Friday, June 8, 2012

When well wishes aren't enough?

It's time for a griping session. I think I've earned one.

For those of us who have lost children, we find ourselves getting bombarded with words: words that are harmful, words that are hateful, words that are caring, words that are insensitive, and even those words that get left unsaid. Sometimes, my life seems to be a never-ending barrage of words.

It is true that it is the thought that counts and that giving is better than receiving and all of those other cliches that are cliches for a reason (because they mostly hold up) but sometimes, just sometimes, words are not enough.

I know that if someone doesn't know what to say to me about Toby, a simple "I'm sorry" or "I don't know what to say" is almost always better for me than a) trying to justify his death b) trying to ignore or or c) trying to philosophize about it.

But sometimes words can be a cop out.

I truly, TRULY appreciate the support I have been given over my three blogs in regards to my surgery. Abby, Cathy, Katie, Susan, and the folks over on my Chiari blog who write in with support and kind words-I don't know what I would do without you. Seriously. Signing in and reading the comments has helped so much. On DS, in a private group, a woman went on a mission to be my personal cheerleader. She counted down the days for me, created a virtual care basket from all the members, and even gave Pete her cell number so that he could text her. Those words and gestures were just as good as being here in person and, in some instances, better than what others had done.

So that's not what I am talking about.

What I mean by this entry are the people who make a public display out of posting their concerns, prayers, and thoughts for me yet never ever go beyond that. No text messages, no cards, no private emails, no other gestures. To the public, it's "I'm praying for Rebecca every day!" or "She is in my thoughts!" yet it's so MUCH in the public that it feels fake. Does that sound terrible? To the outside world, they appear to be concerned and worried and really look like they care about me. When nobody is looking, however, I don't even know who these people are.

Before the surgery we didn't have anyone to help with little things. Like, feeding our dogs while we were gone. Or checking on our kittens. Heck, someone offering to watch the kids for a few hours while I was in surgery would have been nice. Dragging them to the hospital for 6 hours of surgery and recovery was nobody's idea of a good time. Offering to help Mom out when she came back home with them, even though it was only for a day, would have been helpful.

That's why the flowers that Katie sent and the soup that Abby sent and the little gestures like that meant so much to me. We ASK for favors and help and get turned down these days. Having it done unexpectedly is a real bonus.

There's a woman who lives literally 10 minutes up the road from us and keeps publicly posting on Mom's FB wall that she is thinking about me but that she doesn't have time to visit. I am glad for her thoughts, but Sam is sad and worried and scared and we can't give him the attention he needs right now. Her thoughts are welcomed, but brining her kids over for an hour or two and letting them play with him would be even more appreciated.

It makes me feel guilty, though, too, to even ask. Because I ask, like, could you come visit me? I would like some company, and then I get a whole lecture about how busy the person is. So, of course, I feel bad for asking in the first place.

This isn't just a surgery rant. If you've lost a child, you know how people drop off the face of the earth. I just sent out 5 birthday invitations for Iris' first birthday. That's the full number of people we were going to invite because I didn't think I'd feel like cooking or cleaning much. One person has already turned it down. Just makes me fee bad.

I KNOW that people can be in your thoughts a lot. I think about Katie and her lost (now recovered) urn and her break-in everyday. Even my mom knows about Susan in Scotland and Catherine and can refer to them by name since I talk about them. And Pete knows when Abby is due. It IS possible to have someone on your mind a lot and to say "I've been thinking about you" is legit.

But sometimes, it just doesn't feel like enough. I remember getting all the excuses after Toby died as to why people didn't come to the funeral, call me, write me, or contact me. Sure, they were all great excuses. And it was nice to know that I had been on someone's mind. But, at the end of the day, I was still sitting there alone in the house, sad, and crying without my son. I don't think people realized how even a small gesture of kindness (phone call, banana nut bread, card, funny text) meant. If pictures can be worth a thousand words, then a small gesture can often be worth millions. 

4 comments:

Groves said...

To the public, it's "I'm praying for Rebecca every day!" or "She is in my thoughts!" yet it's so MUCH in the public that it feels fake. Does that sound terrible? To the outside world, they appear to be concerned and worried and really look like they care about me. When nobody is looking, however, I don't even know who these people are.

*****

This does not sound terrible at all. Just true.

Makes me think of something: "You can be seen to do something - or actually do it." (Schaeffer)

It's weird, because it isn't something you can "prove" (not in the usual way, maybe), but we all know it. We know when someone is making a SHOW of caring more than they're *actually* caring. I don't think it's mean to call a spade a spade...speaking of cliches.

Yes, people are thinking about you. And yes, it would be nice if that thinking translated into some action - even in the form of encouraging words. TO YOU. NOT TO THE WORLD.

Hear you loud and clear & I'm sorry the world is like this. You certainly aren't nuts.

xoxoxo to you, Rebecca, glad you can speak up (it's a brave thing),

Cathy in MIssouri

Susan said...

I'm sorry people are being shit. I think it is par for the course. It is not your fault by the way - just in case you needed telling that.

When C died I had an alarming array of excuses as to why people couldn't support me (but you know that). However, the slant that always reassured and interested me was my best friend.

She got pg in response to C's death. It wasn't really planned in a thought through sort of way, iyswim. She couldn't really afford another child. She already had a 3 year old and a 1 year old. Her pregnancies are awful too. She was in pain from the off - and had to give up work and was housebound from around 15 weeks with SPD. By about 22 weeks she was pretty much in constant pain, unable to move much, and trying to look after 2 kids. After the pg, the pelvic pain goes and she was going to be alright.

I could understand people abandoning me. I mean, they didn't know what to say, and I was distressed and the didn't get it. But surely she was easy? I mean, she needed people to take the kids for play dates, to make them lunch, to keep her company etc., and it was time limited - only for a few months - and she was desperate.

And what did they do - they fucked off and left her too it.

In the end, it got so bad, I started going once a week to help for a day. It wasn't the best for me. My only child had just died, and I couldn't really cope with kids that well - but in the absence of anyone else....

Anyway, that's a long winded way of saying that people are crap. They don't want to get involved. A lot of the thinking of you stuff is just that. I know what people mean when they say it - they mean they shake their head wryly and think "poor Susan/Rebecca" as they drive past the house. Stopping and doing anything helpful is not part of that package.

I'm sorry I'm not closer. For a start, I would be bagging the spare invite for Iris' party - sorry - didn't I mention I am a pushy mother :) And I could have done the food. Why people don't get that a first birthday invite for a baby born after their sibling has died is VERY VERY SPECIAL is quite frankly beyond me.

I wish I knew what to suggest about the practical stuff. I remember my friend shouting out on FB for help, and people wouldn't reply - so I take your point about it being depressing when you ask and get knocked back. However, I think if you ask specific people for specific (limited stuff) it can be more successful. Maybe your mother could ask around for some playdates for your older child? Sometimes people will be willing to do it regularly every fortnight till you're feeling better if you ask very directly!

Very flattered to hear we are so talked about. Now, I wonder why our ears were burning! Susan x

Rebecca said...

Sometimes, it's just signing on to read your comments and KNOW that I am not nuts that makes the day a little better. :-) Seriously. I start thinking, good god, I am a terrible person! And then I have a little bit of validation and thinking, shew, maybe not! Maybe someone else feels like that sometimes as well. And it lifts a weight.

Rebecca said...

Susan, I understand about your friend, too. I spent the majority of my pregnancy with Iris in the hospital. You name it, I had it: placental abrution, subchorinic hematoma, hyperemsiss through the entire thing, preeclampsia, etc. I actually had people delete me from FB, though, because I had gotten pregnant "on purpose" and "knew" that it might happen and they were tired of hearing me complain about it. I did have a friend who stuck around though and she brought me sweetbreads, goodies, and even just hung out when she could. She visited me in the hospital a lot. It meant a lot to me. During that pregnancy, though, I felt like the worst mother in the world. I had just lost Toby and been through that depression and now I was having another baby and STILL wasn't around Sam. And now we have the brain stuff.

I actually thought that the brain recovery might be better than losing a child in terms of people. Sometimes, people will step back in death but step up in illness. Like, they can wrap their heads around that a little better. (No pun intended.)

Mom is being great with the kids. She is taking Sam to ride Thomas the Train on Saturday and she takes them all morning and early afternoon so that Pete can stay up all night and watch me and Iris. We are also trying to find him some activities. I have thought about signing him for vacation bible school up the road. We don't agree with it, but it's kids and he would have fun and it's close enough to the farm that Pete could walk him there. I could put aside my religious stuff for a week if it meant he socialized and had a good time.

Your ears are definitely burning! :-) Thought we should throw some positive energy toward the British Isles since most of ours is negative. (Pete is from Shropshire, by the way.)

I don't get the birthday thing. We do everything we're invited to. Granted, it ain't much, but we rarely turn anything down. But people are like, "Well, we'll come to the next one!" Dude, she'll never have another first birthday again. There will never be another first "rainbow baby" birthday again. Hitting the one year mark is a HUGE deal when you've lost a child.

Our babies would have a ball. We live on a nice farm and they could play. Our kittens are now weaned and running all over the place. I think it will be a festive day.

My best friend of 20 years did not come to Toby's funeral. She lives 15 minutes down the road. She sent me a brief email a week later. I haven't heard from her since. None of Pete's friends came.