Dipping a Toe In – Monday, September 27th

Dear Poor Lucky Me,


Reading your blog has given me (and countless others) a lot of insight into how people grieve. It’s easy to forget how people are skill grieving even when they act like they’re ok. The comments on your blog also remind us how many parents suffer the loss of their children.


I wanted to reach out to you for advice. Many of your readers, fans, friends and family don’t always know what to say or how to act. We don’t want to ignore your pain, but we don’t want to bring it up if you’re doing ok…I mean if you seem to be doing ok. Could you give us some insight? We want to support and love you, but some of us need some guidance.


Love Always,
Trying to do the right thing


Dear Trying,
Thank you for your thoughtful question, and for your support and sympathy. This is a hard question to answer, because the nature of grief keeps changing- sometimes I feel like it changes every 20 minutes. I can only speak for myself but here are some points to keep in mind:


-When you first see the person, say- “I am so sorry for your loss, and I think about you frequently” Then stop talking. I know it’s hard to just stand there in what may feel like awkward silence, but it allows the griever to steer you in the right direction. I like when people say that to me because then I know they’ve heard what happened, and I don’t have to keep up the “everything’s great!” facade. I also do like to talk about what happened, and when people bring it up it alerts me that the person is ok with me talking a little.


-If you are worried about introducing a trigger (inviting me to a child’s birthday party for example) ask the person! Ask them how they’d feel and assure them that your feelings won’t be hurt if they decline EVEN IF YOUR FEELINGS MIGHT BE HURT. Your hurt feelings might subside after a few minutes, but acting insensitive towards a grieving person might scar your relationship for a very long time.


-Sending flowers is thoughtful, but sending food is helpful. Bringing over a casserole is like giving their soul a hug. Sending Harry & David’s, a little bag of groceries, carry out from a favorite restaurant- it all makes the grieving person feel cherished and keeps them from having to make decisions. When your heart is really broken, even feeding yourself seems impossible.


-Reach out to the person whenever you feel like it- even if you’re worried you let too much time pass or you won’t say the right thing. If you sent a card right after the tragedy but still think about the person, send another card. I am so touched by people who check in with me regularly. It makes me feel less lonely.


-Let the person lash out and cry and mourn. It is scary to watch, but you can help by just being there and pretending not to be scared. The girls in my book club have been so instrumental to my recovery because they just let me be the new person that I am. They aren’t afraid of my moods- they never take it personally if I’m not feeling chatty- they aren’t afraid of my pain. They ask about it and just treat it like it is, which is just a new part of my personality. I feel so safe around them because I trust that they never forget that I’m mourning, even when I’m cracking jokes. They never try and change the subject if I want to talk about what I went through, and I can’t help but be overwhelmed by their support and their faith.


-Remember that you might not always get it right, but your heart is in the right place. Sometimes people say stupid or hurtful or insulting things, but I know they want to say all the right things. It’s hard. If you put your foot in your mouth, just take it out and say “I think what I just said was inelegant. I just meant to say I’m so sorry you’re going through this.” Or, just say “I’m so sorry for your loss”. That’s all you ever have to say.


-Finally instead of saying “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do”. Try saying (like my incredible friend Kitty did) “can I send a cleaning lady over, can I order you dinner, do you want the name of my psychic” etc. When people are in terrible pain, they rarely know how to ask for help. If you give them a list of ideas, they’ll trust you. They’ll call you when they do think of something they need.


As I’m writing this I’m realizing how much my trust was shaken when Tommy died. I didn’t trust my body, I didn’t trust doctors, I didn’t trust my friends or family to understand and empathize. I still feel so wary in social situations. In fact, sometimes I think it’s worse now than it was in the beginning. The loneliness and sadness is less sharp, but now it covers everything near me in a fine black dust of sadness. Every time I brush up against some one or something I look down and find myself covered in this sadness that’s too fine for other people to notice readily. And I know I can’t keep pointing it out.


I hope this was helpful. It was cathartic for me to try writing advice again, so thank you for your question.


Poor Lucky Me

Head Shrunk – Thursday September 23rd

Regarding Tuesday’s post: I haven’t sent anything out yet. I’m scared without knowing exactly what I’m scared of. I’ll keep trying today and I hope I’ll just send what I’ve got and not agonize over it. I don’t want to intellectualize my way out of taking a step forward.


I went to a new shrink today. I thought I could handle things on my own, but things have been getting a little wild lately. So I bit the bullet and made an appointment. The new doc is a woman and was recommended by a friend who reliably “gets it”.


I was really anxious about the appointment. One minute I wanted to call and move it up, the next minute I wanted to cancel it and forget the whole thing. Somehow I made it to her office and then next thing I knew I was sitting on a different couch, facing a different doctor, clutching a box of Kleenex in my lap.


We started going through my history, but I cut it off after about ten minutes and dropped the dead baby bomb. Things sped up after that. I cried almost the entire time, and the doc cried a little too. I never expected to feel so validated and courageous and…ok. Talking with her, watching her reactions, it just made me remember that I do have perspective and I am going to get through this.


I was surprised by how much I cried. I’m so used to being able to get through the story without breaking down now. I told her parts of the story that I had forgotten, and parts that I wish I could forget. I told her that as much as I want to act out, I can’t, I’m too open. I know I can’t keep secrets from my friends and family, and I know I’d be too embarrassed to tell anyone if I really acted badly- so it’s like a built in safety device. A really god damn frustrating build in safety device. Her reaction to that was really satisfying too.


Starting a new relationship with a therapist is intimidating. you don’t want to have to spend time defending yourself and explaining yourself. I shouldn’t say “you” because I mean “I”. I want someone who trusts my level of self-awareness and gives me hope and challenges me to keep moving. And I think I found just the doc to do that.


For the first time this week I feel a little calmer. My eyes burn from crying for 60 minutes, but my heart is calm again. I’m going to see her again next week. We’ll just take it one week at a time.

Now What- Tuesday September 21st

I feel like I’ve been shrink-wrapped and vacuum-packed. I’m utterly stuck. Even when I come here to write I feel like I’m just writing the same thing over and over again. When is something going to happen? Do I have to rely on myself to break out of this rut? Do I have to try and get published, get serious about my diet, finish unpacking my apartment?


I think I already know the answer. But I’m so afraid to try. I was afraid to try at things before this all happened, now I would say I’m bordering phobic. Trying can lead to failing. See, it’s very simple logic. Trying can also lead to success, but I’m not a big gambler. However, I think I’m finally reaching the point, in my life and in my grief, that the prospect of more running in circles is scarier than the prospect of failing.


So today I’m going to take one foot off the edge, and dangle it over the canyon. I’m going to send some writing out, and see what happens. Maybe there’s nothing to be afraid of now, since the worst has already happened.

Forgiveness – September 15th, 2010

I submitted my story yesterday to this website: http://www.facesofloss.com/


It’s a really great project that I’m grateful to have stumbled upon. The loneliness of mourning is oppressive. It’s heartbreaking to read about so much loss and devastating grief, but it’s a relief to be reminded that what I’m going through is normal.


Before I sent it along, I went back and read the original essay I wrote about Tommy Jr. I cried out of sadness and happiness, especially rereading all the comments people wrote. So many people have reached out to Tom Sr and I, so many people still hold us in their hearts. Thank you all so much for your comments and love and prayers. They really did help our hearts heal. And they helped me be compassionate towards the people in my life who just couldn’t be there for me.


Compassion is not always easy to find, but it’s so important. I don’t want the memory of my sweet child to be mixed up with a bunch of anger, especially because I really do understand why some people couldn’t deal with what happened. Tommy Jr came here and gave me some wonderful gifts, and I can show him my gratitude by trying to be a forgiving person.


Wait, what if I forgive someone, but I just think they’re lame/annoying/stupid now? Does that not count? Surely experience molds who you want to have in your life, and that forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to stay friends with a lame-o. The tricky part is when/if one of these people says “what’s wrong” or some other confrontational thing. Can I say things like “Well after I had a tragedy in my life I realized you were a turd. No offense.” or is that not good?


Also- I’m really trying to get my sh*t together to redesign this site. I hate how weird it looks- all the “advice” stuff all over…I guess I thought if I told my readers it might make me do it faster. So there, I told you.

My Psychic Friend- Tuesday September 14th

I went back to the psychic last night and feel better than I have in weeks. This women is far better than any therapist I’ve ever been to. I’m having a hard time writing about my experience, probably because it’s so unlike me to buy into stuff like this. I am a known cynic about all things other-worldly. But really isn’t the purpose of all types of spiritualism to give us hope and comfort? Last night restored my hope and gave me comfort that I didn’t think I’d ever feel again. At least for the time being. Tomorrow I might be back in the shitter.


Here are a few key points from the session:


-I will have a healthy biological child in 2012. (And-she thought- another in 2015 and perhaps another in 2017)


-If Tommy Jr had stayed he would have been our only child. He would have been so fragile that we wouldn’t have felt like it was possible to have another baby. She said that there were other little souls waiting to come to us, and he understood that. Little Tommy felt that he had lived enough lives so he left so others could come to us. That makes me sad and happy. And I believe it.


-Tommy Jr is around me all the time, even if I can’t always feel him. She said he is no longer a baby, and that he was in the room with us.


-I will write a book and go on a successful book tour. The book may be turned into a movie. Nothing I can do will stop me from being pulled towards this destiny.


-Tom G will be a star pupil in law school and have a successful career because of his wonderful ethics. My brother pointed out that I didn’t need a psychic to know this about Tom, but still good to hear.


So there you have it. Everything is going to be ok after all. Oh, and if I drink less caffeine I’ll feel my son around me more. That’s a fair trade, because I miss him so much I’d give up bowel movements to feel him around me. Hopefully he laughed at that joke.

Alone Time – Sunday September 12th

If you are left home alone for a weekend while your husband has a a men’s golf outing you can be pretty sure you’re going to watch some stupid television and sad movies. You can stay up too late gaping at infomercials and then lure the dog to sleep in late the next day by allowing her access to not just the bed, but the pillows and covers as well. A good dog will take advantage of this offer and stay in bed until 10 or 10:30 am. A good dog will also break the normal rules and get up on the couch while you’re watching “In Her Shoes”, but even the best dog might get a little spook if later you watch “The Time Travelers Wife” and have racking sobbing crying fits. That’s ok, it was worth it.


An aside: I didn’t think I would like “The Time Traveler’s Wife” because I loved the book so much. I’m so glad I gave the movie a chance, because I also loved it. The story is just so clever and heart-wrenching and beautiful. The grief and loss and faith that your loved one will continue to appear was so touching. I really was crying like a crazy person at the end of the movie, but luckily when it was over it switched to an informercial Hosted by Mister T that immediately jerked me out of my sadness. The tears on my face dried as I watched Mister T and his house-wife-type-in-a-skirt-suit-sidekick make fried chicken and french fries with absolutely NO OIL!


A friend from college found me on facebook and after reading PLM, wrote me to say that he too had lost a child. I feels good to still have people reach out to me. He said something that really resonated. I asked him when they felt ready to try again, and in his answer he said (I’m paraphrasing I think): “Waiting longer doesn’t make it less scary”.


I felt like a bell went off in my head when I read that. It makes so much sense. I’ll get my body in order, I’ll address my brain as well as I can, then Tom Sr and I will just have to hold hands and jump over the cliff together. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think I’m starting to think about starting to try to have another baby. Someday I mean.


In more interesting news- I’m going back to the psychic tomorrow. I’ll give you all a full report afterward.

Thursday September 9th

Sometimes I have a hard time listening to other people talk about their babies. Only sometimes. During those times, I wrestle my sneer into a smile. It makes me feel like a bad person. I’m not jealous exactly, I’m not resentful, I’m just…sad. It’s like if you’ve never been to Europe and you really want to go, and you have to spend two hours listening to someone’s great stories about their fantastic trip to Paris. Actually that sounds like jealousy.


I’m just not a jealous person in my regular life, so this is new to me. Maybe this is one of those times that I’m not supposed to be so hard on myself. Easier said than done. If you pride yourself on being one of the few people in the world who can be genuinely happy for other people…it’s pretty confusing to keep getting punched in the neck with jealousy.


I used to feel like my underlying emotion was happiness or enthusiasm. Then the underlying emotion was sadness. Now I feel slightly frustrated all the time. Frustrated and overwhelmed. Maybe it’s time to go back to yoga, because this frustration is…frustrating.

Tuesday, September 7th Time Line

I had the pleasure of going to a surprise party to celebrate a dear friend’s birthday last week. His wife, another dear friend, gave me a couple of tasks to do. She is one of the most sensitive people I know. I suspect she knows how difficult socializing is for me these days, and that a job would keep me focused and my nerves steady. They are very experienced dog people, so they can be relied upon to understand how to keep skittishness at bay. And I can be very skittish.


It was a truly exceptional party. Everyone there was incredibly interesting and engaging. The birthday boy and hostess are so smart, so sophisticated, and so appreciative of their friends. I couldn’t help but creep out of my shell. In fact, I ended up ripping off my invisible mourning shrouds and just having fun. The kind of fun where you’re hoarse even before the night is over. The kind of fun where you suspect you might have been a little over the top, but you can’t be embarrassed because you had such a good time.


I told Tom Sr the next day that I think I might have crossed the point where I don’t feel guilty being happy. Now, I don’t want anyone getting too excited about this revelation. I’m not sure it will stick. But for the time being, I think my brain and heart have finally reached an agreement. In rereading the paragraph I just wrote, it occurs to me I’ve probably written something like that before. I sort of remember a couple of months ago writing that I was starting to feel comfortable being happy. That’s ok. I know that the grief goes in waves. I’m just happy right now, right this moment, that my angel is still working hard to help me heal.


I noticed the other day that I had stopped dating my posts a long time ago. The effect is this weird suspension in time when I go back and read post I had written in the past. So I think I’m going to slowly go back and enter the dates back in. Maybe it’ll be interesting or helpful to other people going through this to see my time-line.


It really feels like autumn already. The sunlight is hard and a little to bright. I feel like I’m getting pushed into the future.

Magic Trick

Well, I’m suffering from depression. I didn’t want to admit it at first. I thought: I’m not depressed, I’m just grieving. But I can’t see the point in denying it anymore. The grief is it’s own entity, it’s like having a third arm or a vestigial tail. The depression is like an illness. It makes my bones hurt, it makes my limbs heavy. I feel like the muscles in my face aren’t working right.


But I’m not afraid of the depression. I understand that it will come and go, and that I can take action to help cure it. It’s hard for people who see me everyday to understand how I could be depressed and still laugh and joke around.


I’m cheerfully depressed.


I can function, I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel (even if I can’t see it). Sometimes though, I feel like I’ve used up so much energy staying straight during the day that once I get home I’m almost comatose.


I want to get back to normal, but I don’t know what normal is anymore. Maybe I can just think…I’m waiting for my new self to appear. How’s that sound?

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