Grief is a solitary confinement.
The days are going by more quickly now which is both a blessing and a curse. Toby has now been dead longer than he was actually alive. That always happens at some point, but for most people the act takes longer. It’s unfortunate that his death was able to outlive his live in a matter of weeks and not years.
I am finding that grief like a solitary confinement. Even those around you who are almost certainly going through the exact same thing can’t ever really understand what you are feeling or thinking. Everyone has different ways of processing it and dealing with it and although this is normal, and even natural, it still makes it a little lonely.
I’ve said it before and it continues to be true: I have to change the way that I act around people. Maybe people feel like they have to change the way that they act around me, but I feel the same way. I feel much more guarded about what I say because I never know how it’s going to be taken. I guess that’s what I get for being friends with a bunch of counseling/psychology/social work people. Sometimes it’s hard to turn off the job at the end of the day. I know it was for me when I worked in that profession.
I am trying to learn ways to cope with things on my own. I’ve stopped talking to certain people because they are uncomfortable with the things that we are going through and pretending to be happy and doing well in front of them is just too exhausting. Pete’s granddad (whom I actually think a lot of) asked if we were “getting over our mishaps.” He doesn’t want to hear about how we’re REALLY doing and I find it too exhausting to put up a good front.
Many of my friends I haven’t seen since the visitation or funeral. Some I haven’t seen since before then. I don’t know if they’re staying away because they don’t know what to say or do, because they’re nervous about what they might say or do, because they assume that we have lots of people around us and they might be in the way, or because we simply aren’t on their radar. It reminds me a lot of my pregnancy.
When Toby first died my doctor gave me some valium and told me to schedule a counseling session in a couple of weeks. She very wisely said that after a week or so people would stop coming around that that’s when I would need it the most. She was right.
I have found a friend (oddly enough, one I haven’t seen since high school) that also lost a child the same way and we communicate every day by e-mail. That has been very helpful but I don’t want to lean on her too hard or else I might bring back painful memories for her that she doesn’t want to relive. Kind of like wearing out your welcome.
Another friend offered to take me to a support group meeting and we went (as you might have read about in a previous entry) but when I asked her if she could go to one with me and Pete that deals in infant grief she said that it would make her feel “intrusive” and then I felt embarrassed having asked her in the first place. But I guess I should have known people.
People say, “Let me know if you need anything” but I’m never sure if they’re just saying it to be polite or if they actually mean it. And what’s too much to ask of someone? And what do I really need to begin with?
I get long e-mails and chat sessions from friends apologizing for not coming over and telling me about their health issues and money issues and such but listening to them is sometimes like watching something on television. It doesn’t feel real, or like it has anything to do with me. I don’t want to use the phrase “hollow excuses” but that’s what pops into my mind from time to time. I have friends who are more interested in telling me about their woes and their experiences with panic attacks and suicidal thoughts than actually trying to get together with me and talking to me. They seem to talk “at” me and to “to” me, if that makes any sense. I have other friends (well, some of them are the same friends) that are more interested in looking up statistics on SIDS and writing me about different things that they have found that might be helpful to me, as though I am incapable of a simple Google search, then making a point of seeing me. Maybe they think they’re helping that way. Maybe for them, that’s the best they can offer. At least when Heather found the group last week she offered to go with me and that was incredibly kind of her.
It’s even hard for us to relate to each other in our own house. Pete got angry at me back in August when I suggested that we do something to celebrate our wedding anniversary because it was so close to Toby’s death, and while I understood that celebrating might not be the best idea at the time, I still wanted to honor the fact that we had been married for 3 years.
I sit here by myself all day and sometimes when he comes home I follow him around like a little puppy dog. In fact, sometimes I feel like a puppy dog, waiting my turn to be fed or taken out or given attention to. It’s like I’m trying to be obedient and helpful and not cause anyone any extra trouble but sometimes I can’t help it. I can’t lay all of my feelings on him and really talk to him because he has tests to grade for work and papers to look at and his own book that he is writing on and he has to try to find time to fit all of that into his schedule and that’s usually at night after Sam goes to bed. Or he has to fit in his runs when he has extra time during the day and he doesn’t get a lot of free time.
When I told him once that I was having suicidal thoughts he immediately suggested a psychiatrist or even me being admitted to a hospital since he and Mom can’t be here all day to keep their eye on me. I feel like such a bother for everyone. I can’t even do my fair share of taking care of Sam. I tried to today, though. We did pumpkins together and decorated a lot for Halloween. And yesterday we went to a fall festival and took a hayride to pick things out and that was a lot of fun. I’m not taking as much medication as I was, mostly because I’m afraid I’ll accidentally take too much, but I know that I need it because the anxiety doesn’t seem to be getting much better.
I’m going to give that infant support group a try and now that I am working on one big freelance project instead of several little ones I should be able to take more time off. Then maybe I can get to some counseling sessions. I feel like I’m just causing extra stress on everybody else in my family so I need to try to get better as soon as I can so that I can start picking up my slack again. Pete is too busy to take care of me and Sam both and with Mom having her stroke she doesn’t need to be doing so much, either. I’m the weakest link here and I’m the one that needs to improve.
But I guess it’s something that I’m going to have to try to figure out on my own. I’ll do it eventually, but it’s really hard sometimes. And lonely.