Thursday, April 5, 2012

But you're doing so well!

This is not a blog entry I could have written a year ago, but I feel like I am in that place now....

First, the inspiration. A friend posted the following sign on FB: "Don't judge me. You couldn't deal with what I have dealt with." That, combined with the occasional comment along the lines of, "You're doing so well!" after someone finds out we've lost a child got the wheels turning.

For starters, you have no idea what you can handle until it's actually thrown at you. I would never be so ornery or lofty as to think that someone else wouldn't be able to handle my tragedies as well as I have. That attitude wouldn't be any different than the person who thinks they could have handled it better than me and you know how much THAT bugs me. Until you're put in that situation yourself, you have no way of knowing what you're going to do or how you're going to react. No amount of books, movies, song lyrics, or poetry is going to adequately prepare you.

In the beginning, when people told me that I was doing well and that I was really "holding up" it confused me. It made me feel as though I wasn't grieving as I should be. This was especially hurtful when people would say things to me like, "I just couldn't live if something like that happened to me." Like I was failing Toby by not caring enough because I somehow made the choice to live.

My friend A and I talk about this a lot, since he lost his partner a year before Toby died. Those comments stung him, too. He was able to function, do the things he needed to, and put on a pretty good outwards appearance. But, like he said, nobody was around to see him crying himself to sleep every night. We both also felt like those comments were kind of a brush off. Like the person who said it wanted us to agree that we were doing well so that they wouldn't have to deal with us.

The fact is, none of us are doing "well." We are all able to function on various levels but that doesn't mean that we enjoy it. It doesn't mean that it doesn't take a whole lot of energy to be able to do simple things. Yes, we got out and did things after Toby died, but most of that was because we had Sam. It wasn't fair to him to check out like we wanted to. We kept right on working full time. Toby died on Saturday and Pete went to work on Monday and Tuesday. He took Wednesday off for the funeral and then went back on Thursday. I went back a week later. This wasn't because we weren't grieving, it was because we needed the money.

I do think that there is a certain advantage (if you can call it that) that those of us who had surviving children had over those who didn't. If it hadn't been for Sam, I'm not sure how we would have handled Toby's death. Because we had Sam, though, we had to keep on Christmas shopping, celebrating holidays, arranging play dates, and planning vacations. We had to actually get up in the morning. Had it just been the two of us, that motivation would probably not have been there. Many parents with surviving children have said that they "faked it until they made it" and I'm a big fan of this, too.

If Sam hadn't been with us then I am sure we wouldn't have left the house. (Not that we left it a whole lot anyway.) There are a lot of things that we definitely wouldn't have done in that first year.

I think it's wrong to look at another person and feel superior to them in our own grief because they're not showing it as much. We have no idea what the other person is feeling. Even when it comes to blogging, some people blog differently. There are some SIDS blogs out there that feel really positive. But we don't know what that person feels once they turn the computer off. On the flip side, some of us write things that are very depressing and open but that doesn't mean that we don't have moments during the day where we aren't laughing or enjoying ourselves. In fact, I think th yo-yoing is one of the worst parts of grief-you'll feel almost okay one second and be having a complete nervous breakdown the second.

So, to sum it up, we shouldn't judge others for not reacting the way we think they should or how we think we would. But, at the same time, we shouldn't assume that those who haven't been through a loss or tragedy like us wouldn't be able to deal with it or handle it, either. How about we just stop judging, period, and hope that those we love and care about never have to find out how it feels? 

1 comment:

Katie (LukeGrantsMom) said...

I missed this entry, so well said!