I get that question quite often these past several months. Sometimes, people don't ask and I can feel them 'eying' me. Trying to look into my eyes. Trying to figure out by the look on my face. Often times, they don't say anything. They just look. Study. Which is okay, but I'd much rather be asked than have others try to surmise for themselves. Although I do realize that some people are scared to ask. No doubt, fearing the response I may give, or just not knowing how to ask how I'm doing.
When the question is asked, I'm not always sure how to answer. Do people really want to know? Are they ready to hear how I, really am? More often than not, I know people aren't ready for what should come out of my mouth. I should be matter of fact with that question. But, I find myself often times beating around the bush. Not always, but quite often. I think I fear what their reaction will be as much as they fear my reaction to their question.
One thing I know through this whole grief process, is that I am suppose to tell it like it is. So say the "professionals" Tell people how I feel when asked. The truth is, if I did say just how I was feeling...I'm quite certain it would freak people out. But I do tell it like it is...every once in a while. I feel like I'm the one walking on egg shells, trying not to upset someone with my feelings. Doesn't that sound a little off? Aren't other people suppose to feel that way? Weird...but it's true. I feel as though I have to watch what I say to people so they don't get scared and run with their tails between their legs.
Here is one way I have described how I am, "Carly was the center of our family, she was our rock solid center. Now, our center has been dropped out from under us, leaving us hanging by threads." That pretty much sums it up. Some people don't understand that. And that's okay. But for us, Carly was our little surprise. Our second family so to speak. Well, I guess when you think about it. Two people who remarry after being divorced for 7 years and have another child, I guess it pretty much is a second family! Everything in our lives revolved around Carly. EVERYTHING. From loving her, to playing with her, teaching her, advocating for her rights, to nursing her back to health through many of her major illnesses. For 8 years...Carly is all any of us knew.
Paul and I attended The Compassionate Friends group recently. This group is geared toward parents who have lost a child. Any age of child, not just a small child. We went to our first meeting last week and it was very emotional. We shared our story with 10 other people. We passed Carly's picture around as Paul and I spoke of her. There was not a dry eye in that room. As our story wrapped up, we were asked "how are you doing now?" I answered, "I feel like part of me died with Carly." And honestly, that is how I feel and I do believe it to be true. Anyway... a newly bereaved mother pipped up. "Well you didn't die. You're still here." This mother went on to really preach to me. Almost pissing me off. But then I realized. This poor mother is still numb and very much in denial. It had only been 1 month since the loss of her youngest son, who was 18yrs old. I realized that she's still numb from her loss. Her son and his girlfriend were killed in a car accident in October. I was familiar with the accident because it was on all the local news casts. The leader finally spoke up, letting this mom know, in a very tender way, that I was in fact feeling like I died along with Carly. That I'm at the part of grief and mourning where that's how I feel and that we all grieve in a different manner. Some quicker than others. Some take longer than others. Most of all, grief never ends. I was thankful that leader spoke up. I could have easily gotten very angry at this mother. So yeah, I KNOW I didn't die. But I'm quite certain, part of me did.
It's a hard thing to imagine losing a child. Who even wants to imagine that? Any child at any age is just WRONG. Nothing is right about parents meeting a couple times a month talking about the loss of their child. Nothing is right about parents having to seek one on one counseling, due to the death of a child. This is not the natural order of life. It is not suppose to be this way. But this is the way it is for us now. It sucks. It sucks really bad. But, ask us how we are if you are wondering. If we cry, then we cry. We are suppose to cry. It's not a bad thing. It's actually a good thing when it comes to the grieving process. Crying is healing. Although, we will never really "heal" from this,,,(that's my personal opinion) we will however, find a "new normal". A "new normal". I HATE the words "new normal" I suppose it goes back to always hearing it from our doctors and nurses at UofM. Having a heart baby was a "new normal" Having a child going through chemo for 26months was a "new normal" Having a child finish chemo after 26months was a "new normal" Life after the death of your child is a "new normal" I'm so sick of "new normals" But, it is what it is. Who said I have to like it?
If you really want to know. If you really are concerned. If you are unsure about asking, just do it. Ask me, "how are you?" I just can't promise you tears will be absent from my answer. But I really don't mind being asked. In fact, I like people to ask because I like to talk about Carly. As awful as it was to lose Carly, she is still and will always be, my daughter.