Sunday, September 21, 2008

that conversation

It really was kind of anti-climactic. I called my mother's cell phone (she's doing the Jack Kerouac thing in an RV with her husband and their monstrous cat). I said hi and she said hi. Then I said that I had some news and I told her the news and she asked me when the due date was and how other members of the family felt about it. I told her the due date and said I hadn't really told anyone else yet. And that was basically it.

We don't do effusive in our family, and, under the circumstances, congratulations or how wonderful would have seemed completely out of place. Anyway, I'm pretty sure we were both thinking exactly the same, unsayable thing: I really hope this one doesn't die too.

Since that conversation, I've been thinking a lot about the fraying of my family ties in the last two years. I've never been especially close to my mother or father, but we got along just fine and I spoke to them regularly and sometimes I visited them and sometimes they visited me. The death of the twins changed all that -- for a long time I didn't want to do much other than work and sleep. I didn't want to talk or eat, I cried all the time and I cringed when they talked about their other grandchildren.

A lot of the literature about grief and grieving explains that it's perfectly normal for the bereaved person to feel anger, or even rage. I've seen much less written about the anger of the mourner's friends and relatives. Of course, like the mourner, friends and relatives are often angry that this bad thing happened, angry, perhaps, at the universe, the gods, the unfairness of it all.

But, in many cases, I think they're also very angry about the loss of their old relationship with the mourner. They don't know or particularly like this new, sad person. They want things to go back to the way they were, to reconstruct the world in the shape it was before everything shattered. At some level they realize that that's not going to happen, but it's probably not all that uncommon to be furious at the grief and the griever, blaming them for making it impossible.

I'm sure that not everyone has this reaction and, since it's generally not socially acceptable to be angry at someone because they're bereaved, I think that many friends and relatives don't express these feelings directly or, perhaps, aren't fully aware of them. But in the last two years, I've felt a dark undercurrent of rage directed at me from both my parents, and for a long time, I couldn't make any sense of it. Why were they angry that I was I sad?

It's taken me all these months to be able to put it into words, but after my talk with my mother, as I hung up the phone, I had one of those kaleidoscope moments, when the tumbling shapes of colored glass rearrange themselves into an intriguing new pattern. John 9:25. I once was blind, but now I see. And I sat there and thought about the last couple of years, about my mother and father, and the way that my relationships with them have faded and withered and I realized that I'm not the only one who's lost a child.

45 comments:

Maggie said...

I think that this is beautiful.

I'm sure that it wasn't easy for you to have such a rift with your parents and be in the depths of grief at the same time, but I can also see why it was hard for your parents too -- they wanted to help, to make you feel better, and they couldn't. Even when you're a grown up, you're still someone's child.

I think that the future arrival of something small and needy to your house will be not only wonderful, but also healing.

Eva said...

Hm, maybe so.

I'm going to say this, though: Congratulations. How wonderful!

Tash said...

Exactly. Exactly it. I once wrote that I didn't know how I was going to explain to Bella why her grandfather wasn't seeing her on Christmas: He's mad at us because the baby died. Your mother is Mr. ABF's parents to a T. I think it's anger, and I also think it's fear -- fear that they'll never get us back, fear that these ugly things can happen in their families and take someone else away.

We've lost our in-laws. I don't think what you're describing is that unusual, and I too am perplexed there's not more out there about it.

c. said...

I get this more than I want to. Beautiful post, Niobe.

BethH6703 said...

I don't have the words - right or wrong - to really leave a thoughtful comment for you. But I wanted you to know that I heard what you said.

CLC said...

Yes, you are so right. While I am lucky enough to not have experienced this with my family members, I do think this is why many of my friendships have unraveled. It's easy for people to want the old you back, not fully understanding that that will never happen, and not wanting to admit that the new you is not really "fun" to be around.

Grad3 said...

Beautifully honest... ~Hugs~

cinnamon gurl said...

What a beautiful, honest, thoughtful post. That last line nearly made me cry.

Aunt Becky said...

Lots of love, Niobe. Lots and lots and lots of love to you.

Kymberli said...

A beautiful moment of clarity. The grief is on so many different levels, and I never really viewed it quite like you've explained it.

Lori said...

Wow. What a deep realization.

k@lakly said...

I have often thought that one of the harder parts of the grief, socially that is, is the feeling by the grief stricken (here the db mom)to perform for those around us. The unspoken words that our family and friends somehow need us to behave like the old us, to show them that we are ok, to be ok for them. And for us, at least for me, I needed to do that because I was so dreadfully uncomfortable feeling weak and vulnerable around them.
In my case,I don't think anyone was angry at me or me at them, because I slipped easily into that role, "the masquerade" as I call it, but it does make me wonder why it is we all felt the need to protect ourselves from ourselves, from our own reality.
I do think you hit the proverbial nail on the head tho, when you talk about your parents losing their child too. As a parent, I can't imagine anything more difficult and anger rising than watching my child suffer through a loss like yours, like ours. And then feel utterly helpless as I watched them slip away from me.
I hope the arrival of this newest life will help to ease some of the anger.

Julie Pippert said...

Such a beauty, honesty and truth here.

And also, congratulations.

Yolanda (the callipygian chronicle) said...

There's a tremendous, weighty truth here. I'm going to have to let it sit with me for a while.

luna said...

the grief list I've seen does address the loss of others of the life that once was (or could have been).

sounds like you've got a whole new of understanding with this moment of clarity.

Monica H said...

You are so right. They're angry at me too, but what they don't know is that I want my old self back just as much or even more than they do. But I don't know her anymore.

Catherine said...

Something I can't write about on my own blog...Our losses drove my mother to anti-depressants.

I agree with Maggie..."I think that the future arrival of something small and needy to your house will be not only wonderful, but also healing." Myles' arrival has helped us...though I can't say we're "back to normal."

Artblog said...

WOW, perfectly said and mostly because I had NEVER thought of it that way. I just thought 'they' were simply uncomfortable around the mourner but you make much more sense. Definitely an eye opener!

xxx

Amy said...

So true. I've never really thought that our loss was anyone else's, but I suppose it was, and is...

Karen said...

when I miscarried, as I lay there actually in all likelihood about to die - but then things happened that were good and should have before, so I lived - but in any case, my mother could not get in her car. She couldn't come to me. That was a loss I didn't expect to have to deal with - and then when I realized it was the same for her, we managed to find our way to one another, slowly, a bit.
Not that it feels normal, but less strained & our deeper connection is still there.

Sara said...

Yes. I'm pretty sure my entire family is upset about "losing" me this past year and a half. I honestly don't know if they're ever going to get that person back.

Which Box said...

Yes.

I am glad for you that this realization came to you. It's very profound, and makes a lot of sense. I hope it helps.

My Reality said...

I have known this was true, but never seen it so beautifully worded.

charmedgirl said...

how true.

in my case, i wish i didn't have to lose mine to figure out my mother never was.

susan said...

Wow: I wasn't expecting this post to end up where it did. What an insight.

Lisa b said...

Fascinating insight Niobe. I've been thinking for a while about something you wrote - at gitw I think - that the experience of losing the twins made you feel as though the world around you had changed.
I agree that the change in others has to do with the reaction to your grief but I think the onus is on those people to look beyond their frustrations and support you.

Ruby said...

So insightful. I had never thought of it that way.

painted maypole said...

a very insightful post

Mad said...

That is a remarkable insight. Do you think you can build from that or is the loss on both sides too great and the distances too far?

flutter said...

no, you're not...but that doesn't make it hurt less, does it?

Bon said...

no, not the only one. i am still sorry that they were unable to find ways to abide with you in your sadness...but you're right. they may have been swallowed up by the magnitude of it all.

Christine said...

but things aren't static, they can change. maybe it won't always be this way.

Caro said...

Interesting. I've just caught up again and I'm so saving your playlist post so I can look up some of those songs.

Beruriah said...

I'm about to say something that might be inappropriate. I seem to be in that kind of mood today.

Julia (I won't fear love) often says I'm too nice. She's wrong--you are. For all you may think it's you that has a little black heart, you are being incredibly charitable here. You deserved better from them, and still do.

Karin said...

I hear what you are saying. My relationship with my brother has only recently begun the repair process - mainly because of our living son. If it wasn't for him, I don't think there would be any desire to try.

I believe that my brother thinks it's my job to be someone that he wants to spend time with, not his job to meet me where I am. And so, not much acquiescing occurs between us. The stubborn gene is very powerful.

Lori said...

Absolutely.

I had much more clarity about this after my Dad died. I hated seeing my Mom sad. I hated how she changed. I still find myself pulling back from her only because she is such a vivid reminder of the fact that he is gone.

Becky said...

Beautiful, beautiful post.

I realized the same thing. My parents lost a child too. I'm not the same, and I will never be. My dad used to say, "You're bringing me down." and I resented that for a long time. Then I realized it was his not tactful way of saying that it made him sad to see me sad.

Unfortunately there are other people in my life "mad" at me for loosing the boys. I've never been able to forgive them. Perhaps someday, but I doubt it.

Kami said...

I remember being frustrated with my sister after her cat died. I was about 14 years old. I knew it wasn't her fault of course, but still wished she would stop grieving and be happy.

Still, I'm not sure I really appreciated how my grief may have been hard on my family and friends until you pointed it out.

Angela said...

Hey. That's really cool.

Furrow said...

Wow. What clarity. That's wonderful.

And this is so going to happen (you're going to have a baby), and everything is going to change again. And I hope it's fantastic.

mames said...

what a poignant post. i hope the clarity you found in that realization might bring you back to each other, if that is what you want.

Sherry said...

Wow.

The last paragraph brought me to tears.

jodie38 said...

Oh, wow. That's so true - I've had several kaleidoscope moments throughout this IVF circus, and I've felt strange undercurrents from family and friends at times. I just couldn't quite identify it until now. Thank you for putting this into words.

B said...

WOW Niobe. This is so true, It has happened in my relationship with my husband and also with my best friend. An inexplicable anger, rage even, towards me because I simply am not who I once was for them.

Then there is the accompanying guilt for feeling that way, the struggle between empathy and neediness...... in case of hubby, it is worth finding a way through...... in case of anyone else....well.... and I know this will cause more anger, but I think I'll just slowly back out. I don't have what I need to keep facing that.

Jim and Amy Rennie said...

This is incredibly beautifully written, and so insightful. It really moved me. As a mother who has lost two children, I can relate so much to what you've written here.