"Grieving the loss of a child is a process, it begins the day your child passes and ends the day the parent joins them."

Monday, November 22, 2010

How are you?

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.


Becky M. said...

Joany, I am sure a part of you did die. How could it not? I thank you for your words and your honesty. Before my mom died of cancer, she wrote in a journal that we found after she died about how she was treated so differently after her diagnosis with cancer. People didn't know what to say to her and she missed just being talked to. I hope to learn from your words and apply to my life. (((hugs))) and always thinking of you and your family.


Ange Aguirre said...

I like your response. Carly was indeed the center of your world and losing her completely dropped the floor out from under all of you. Feeling as though a part of you died with her sounds right to me.

Hugs to you as always.

Googsmom said...

{{{{{HUGS}}}} Love and continued Prayers!!

amyl4 said...

I pray for you and Polly everyday. I understand how you say a part of you has died. I have not lost a child, but I know that is how I would feel too. I know that I would be heartbroken forever and as much as I cry for you and Polly, I know that I would cry every day for the rest of my life. Hugs and prayers to you especially during this time of year.

Sarah said...

You know..i love the internet. I was popping around blogs and i happened upon yours just now. Oh my dear...I am so sorry for your monumental loss. I see nothing but LOVE in that beautiful girl that was yours for too short of a time. I lost my son, 5 months ago tomorrow. and what i know for sure (which as you know its not much anymore!) but part of you did die. you carried her, you created her in love, you fought for her, and as a mom you are supposed to die before her. sweet dear, your heart holds all your children and loved ones, and so yes, i agree when she left your arms and passed into heavenly ones she took a peice of your heart with her...
i will hold your family in prayer this thanksgiving that will be such a difficult day i don't wanna even think about it. but laugh, cry, and be ok with that dumb word normal as we walk together to try to make sense of it all..
love love love to YOU.

Runningmama said...

Oh, how you must miss her so much, I can't imagine! I have allowed myself to venture in my mind to that place as I know that leukemia doesn't always end well, and it's just too painful! I wish things were different and she were still here. Thank you for writing here and letting us all know how you are feeling and for being so honest. I am sure there is a hole in your heart that will never ever be repaired, but I do pray that the extreme pain that fills that hole will be replaced with a feeling of peace.

Kristen's mom said...

You can always tell the difference when someone says, "How are you?" and then "Really, How are you?"
When someone approaches me and says, "How are you? and then they proceed to answer the question themselves, with a big...things are getting better aren't they." I then put my painted smile and mask on and nod and by then they are ususlly walking away. It is so refreshng when someone really does care and realize that I'm really not ok. That things are worse now than ever. I too love to talk about Kristen.

I think about you every single day.

The VW's said...

Love, Big Hugs and Prayers!!!

Groves said...

Your posts come to my mind a lot after I read them. For one thing, I've felt really angry about that woman telling you that "you didn't die" when Carly died.

Honestly, does she have a pulse, let alone a heart? You were very kind and ready to let her "be where she is" because of the loss of her own child - but I felt she acted like a real bully and a dolt wrapped up in one. You can tell I didn't have much of a reaction...

I simply don't understand why people DON'T understand that you aren't going to "get over" the death of your daughter. I don't understand why they don't understand that a part of you (a big part of you!) died when Carly died.

Sometimes I get pretty angry at them for not understanding, mainly because I think they don't WANT to understand. Apparently, it makes them too uncomfortable to know that your suffering will not be stopping.

I appreciate your honesty and value your words. I'm sure I'm not alone in this - all of us read your blog because we want to know how you *really* are. How you really, REALLY are...with no expectations. We want to hear about Carly and we don't get sick of hearing about her or about how you miss her. We aren't tired of hearing about what it is really like to walk through this grief day in and day out.

Thanks for writing when you feel like writing - and for sharing Carly with us just as much and as often as you want to.

On your side,

Cathy in Missouri

Lacey said...

I'm glad that you said to ask you about Carly. Because I'm not afraid to ask you how you are doing, or even to tell you that I can't even pretend to know what you are going through. Because you are living my nightmare that I thought was going to be me more than once.
But sometimes I'm more afraid to ask the parents of a lost child about the child. Sometimes I wonder if they don't want to talk about it because it may bring back the fact that she is not here. I always will love to hear Carly stories! And I'm sure you will always love to tell them!