failure to take responsibility? Is this really it - will she never be different? I still wish that my parents were different, not just that they behaved differently, but that they were actually different people. Anyway, your post is really making me think, a lot. My mother didn't show up for me when I had breast cancer - but she did make sure I knew just how she was affected by it. My mother thought that me having breast cancer was somehow about her. Well, I am so so sorry that you experienced this. It just makes me really sad.

LAS said...

And one more thing - just so you know that you are really not alone - my mother, on Easter, in the after math of me surviving cancer - she called me up and told me I should get a sperm donor and try to have children - just in case the chemo drugs I took cause me to be infertile soon...this is what she said, "I really think you ought to have children and don't wait for a man. You will be a great mother, even if it is only briefly. It's okay if you get breast cancer again and you are dead in 10 years. That's okay - really, it's okay. You brother will take your children, just call him and double check." I didn't know what to say.

Suz said...

I think that the fact you went to a one year old's birthday party so soon after a such a loss is an astonishing testimony to your willingness to be there for those around you. I'm so sorry that your family couldn't appreciate it. I'm angry at what your mother said to you. Was that supposed to be comforting? Geez Louise! I don't mean to be mean but although all of us are limited, some are more so than others.

ms. G said...

Your last paragraph seems like you are trying to forgive them in some way. What you said is true, most mourners feel abandoned, nothing is ever really enough, but, geez, Niobe, your family didn't even TRY.

I can forgive those who try, and just don't make the mark, but it seem to me your family just flat out failed you. I agree with what leroy said, sometimes all you can do is be present and listen.

My mouth is still hung open in shock at their behavior. I'm surprised your able to still have somewhat of a relationship with them. My in-laws have done nothing even close to what you describe, but my relationship with them has taken a certain turn because of their choices.

I'm sorry Niobe, sorry your family failed you so completely. I wish those of us in blogland had known you then. Then you could have seen true caring and gotten permission for your grief.

Megan said...

Meg put it perfectly: "when your friends and family do not acknowledge your losses, and do not consider them important, then you in turn do not feel important."

Tash said...

Firstly, may I offer my deepest condolences on the anniversary of the death of your second twin. It is a horrifically long and horrible year to suffer through. Secondly, I second Suz above: I would never have the strength to attend a relatives first birthday, let alone with pregnant people attending. I'm here 7 months away and I have yet to speak some friends and relatives who had babies around the time of Maddy's birth, and others who were pregnant and have since brought home their healthy children from the hosptial. I simply can't face them, and I'm not going to touch the pot if it's hot. Thirdly, I wholeheartedly agree with everyone who said your parents behaved horribly. Wallow??? I just chewed out one of my husband's relatives for accusing him of this seven months later! You have the right to "wallow" for the rest of your life. I think, Niobe, most mourners of children feel abandoned. People don't understand us, fear us, and simply don't want to admit that people like us exist. Sadly, sometimes those people are family. I'm thinking of you fondly this week, and please know you're not alone, really. I hope you consider me to be here, virtually, with you in this.

Lori said...

I am so sorry you're experiencing this all over again. I hope the pain begins to adjust itself to where it's not so sharp and immense. I hope that is even possible.

I have noticed in my own family that there is a stoicism in previous generations that causes a gap between us. My grandparents, for example, were tough farm people who lived through lots of loss but who never dwelled on it much. When I ask my mom about it, she says, "it's just how things were then."

Not to excuse anyone's lack of empathy. Just a possible explanation.

Hugs to you, Niobe, at this difficult time.

Eva said...

I don't know what the hell is your parents' problem. I am very sorry. As for this week know that you are in our thoughts.

Aurelia said...

I'm sorry Niobe for all the pain that you have been through.

And I am truly sorry you had such incredibly shitty non-existent support. Catherine is right, they didn't even TRY. Yes, we do the best we can with our limited resources, but they are educated intelligent people and your mother, FOR SURE, knows that is not the right way to act towards a grieving person.

My point being, that they have the capacity to do better, they chose not to. There are people who said horrendous things to me, much like this, and I no longer speak to them.

I wish I could've been with you then Niobe. I would have wrapped you in love and caring. It maybe a poor substitute so long afterwards, but if you feel alone in the coming days and weeks, pretend I am with you hugging you, holding you while you cry as long as you want.

Casey said...

Thinking of you.

Furrow said...

I've learned so much about grief in these past few months by getting to know you and others online. I hope I will be a better friend to someone suffering a deep loss than I would have been in the past. Luckily, I've not had to test it out yet in real life. Grief is so complicated and personal. It's our tendency to want to fix things, but death can't be fixed. I wish your parents had known how to handle things better.

Furrow said...

I've got to stop saying "in real life" as a contrast to my blog relationships. What I mean is, in my face-to-face life.

missedconceptions said...

It is one thing for others not to be empathetic: how could they possibly know how you are feeling? It is another to not be sympathetic.

My mother manages to make my miscarriages about her and my brother couldn't even bother to call me back when I left a frantic voice-mail from the OB's office asking him to call me. People don't want to deal with the emotional mess.

Perhaps time does heal all wounds, but while they are raw, my family sometimes feels like Kosher salt.

delphi said...

I must agree with Catherine, et. al. that your parents did not do "the best they could." Empathy begins to develop in children around the age of 5. It seems that your parents didn't get very far into the Empathy Journey. Even though my parents have lost me many times in my journey of grief, in those first few weeks they were there. Because it is a wonder that we are able to get up and breathe day-in-day-out when our world and our understanding is crushed under the weight of this type of death.

I am particularly ashamed of your mother's behaviour.

I am just so sorry that this was/is your reality.

alice said...

I am so very sorry to hear about your parents and their unbelievable lack of support. Their behavior and their actions are unacceptable -- absolutely unacceptable. It makes me furious. While I am not advocating this, it made me feel less vulnerable and less crazy to experience the grief over the death of our first child when I simply did not communicate - or allow communications - with my mother (and several others like her) for several months. Some, to this day, do not get it and all the better that I do not have to bother trying to educate them. They do not deserve your attention or affection - they are unworthy. I have never met you and just recently found your blog, but know that there are people out here - real people - who support you, love you and would help you anyway they could.

Julia said...

You know, even when we were still at the hospital, I knew it could've been worse-- doctors and nurses could've been asses to us. When we got home, I, again, realized that it could've been worse-- relatives (most of them, my MIL and your mom sound like they would get along famously, at least while discussing how inappropriately their children grieve) and friends could've acted like nothing big happened. But they didn't. They cried with us, they fed us, they talked with us, they brought us booze, they stopped by every day. Nothing could've made it better, but I saw what could've made it worse. I am so sorry that you got to live that.

Magpie said...

Slouching Mom said it very well - in particular, that your mother is a shrink makes her behaviour all the more appalling.

You deserve to feel sorry for yourself. And I'm sorry too.

Jill said...

Niobe, I am thinking about you on this anniversary and sorry that it is about so much more than the loss of your child. I agree with all the sentiments above in that you were not supported at all and that their cruelty will forever sit alongside the memory of your baby. They had no right to make your grief about anything but you and your lost children.

In any case, they did, and you need and can get support now. But your family have got some deep problems.

Anita said...

Holy Crap.

I cannot believe your parents did that.

My Reality said...

Thinking of you during this time of anniversaries. I am sorry your parents couldn't be more supportive and sympathtic. It is just not right, any of it.

S. said...

I am so sorry your grief was met that way.

Anniversaries are miserable.

vixanne wigg said...

I'm sorry. That's an awful thing to say and seems completely to show a lack of awareness and empathy.

Hugs.

Angel Mom said...

Niobe, all I can say is I'm sorry.

susan said...

It is true that everyone does the best they can..but that does not excuse those whose best is so lacking. What can be a comfort after the loss of your children? I don't know. But whether they could have comforted you better or not, they did you a grievous wrong to ignore your loss and hurt. I'm so sorry you had that ill treatment on top of your losses. It's so wrong.

Phantom Scribbler said...

I wish my parents were different.

I wish your parents were different, too.

I'm so sorry, Niobe.

orodemniades said...

The insensitivity of people continues to boggle my mind.

I am so sorry you had to go through all of it.

Maddie's Mom said...

Just reading your post makes me angry. I just can't wrap my mind around why anyone especially your parents would treat you that way. I'm so sorry, Niobe.

Sarah said...

wow, maybe it's not possible for others to truly understand, but they could at least try! i can't imagine how any parent can't relate at least a tiny bit to the kind of grieving you needed to go through.

i'm sorry you're reliving those feelings on top of everything else this anniversary means.

Christine said...

i'm back.

reading this made me hurt for you. i don't get this. this "get on with it" attitude towards grief. I just. don't. get. it.

xo

Cindy said...

Some people, no matter how close they are to you, just don't get it. We lost friends and pulled away from family after losing our son. It is hard to forgive them for their lack of understanding and support. My heart aches for your experience. Look after yourself.

Birdie said...

Niobe,

I am so sorry that your family treated you in that way, that is too much.

Have you confronted them about how they acted towards you...and your grief? It is absolutely unforgivable for them to have behaved in that way...like everything was "back to normal"...F-ck! Please excuse me for saying so, but that's just not ok to treat you that way...its NOT!

I am thinking of you very much so on this anniversary...please email me if you want to talk, in person.
I am here for you, absolutely. Sending you love and support, ALWAYS!

Love, Erin
Birdies Mama

Wabi said...

I'm so sorry you're stuck celebrating this sad anniversary with parents who don't know the first thing about how to love you.

Thinking of you and your twins.

brenda said...

My gosh I need to lend you my parents! My Mum and Dad were wonderful when Zak died. They were in Europe when I had him and came home right away. They brought toys and clothes for Zak. Dad thought he should have some toys in his coffin. I will never forget the look on my Dads face.
Im so sorry that you didnt get the support you needed.
This post truly knocked me for a six. It made me so sad.

Hugs
xxx

Trish said...

My deepest sympathies on this sad day.
And on your lack of familial support. I literally felt sick to my stomach when I read the words. I can't even begin to imagine how it felt to hear them from your own mother.

I'm so sorry.. for all of it.


Trish

Caro said...

I'm so sorry that the people who should understand best sometimes say and do the worst things.

Hugs

M said...

'..Only time can blunt grief's edge. No amount of love or support ever seems like enough..'

It's not enough - especially when it doesn't even meet our most basic need of comfort at such a time.

Thinking of you my friend.. x

Amelie said...

I wish they were different, too. Especially after what you wrote about your mom's profession. I hope very much you had, and have, others to support you, to grieve with you.

Artblog said...

You're not that cold my love, I personally think you're the type that's reserved on the outside and soft as a cream centered Belgium choc on the inside :)

HUGS my dear, I know how it is big X from moi.

kate said...

I'm sorry. My mother behaved similarly, as you know....and continues to do so. I wish it was all different, for all of us.

meg said...

You know I've got it going on with my family too. It just isn't right.

Though I am thinking/dealing so much myself these days, I did think of you today and your twins.

painted maypole said...

it's so true that we really don't know how to be with someone and help them grieve.

Rebecca said...

I'm so sorry. *Hugs* Be well xxxx

Jitters said...

I see nothing wrong with your behavior and I would be on that bed sobbing with you. I give you credit for going in the first place.

It is unfortunate that people sometimes have to experience a similar event to act appropriately.

Also, I HATE the phrase wallowing in your grief. It puts so much blame on the person experiences it. As if it was just that easy to change it.

Kami said...

I am right there with you. If there is one thing I have learned since we lost our son is to take care of myself even if no one else understands.

We lost our son in October. What an icky month.

Sunny said...

I wish parents could understand. I wish they could just go back to the time when we were little and they just held us. My family doesn't get IF or my m/c. They just ignore it. It hurts.

HUGS!