Sunday, December 18, 2011

What I Learned about Toby's Death on Facebook's Timeline

Thanks to the new timeline on Facebook I have been able to go back over the years and check out posts, pictures, and statuses long forgotten. It’s been eye-opening. I’ve managed to learn a few things in the process.

To begin with, the first comment I ever got was from Pete’s former friend, upset and making fun of me that I hadn’t yet chosen a “network.” So, that must have been a clue because 5 years later he would be trying to tell us how to do everything else. Not surprising, really.

Of course, the thing that I really wanted to revisit was the time period surrounding Toby’s death. I had sent out text messages and made phone calls while I was in the hospital but I have no record of those. I do have one, however, of my initial status update telling people that he had passed away. I got 40 responses (10 responses less than a friend who posted last week that they didn’t have their Christmas shopping complete). Rereading those were very sad. People were shocked. So was I. They all tried to offer words of comfort and I appreciated that at the time. Still do.

It looks like I tried to respond to everyone who sent me individual posts on my wall. I say “looks like” because I don’t remember writing any of that.

My FB statuses serve as reminders of that week. I’m glad to have them because that week is a blur to me. I had forgotten, for instance, the friend who came over and fixed dinner one night. I only remember the three friends that were there the first two nights. After that it gets blurry.

I appreciated the people who had changed their profile pictures to ones that had images of them holding Toby. That was incredibly sweet.

I seemed to be functioning very well. I put together a tribute video, shared funeral arrangements, and posted directions to our house. I wrote individual thank you notes on there and responded to things that people sent me and said to me.

In the days that followed, things got a little…funny. Almost immediately (as in two days later) I had people publicly writing me and telling me to go to therapy. I was polite in my response but, honestly, that wasn’t any of their business. Therapy helps some but isn’t right for everyone. The fact that, by the date, they were doing this two days after he died was kind of presumptuous.  I can’t imagine publicly telling someone that they need to go to therapy. Shouldn’t that be something between the individual and their doctor or spouse?


I was rereading many of these things for a specific purpose. There were people that totally dropped off the face of the earth weeks and months after Toby died. I never heard from them or saw them again. I have felt hurt about that. A lot. One person said that they were tired of “the drama.” It wasn’t just that they deleted me, they blocked me completely.

I could kind of understand that. I thought that maybe my posts had been too depressing, too angry, too much…After having so many bad things happen all at once I figure that people just didn’t want to deal with me anymore.

I don’t think so.

After sitting here for nearly two hours and rereading my statuses from 2010-2011 I was not as negative as I had thought. Yes, there was drama with my brother-in-law (rereading that comment again was enraging-not even a month after Toby’s death and he gets on my page and leaves such a hateful thing?) and with my father-in-law and later with Pete’s former friend, but most of what I posted about that I left to my blog. I made a comment here and there but they were certainly NOT the majority of posts.

In between talking about being sad and lonely and scared I also talked about funny things that Sam said, fun things that we were doing to celebrate Christmas and other holidays, movies I had just watched…There were many, MANY positive things on my FB account. I would even venture to say that the positive far out-weighed the negative.

And even if it hadn’t…did I not deserve a year of feeling crappy? Forget a year…who the hell is putting any time limit on feeling crappy when someone loses a child?

I’ll give you an example: on the day that I wrote about Dad’s heart attack I posted the following…

Saw Dad today. He looked tired, but good. Pete left his backpack in Ashland and remembered it once we got to Morehead so we had to go back. In retaliation, I made him listen to 3 hours of Juice Newton and Selena.

In that same week I wrote:

found out that two people changed their profile pictures here on FB because they were afraid that they would make me sad. While not necessecary, it was incredibly thoughtful and I am touched.

actually watched "Troll" today-the first time since 1989. I had forgotten that Noah Hathaway was in it! Feeling slightly dirty and old now...

worst two weeks ever: first our son and now Pete's mom is gone. What kind of awful karma are we working out?

Rereading things, I was once again shocked at the things that people wrote to me. At one point I said I was going to the cemetery to put flowers on his grave. Someone wrote me and said that they didn’t visit their dad’s grave because it was “stupid and pointless.” I also wrote and said that I was making a scrapbook of cards that people had sent me. The same person commented and said that they didn’t keep the cards they got when their dad died because it was “stupid.” This person later deleted and blocked ME.

I also love the people that wrote me and apologized for not visiting or getting in touch me and told me that they had just been too busy and too tired when they got off work. Later, in the same thread, I would ask them if they would like to come over the next day or meet for lunch and they would respond by telling me that they couldn’t because they were driving 10 hours to go to a concert and wouldn’t be back for two days. Awesome.

And then there were the people that used their statuses to report to their friends about everything they were doing for me. In turn, they would get 30 replies with pats on their backs about what a great friend they were being to me. I am highly suspicious of their intentions. It seems like they were coming around and doing things while people watched and applauded them and then, when nobody was, they quit.

I was afraid that I hadn’t been thankful enough, hadn’t said enough, hadn’t been appreciative enough. I see no signs of that now.

Nor do I see anything to indicate the injustice that I supposedly threw onto our favorite couple friends that blocked and deleted me, Pete, and Mom. Nothing but praises in my blogs and my statuses. Nothing.

Looking back, I really believe I did the best I could. Whenever someone would drop off Mom would always ask, “What did you DO?” You know what, I don’t think I did anything.

I got a few comments telling me not to dwell on the negative stuff (this was a week after Toby died because, obviously, at that point my life was all sunshine and roses) but I really think that it was the people around me that dwelled on a lot of the negative stuff. I wrote positive stuff, too. I talked abot vacations and books and movies and songs and writing and work and friends and Sam and a ton of other things. I actually lived a life, even though for the second part a lot of it was in the hospital.

Maxie’s Mommy recently posted a blog entry about not having an “at least.” I totally agreed with her sentiments. For others, there is always n “at least.” For my friend that complained about her pregnancy from start to finish, at least all of those things would go away when the pregnancy was over. In illnesses, at least you can seek treatment. May or may not be helpful, but at least it’s there. For us, there is no “at least.” Find an “at least” in the loss of a child. There is none.

Yet, even in that, I managed to live somewhat of a regular life last year. The fact that many others always wanted me to be positive, wanted me to “get better” and didn’t want to hear me talk about Toby because it “might make [me] sad”- I think it was about them. Looking back, I don’t think any of that was about me at all. I think they wanted the worst to pass because it made them uncomfortable to have to deal with it. (Although they didn’t care a bit to complain and be negative about their own stuff, I just wasn’t allowed to.)

And the last thing I learned from my Facebook timeline? That it’s been the really random people that stuck in there from the very beginning and didn’t judge or criticize or pry…they were just there. Joette, Anne, Janine…people that I have only met a few times. Looking back over my posts, their presence was always a good one. And I appreciate that, too. 


Katie (LukeGrantsMom) said...

It is interesting how you can look back on these feeling and how this is documented on Facebook (makes me wish I communicated a little more on Facebook ….). You are right some people look at your grief and how it affects them. They do stuff for themselves, in the name of helping you. I understand some of this, how everyone lost Toby and people all have their own ways to cope. It is not about just you (people feel they have but it is you, Pete, and Sam whose whole world changed. You and Pete lost Toby; there is no cure for that. You will never be the same. It is so hard for people to come to terms with that.

Maxie's Mommy said...

I don't think you need to worry ever about whether you are being positive and you are right, that is something that makes other people feel better. It has nothing to do with your reality. For the most part, I am lucky and am surrounded (virtually, because I don't see many people in person) with people who have been tremendously supportive and loving (as best they can because the saddest fact is that NOBODY can help ease my pain very much at all). The few jerks that KEEP coming back to torture me are people that if I really look back, were never REALLY great friends anyway. Maybe they are colleagues that I had fun hanging out with at conferences or work functions, maybe they were old friends that I kept around too long because I was used to them....most of them are people who I knew to be self centered and narcissistic. It bothers me that I still get annoyed by them. Honestly, the people who have pissed me off most lately are colleagues - who I can't get rid of because I am stuck with them. Those SIDS bloggers that write only cheerful stuff I sort of envy but I also sort of know that being cheerful is part of their process and they are so, so sad. How could they not be? Trying to find stuff to be cheerful (or at least, neutral) about is important but whether that happens on your own time or in the blogosphere is nobody's business. You do what you need to do to get through every hour (at least that is how I live). I am just going to clean shop. I've done it before too...before Maxie died. Every so often, it is important to look and see who in your world isn't really a friend. You can decide to keep them if they offer something else - like they are really funny, or smart or good for your career or something. BUT, you should feel FREE to toss them if there is nothing in it for you. Life, as we know, is much too short. I am cleaning house and feeling pretty good about it.