Sunday, March 20, 2011


Years ago, not long after Thomas died, I read a post by a fellow babyloss blogger who was struggling with an overwhelming desire to make herself look as outwardly grief-stricken as she felt inside. She wanted to cut her hair, tattoo her body, cut patterns into her empty stomach - do something radical and drastic so that people would know, just by looking at her, that she was broken on the inside. She wanted the mark of grief.

It scared me. But I understood.

I started thinking about her - and the strange need for grief to be known and recognized - this morning at Mass. I'd made small talk with one of the office staff on the way in - a woman who helps me organize the annual Mass of Remembrance for bereaved parents. We both hate the heat, but wished it was a little warmer today. And isn't that funny, because in a few months we'll both be wishing for a crisp day just like this one. And isn't it a shame that while it's going to be warmer tomorrow, it's going to be rainy too. Blah, blah, blah.

When I finally got into the church, I sat down and started thinking about my dad, as I often do when I'm alone and quiet with nothing proper to distract me. Driving is a particular hazard. It often ends in tears.

Anyway, I was thinking that I display no outward sings of grief. I'm clean, my hair is freshly cut, I wear makeup (a necessity to hide the circles and bags my 40s have gifted me), I smile when appropriate, I attend meetings, I work. I am functional in all the ways that matter.

But inside there is so much grief. And no one knows.

It makes me feel like I'm existing inside a plexiglass dome, visible, but somehow unreachable. And thoroughly unknowable. Most importantly, separate. Always separate.

I started wondering why exactly it is that we need to share grief with others. It's such a personal thing that no two people feel or experience the same way - even if they've lost the same person - and yet we're desperate to find people who will listen to us when we need to talk about the aching emptiness a loved one's loss has created in our lives. We want to share, in explicit detail, what it feels like to be without that person; what it's like not to hear their voice tell us we are loved, what it's like to see the empty chair they once sat in, what it's like to want to tell them a story and forget, for a split second, that they are no longer there to hear it.

I want everyone to know how much I miss my dad. How I still cry for him. How agonizing it is to be separated from him. How I still can't fathom that he's really gone and is never coming back.

How I feel like I'm once again hollow inside, waiting to be filled up with whatever it is that filled the empty space Thomas left behind.

And no one knows.

And I don't know why that matters. Except somehow it does.


Illanare said...

I get this, I really do. When I lost my daughter (more than when I lost the others) I couldn't understand how people could look at me and not see the huge hole in the middle of me. I hated being functional, it made me feel like I wasn't mourning "enough".

Thinking of you and your son and your father.

loribeth said...

There's a reason why Victorians used to wear mourning clothes for a full year. And although I think that wearing black every single day would get pretty monotonous, sometimes I think they had the right idea.

Mali said...

We hear you. Wanting to know that we know you grieve means, I think, that you can feel your loss is acknowledged and legitimised. And that's important to all of us - to feel understood, and heard.

I thought of you today. I was in a coffee shop, and saw an elderly man, who reminded me exactly of my dad. Not so much physically, but his mannerisms. It was the strongest reminder I've had of him in years. And I wondered how you were doing.

You'll get through this. Thomas taught you that - it is a gift he gave you.

Rosepetal said...

I am one who needed my grief to define me for a while. I still don't wear makeup or jewellery nearly 5 years later - 4 since my Dad died. I am only just beginning to take an interest in my appearance again. I still wouldn't be able to go dancing. It made me feel like I was communicating what huge, defining, life-changing losses these were. I don't know if the communication was effective for those on the receiving end or whether they just wished I would get over it already.

That feeling that I couldn't really believe that my Dad was no longer here lasted a few years.

Kristen said...

Thinking of you. Always. Not a day goes by that I don't think about my dad. And my mom. And I miss them in a manner that I can't describe.

You totally hit the proverbial nail on the head with this post. And I thank you - from my heart - for being able to captivate just what it is like to grieve.

justine said...

I think that even if others can't understand, knowing that they know, and can witness with us, makes us feel less alone somehow. I think the Victorians were right, too. Grief is too taboo these days, and not being able to talk about these makes grief even harder, I think.

Catherine said...

Sometimes I just NEED somebody to say, "Yeah, it sucks...let's go drink some wine." I don't know why and I don't know that I care to find out. I am all for whatever makes it feel even the littlest bit better. {{{hugs}}}

erica said...

I spent a lot of time wishing we had more established traditions of wearing mourning.

I'm thinking of you and your dad and sending love.

sukigirl said...

I came over to thank you for your comment on Hobbes expecting to see a blog on something crafty. Now my thank you seems trivial with all the heartache you've endured and continue to endure. So I'll say thank you but also send you some hugs and hope you have more good days than bad. You take care...suki

Vannessa said...

I totally get that. Shortly after Kendra died I would sometimes look at myself in the mirror and wonder how I could look so normal. I wanted to find someone who read auras who could tell me that my aura showed sadness. It makes me wonder when I meet new people what they have hidden behind their normal appearances. And of course, it led me to read many blogs, yours included, just so that I knew there were other people out there I could identify with.