Monday, December 12, 2005

The real me, whoever that is

I often wonder what people see when they look at me. Not strangers - I know that if they even bother looking they see a lumpy, 30-something woman with the ever-so-attractive beginnings of middle age starting to set in (wrinkles, dark circles, gray hair - all the lovely bits of old age). I'm like a million other women my age.

I mean the people who know me. What do they see.

I could be very wrong (maybe it's just paranoia - something I'm quite good at cultivating) but I have a feeling they just see the mother of a dead baby. I don't think they can see past that, at least not yet. I still catch people staring at me with looks of sadness, pity and curiosity on their faces. I see them watching me when I'm around children and their pity is so palpable I can almost grab it out of the air (and sometimes I wish I could so I could slam it in a drawer or lock it in a closet).

I'm tired of being looked at as though I'm not who I used to be, even though I fully realize I'm not that girl anymore. It's exhausting. I'm trying so hard to muddle my way through the unbearable grief I still feel and it's getting increasingly difficult to do that while swimming circles around the fishbowl I seem to be living in.

And don't even get me started on the eggshells that are apparently laying at my feet.

I understand. I do. I'm sure I'd have exactly the same reactions to a grieving parent had the gods decided to play Russian roulette with someone else's child instead of mine. But understanding it doesn't necessarily make it easier. It just makes me forgive the people who are doing it. It doesn't change how they perceive me at all.

I wonder how long it takes before they'll be able to see me instead of my sorrow. Is it a year? Is it two years? Will it be when we have another child? Will they ever look at me and just see me again?

Will I?

When Thomas died I knew we had a long, long road ahead of us. I just didn't realize it would be like this. I knew there would be the crushingly dreadful sorrow that would slowly become something we would figure out how to live with, but I guess I just never gave any thought to what the world around me would be doing - how they would be coping with the loss. I didn't realize, foolishly, that there would be so much focus on me. On how I'm doing, on what I'm thinking, on how I'm reacting to every single little thing.

I love that people care so much - I'd be devastated if they left us alone in our grief - I guess I just wish they could shelve the sad-eyed glances every once in a while and just treat me like they would anyone else.

I'm also afraid of getting too used to the sympathy, the kindness and the excusing me for everything just because I'm sad.

It's wonderful to have such a supportive cushion, I just don't want to be one of those people who ceases to need the cushion but keeps their bum planted firmly on it anyway. I'll have to be extremely careful of that. There's nothing worse than someone who is so absorbed with their own woes that they can't see anything but.

I'm sure it would appear that I am that person, given that this blog is probably 99.9% about my sorrow, but this is my safe haven - my place to dump all my sorrow, anger, fear, neurosis and paranoia. I am not this person all the time. Okay, maybe I am in some ways, but I don't show this side all the time. I can have an entire conversation without mentioning Thomas - I swear it, I can.

I can't wait for the day when I start to feel normal - more comfortable with who I am. I can't wait for the time when the two parts of me (pre Thomas and post Thomas) reconcile and cohabitate happily inside my brain instead of warring with each other the way they so often do now. I've felt hints of that normalcy, and if it weren't for Christmas I think I'd be feeling it even more.

So hopefully when the holidays are over and the new buds of spring begin to appear on Thomas' tree, I'll be feeling more like the person I'm still struggling to get to know.

And maybe once I figure her out, everyone else will start to see her too.


Teresa said...

I don't see you that way at all. People can't help but change when aweful things happen to them.

If anyone acts funny when you're around their children, I'm sure it's only meant to protect you from more hurts.

I would say that I still see the 'real' you in there. Your humour for one, which is just one part of the girl I know, is still intact. I think you just are more complex than you used to be. BUT you're still you- kind, smart, witty, friendly... a good soul.

I don't think things can ever be 100% like they used to, and maybe they shouldn't be. Thomas' life has affected your outlook, and has caused anyone who knew you to be aware of what a griefing mother goes through.

I saw once on Oprah (love her) after a woman went through an unthinkable tragedy where she decided to accept a "new normal" instead of trying to be the person she was before her malaise. This was her way of being ok with herself and how her life would never, ever be the same.

Sherry said...

My gosh - you nailed SO many things on the head! I sat here, nodding in agreement, with all of your questions and realizations about the pre- and post-Thomas "you."

I think it's normal to wonder what the outside world thinks of people in our position. Is it always pity and curiosity ... or is there more behind those looks? And, I guess I wonder this, too, since I expressed those same looks to people in "that" position before it had happen to me.

I can't recall what I felt when I'd look at them or think about them ... probably sorrow more than anything - wishing there was a way to undo what had made those people so, so sad.

As you once told me, the death of your baby is a life-altering event - people may never see us the same way again. I wonder if we will always be a split personality - the pre- and post-loss. And, as you said, the two will eventually learn to co-exist somehow, someday.

Catherine said...

I wonder how long it takes before they'll be able to see me instead of my sorrow.

I think they do see you. They see you navigating your grief and are just so unsure of how to help you find your way that they don't know what to say or do. They are paralyzed because no matter which way they go, they will most likely make mistakes. But I can assure you they see you...the real you...and they're watching you carefully because they want to be sure you are going to make it through the worst of this. They know you'll be different...and they're waiting to see who they will have when all is said and done. I bet they don't mean to make you feel like you're in a fishbowl. But let's face it...all your relationships will be affected by how you deal with your grief. All your loved ones can do is wait...and pray.

I hope the holidays pass peacefully for you and you are able to focus on your grief work (and it is work) again in the new year.

And if it makes you feel any're not alone in the fishbowl. :o)

deadbabymama said...

I struggle with this a lot, I was really aware of the different ways people treated me and was terrified of being stuck as "The Grieving Mother" in other people's minds. I'm not sure why I was so hung up about it, but I was. I eventually worked out that some people will always see me that way, but most people don't see me as that exclusively, and that is partly due to my own behaviour, when I started to re-connect with the world as something that included that but wasn't overwhelmingly about the grief things changed. I bet you'll do that when you are ready, and waiting for Thomas's tree to bud in the spring would be a great time to start thinking about doing that if you aren't already. We planted a tree, too, and had trees planted all over the world but mostly on the Isle of Skye and I love to think of them growing and cycling through life, I'll think of your tree now too.