My husband recently read a book about coping with grief, given to us by my father. My dad said that it helped him and hoped it could help us in some way. It was very thoughtful of him. I am not ready to read about other people’s experiences with losing a child. I barely have room in my heart for my experience. My husband finished the book the same day we got it. Since then, he has been reading a lot, and sharing with me bits and pieces of what he finds. I have to stop him now and then because some of the things he is ready to talk about, I am not. My husband and I are both grieving the loss of our daughter, but even I don’t fully understand his pain or his process, and he doesn’t fully understand mine. That is true for everyone. Everyone who knows us, loved Bug, or has somehow been touched by her death is dealing with it in their own way. That’s the only way any of us can do it. I get it.
One thing my husband shared with me from a book he read was that we can’t be selfish. We, her mother and father, can’t be selfish about our needs, our loss, our pain. When he first said this, my response was quickly, “Watch me.” But then he explained what he meant. It’s not that we shouldn’t be selfish, as in it’s a matter of manners or etiquette. It’s that we can’t be selfish because life won’t let us.
The people around us don’t know what to say, or they say clumsy things that may be hurtful, or they just stop talking to us. They don’t know what to do if we cry. They don’t know what to do if Bug’s name comes up. They don’t know how to handle the subject of death or life or babies or the future or sadness. We are all of those things. My husband and I have become walking symbols for things that make people uncomfortable. My husband and I are walking reminders of the sorrow and pain of losing Bug.
What does that have to do with being selfish? Well, if everyone around me feels weirded out by my presence, then when I am around you, I have to be mindful of how you are feeling, how you are coping, whether or not you are comfortable, reassuring you that you are not doing it wrong. That does not leave a lot of time or space to be mindful of my own needs. So it’s not that we shouldn’t be selfish. We should! It would be the best thing for us. And everyone says that we “should do whatever we need to do to get through this.” Well, there is no “getting through this” and the “do whatever you need to do” part feels like it turns into a “why don’t you try this.” The support for what we are going through transforms into suggestions for how we should go through it.
It’s been two months since I lost my baby girl. It’s starting to feel like the people around me are waiting for a signal from me that it’s OK for them to move on. They need to know that I am OK, so they can be OK without hurting me. All of this is happening because the loss of Bug is so painful. It’s impossible to bear. It’s impossible to live with everyday. But we have to. My husband and I do not have a choice. We can’t shut the door or choose when to remember her or explain why we feel the way we do. The last thing I want to do is hurt someone, but when it comes to my feelings, my needs, and my grief over the death of my 14-month-old daughter, oh I’m going to be selfish. And everyone else, feel free to do the same.