Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Grief does funny things

March 2, 2011

Sam’s birthday party was over the weekend and Toby would have been 8 months old on Saturday. Today, I met the baby that was born 2 days after Toby died. He was a cutie. I don’t think it was Toby reincarnated, though. He smiled and cooed a lot but he didn’t have Toby’s eyes.

I’ve been getting a lot of “God references” lately. Things like “it’s God’s will” or “God was testing you” or “he’s with God.” Because people automatically assume that everyone they talk to are Christian. And if they don’t, they feel it necessary to share their afterlife and religious beliefs with you (even though they don’t want to hear yours). Sometimes I get the “you’ll grow out of this” look whenever I DO talk about my beliefs. And sometimes people actually SAY that to me. I feel like looking at them and saying, “Yeah, you’ll grow out of this Christian thing, too.” They wouldn’t see the double standard in that, though.

I’ve had a really hard time dealing with images lately. The other night I read a book that bothered me to no end. I had seen the movie a hundred times but the book’s ending was a lot different. (The kid dies.) They described the dead body so well that it really shook me up and then all I could see was Toby’s face.  Not the live Toby, unfortunately, but the face that I saw when I first discovered him. I couldn’t shake that for hours and I started understanding why people with PTSD would kill themselves. It’s not because you don’t want to live, but it’s because you can’t get outside of yourself and get beyond something. It kind of takes over.

I think we all have a little something different in the way that his death affected us. With Pete, he thinks everyone is dead. I caught him checking the baby’s pulse today that was visiting us while he napped. I constantly wake up to his fingers on my throat, checking to see if I am alive. He checks Sam several times a night. He says that when he wakes up in the morning, he just assumes that everyone in the house is dead and always feels a cold panic.

For me, it’s a clingy sadness/guilt thing. It gives me anxiety attacks. Sam brings me his stuffed animals and refers to them as his “friends” and I feel so sad for him that I start shaking and getting cold and I just want to hide in the closet or somewhere dark and small. (And I’m claustrophobic so this makes no sense.) Or, I start thinking about Sam going to school and being picked on, growing up and moving away, or even just getting hurt and I start crying and shaking and freaking out to the point where if I could take my anxiety medication I would.

I don’t know about Mom, but I think she is getting forgetful. Maybe in blocking some things out she’s blocking other things out, too. Like yesterday I was talking to her about an email I got from this author that I talk to and how he had told me that when he got back from the war he had PTSD. She innocently asked me what that was, despite the fact that I am on 3 different medications for it, have been diagnosed with it now for more than half a year, and have dedicated blog entries to it and how it has affected the grieving process.  Another time, we were talking about life insurance and I said that one plan I didn’t qualify for because you can’t if you have been diagnosed with a nervous system disorder or was being treated for an anxiety disorder. She insisted that I had neither and I was confused since I see a neurologist on a regular basis for my epilepsy and migraines and I have been given Zoloft, Klonopin, and Valium for the PTSD. (None of which I can take, by the way, as long as I am pregnant.) So I start freaking out, thinking that either she is showing signs of early onset dementia (doesn’t run in our family but we tend to get everything else) or she has no concern for me. Then I thought that maybe grief has made her forgetful since it’s made me crazy and Pete paranoid.

I think it’s just another good example of how it doesn’t affect people in the same way.

I was reading something on the Hospice website about how grief will affect people differently to begin with, but how the death itself can play a part in it. Whether it is anticipated or sudden plays a significant role in the bereavement.

There is someone I know who lost a loved one and although the day they lost them was not anticipated, the person had actually been sick for years and it was expected. Not only that, there had been several “near misses” over the course of time that I had known them and people were a little surprised that the person had lived as long as they had. (Personally, as much as they talked about this person’s impending death I am surprised that their quality of life was great since most of the conversations swirled around when they were going to go.) Anyway, my friend had gotten used to the idea of this person dying that they had started making peace with the idea long before the actual death. When they did die, although they were sad and still grieved, it was not unexpected and they’d had time to adjust to the idea.

On the other hand, the same friend had someone else in their life die (a person just as close to them) suddenly and unexpectedly. That was the loss that hurt worse because it was one of those freak things that nobody saw coming and therefore couldn’t prepare for. No time for last conversations or hugs or even bargaining.

I don’t like it when someone compares grief because it really can’t be compared. If I met another person who lost their 6 week old to SIDS on the same day at the same time as we lost Toby we still wouldn’t feel exactly the same way.

In reading the Hospice stuff, though, I came across something else that was interesting. A woman who also lost her child wrote a blog entry about the “Top 10 Things Not to Say to a Grieving Person” and one of them was, “You are so strong right now!” She said that you shouldn’t mistake a person’s calm demeanor for strength, that more than likely it was shock.

I think that if the people that got angry at Pete for not going to his mom’s funeral had understood this, things would have been a lot better. I know that when I got up and talked at Toby’s funeral people said the same thing to me and it wasn’t true. It was a combination of shock, medication, and the need to share stories about him. Had nothing whatsoever to do with strength. How could I be strong when my child was lying dead three feet away from me?

Pete’s staying here when his mom died was misinterpreted as not caring or being flippant about her death. Anyone around him for more than 15 minutes, though, would have understood otherwise. Shock that two tragedies (well, hey, three rally since Dad had a heart attack in between the two yet nobody wants to point that out but me) could happen so close together, grief over losing Toby, fear over leaving his closest support system behind (since we were not allowed to go with him), and general anxiety all played a part in that. And I guess you could argue that I held it together long enough to talk at Toby’s funeral, but you’re looking at me speaking 3-5 minutes and then immediately falling apart. And returning home to a houseful of people who were there to take care of me. That’s a lot easier than getting on a plane alone and taking care of yourself.

Someone wrote in on one of the messageboards and said that even though it had been months since she lost her child, she feels as though she is just starting to really hurt. I think that’s probably true because in the beginning I believe the shock dulls a lot of what’s going on. The pain that comes is hard and sharp and can take the breath away. But as you go on and that dulls, another kind of stabbing, constant pain takes over. Grief doesn’t go away as much as it does change.

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