Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Grief For Newbies

Maeve Joy Elise - and her
famous 'O' face!
So (big, deep breath). Some of you may know that in April 2013, our world went shitbag. Our world went blurry, angry, unreal, horribly real, agonising, pointless. Our first daughter, Maeve, died. She was precisely 18 months old. She had to have surgery on her skull, and there were unexpected complications.

The past 2+ years have been, as you might imagine, life changing. I've been thinking about writing this post for most of that time.
Its difficult to know where to start. I could tell you about how we arrived at this point, I could tell you all about Maeve's difficulties, I could tell you about the fact that she was entirely well, not a sick child, but had to have corrective work. I could tell you me and Becca feel strong, supported, let down, abandoned, angry.

Anyone who has been through - duh - is going through - this kind of thing will know what I'm talking about. And yet, they wont. Because everybody's experience of grief, of loss, is personal, different. Our experience is just as huge and awful, as someone losing their mother, father, brother, sister, dog, cat. Its all relative. So I guess what I'm saying first, is that yes, you may 'know of' what Becca and I are going through (and will continue to for the rest of our lives in some way or another), but you don't know what we're going through.

There's nothing good to be said about what has happened to us. When this happened, we were 'grief novices', 'child loss newbies' if you like. What I mean by this is that we did not know how to deal with any of it, our reaction, other peoples reactions, societys reaction. Fortunately Becca and I are fairly singular people, and tend not to bow to socially acceptable behaviours and platitudes. We were constantly (figuratively) standing with swords drawn just waiting for someone to say "At least you had the time you did with her" so that we could slash back "FUCK OFF, the time we had!?!? Cheated. Taken away. THINK about what you say before saying it!!". You see, with child loss, there are no socially accepted phrases people can run to. You know what I mean - 'she had a good innings' 'at least she's free of pain now' 'It wasn't unexpected'. None of these apply. Although I would add at this point, that if you say any of those phrases to someone who just lost a loved one, you, well, just DON'T bloody use them.

As a result of the death of our beloved daughter making people feel socially awkward, damn it if people just chose to not speak to us instead! Or they would come up to us all cheery, and not even mention Maeve. There's also an in-betweenie one, "I didn't want to say anything and upset you more..". This one even now, makes me "laugh". 'even more'. As if it wasn't on our minds 24//7 anyway.

Folks, when you encounter someone you call a friend, who has lost someone, if you don't know what to say, stand there, and SAY "I don't know what to say, I just want you to know I'm here for you, if you need anything". Saying nothing is worse than saying something stupid. But we also now encounter a problem (in what has become a 'Grief For Dummies' blog post) - that previous phrase "...here for you.." - which suggests 'just ask'. The trouble is, when you lose someone, unexpectedly or not, there's a good chance that you are in a place where you are using ALL of your energy just getting out of bed (or not), dressing and not walking in front of a speeding train. So asking for help is almost impossible. People actually need to grab the nettle, and come knock on your door. We may not answer, but we'll know you came. And that is more meaningful than you can imagine.

The opposite to this, which we also encountered, is people seemingly sprinting towards us with their horror stories. 'this happened to a woman in my work so I know how you feel'. Someone even came up to us at Maeve's funeral telling us about how she had "buried three children, and to go to her for advice". Believe me, that is the LAST thing you want to hear, and the LAST person you want to go near.

So all in all, its very difficult to do anything right around us untouchables, us unclean child-loss people... The one thing is, be there. Be a friend. You do have to work hard at it though. Loss of this magnitude puts you inside a bubble, and if people try hard enough they can poke their heads inside the bubble, or even sit next to you in it. We will potentially be rude, monosyllabic, we'll cry a lot and not care what people think, we'll say things and not care what people think. In fact, grief gives you a window of opportunity to behave in a pretty vile manner, and get away with it. So (fellow grievers), use it, I suggest.

My favourite metaphor that I came up with, is this. If you walk up to a bus stop in town, and there is a stranger sitting there, well dressed, nice converse, cool clothes, nothing threatening or socially unacceptable about them to make you recoil and make it someone else's problem, and they are sobbing, crying, what would you do? Would you wait to be asked? Or would you just go for it? See here
If you're the latter, you'll probably stay friends with your bereaved friends. 

You see, we also disappear off the radar, for long periods, we turn down invites out, invites for dinner, invites for coffee. The reason? Not because we hate, its because, our child died, we didn't lose our job, we didn't have a car accident, we didn't even get divorced, our child died. It doesn't go away, so don't YOU go away either. Most people stopped asking us after 8-10 weeks. A shockingly short time after Maeves death. But our counsellor said this would happen. Sadly, she was right. People that weren't there, quite quickly don't get to be part of our new and Maeve-less life. Sounds cruel? Well, tough. Some people we knew well were amazing, others disappeared, some people we weren't that close to, stepped up incredibly. Its odd. We know that none of the people we feel let down by are bad people, but we don't have time to wait for them to catch on, in our situation.

I think I'll stop for now. This is difficult stuff to write about. And my mood will be different in a while, giving me different things to say, thoughts to express and mud to fling.

I'll leave it to Leo. I've lots more to say. At some point.



2 comments:

  1. What a precious, beautiful child. Thank you for this post; so well said and helpful. xx

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