Eleven Months & Harry Potter

These have been eleven of the shortest longest months of my life. Some minutes like hours, some days like moments. All mixed up in this mess of grief. Each day taking me further away from the too brief time I had with my baby boy. These anniversaries won’t pass unnoticed, either, which seems like One of Those Infant Loss Things. My mind may forget the date, but my heart will not. It always aches a little more on the 20th.

I’m dreading One Year. No matter what reassurances people try to offer, “Odin will never be forgotten”, One Year feels too much like an ending or closure I’m not ready for. I’m fighting at the passing of time with everything in me right now because although it’s been nearly a year, the pain of his absence is still there. It’s always there, just beneath the surface. And the weight of that pain and its permanence is so lonely. So I don’t want all of the Firsts to be done because they are still recognized as Hard. After that I’m not sure what happens. People move on. I want time to quit being so cruel.

They say Time Heals All Wounds and I’ve called BS on that one before. My wound will not heal and I wouldn’t want it to. Instead it is my job to tend to it; keep the bleeding at bay; be sure that infection doesn’t spread. I keep it well-bandaged so people don’t notice and stare. Most people don’t even know I’m injured and most who do seem comfortable that I manage the wound privately. I guess they’re not good with blood or are worried they’ll make the pain worse (not possible).

I know that there will be times when I can think of Odin with more love than sadness and I have definitely had some of those moments of strength and peace. They are few and far between, though, and there is always a steep come-down from those days. Maybe that will change as time goes on. That’s what They say anyway.

I’m currently reading the Harry Potter series (for the first time! In my thirties!) and there have been a few times (and I’ve just finished book three, The Prisoner of Azkaban) that I have been moved to tears. (If you haven’t read the books, there are spoilers ahead.) This is the most recent moment in a scene where Dumbledore is speaking to Harry about his father:

“You think the dead we have loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him.”

*crying*

There is a tiny little strange part of me that likes to think of Odin as Harry. Harry’s parents, Lily and James, died to save Harry’s life and that’s what we would have done, too, to save Odin. It’s sort of like we’re living the story in reverse. Harry is living without his parents and misses them, dearly, and his grief runs throughout the plot of the books. (This isn’t a new idea, it’s been written about a lot.) I’m inspired by the parts of the book where Harry is able to think of his parents with love and not sadness and I appreciate that struggle. I could probably write a whole blog post about Harry Potter but it would be derivative. Mostly I wanted to share that Dumbledore quote because I loved it and am trying to believe in those words for Harry and for Odin.

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Anger management

Being angry is easy. I find it so much easier than any of the other feelings. For a lot of my adult life anger was my default in frustrating and unfair situations (and when I dropped things), so it’s surprising to me that losing Odin hasn’t really made me angry. It’s made me a lot of things I never expected but I don’t feel angry about losing him. I’m sad and tired and feel a lot of despair over how little control I have over what happens in this life but anger doesn’t rank on my list of emotions about losing him. (Maybe it’s because I don’t have anyone to be angry at?) I’m still very very good at getting angry at people, though. So good at it that I recently (re-)deleted the hot garbage fire that is Facebook because it was making me lose my mind more and more with every scroll. I had a good discussion with my therapist yesterday morning about things that are “depleting” versus things that are “nourishing” in my everyday routine. It really reassured me that I made the right decision pulling the plug on my relationship with that particular social media outlet. I currently feel like my metaphorical tank is empty and what I need is to refill on things that are nourishing. This probably sounds like I’m on a high horse; judging people who use Facebook but that’s not the case. This was just the best choice for me right now and it’s my hope that other users find it nourishing, or at least find that it has a neutral impact on their mood/outlook.

There is a period of adjustment after deleting Facebook, though. It takes a few days not to have your finger click that app from your phone’s home screen and it takes some doing to figure out what to look at during downtime from your work web-browser. Last night I decided to check Twitter from my phone (jury’s still out on this platform for me) before bed. Usually it’s a relatively neutral experience for me and I’ll scroll for a few minutes checking celebrity news and other fluff. But last night I saw these tweets from someone I know personally, who knows about our loss:

#1 “I’m sorry but being pregnant is garbage. Total garbage!”

#2 “My stupid body is falling apart. I can’t sit, I can’t walk, I can’t even sleep. This baby owes me big time. (mad face emoji)”

Being angry is easy.

I made the mistake of engaging this person by saying “perspective is everything”. And of course I wanted to let it go but I stayed awake for hours thinking about all the things I wanted to say and all the ways I wanted to teach her how awful she was. Again, I’m on my high horse, right? Well, maybe. But I would love to get off of this damn horse and go back to not knowing all of the horrible things that can happen in a pregnancy. The only reason I’m riding this horse is because life put me up here. There are so many times when I think about how my perspective was different a year ago down on the ground with the other people who think that getting/staying pregnant and having a healthy/living baby is just a given. I only have one non-loss friend who still talks to me about my experience with pregnancy (grateful to her) and with her I still talk about how being pregnant is challenging. Because of course it is! It is not fun for most women! You feel like crap. Your body is a mess because it is growing a human inside of it! I whined a lot when I was pregnant and that still haunts me today because I would give anything to feel horrible again if it meant that Odin could live even just a little bit longer. It’s hard to feel crappy all the time and that is the truth. But this tweeter knows me. She knows what happened to us. She admitted to considering that what she said would be upsetting — if not to me, then to someone else out there in the Twittersphere. And she said it anyway.

It’s not like I think this person should be fabricating an experience that she’s not having or adding support to the myth that pregnancy is always a beautiful time in a woman’s life and that all pregnant women feel an immediate bond with their unborn babies and love them in a poetic and magical way. (Society has some pretty messed up expectations of pregnancy and motherhood. Maybe more on that later.) What bugs me most about these tweets is that she’s actually not being honest. She’s being flippant. Clearly she’s having a hard time right now and that is okay. It’s okay to want and ask for support and understanding. And, although 140 characters isn’t really the best place to have an honest conversation, maybe she could speak her truth and seek reassurance and kindness from people in a way that isn’t completely insensitive and disrespectful to so so so many women. Women who’ve miscarried; women who are going through fertility treatments; women who are childless and will never have children after years of trying to conceive; women whose babies have died before taking a single breath. She obviously doesn’t understand how lucky she is and she likely never will. Being angry is easy.

 

“This is Us”/Me

I recently read a short article about the TV show This is Us. I haven’t watched a full episode yet but I am definitely going to watch all of it. In case you haven’t heard, the buzz about this show has a lot to do with the stillbirth of a triplet in one of the early episodes (it might be the pilot). And, apparently, the plot doesn’t get “easier” (I’ve been trying to avoid too many spoilers). Without appreciating or even considering the truth of the show at all, the article I’m talking about basically begs the question: Why does anyone willingly watch this show that is so devastating and heartbreaking? And I’ve got big problems with that.

This is Us doesn’t sound like something you think I should watch, right? Seems like it would be super triggering? Maybe. But I’m saving it because I know that it will be hard and a difficult-to-explain part of me wants to have it stored, like canned goods, for future use. Like in the middle of winter when you want a fresh juicy peach, you’ll reach for the canned kind because it’s the best you can do. Sometimes I want to re-access my grief from the early days; to feel that deep devastating connection to my loss. I can get the canned version by watching something I can relate to; that reminds me that what I’ve been through is real. Last year I watched episodes of shows that I had never seen before and knew nothing about, just to watch the one where the baby dies (ex: Outlander). This is not masochism, this is a battle against loneliness. This isn’t choosing to be sad, it’s an effort to connect and be part of the community of other people in grief. (Our community doesn’t get a whole lot of airplay.)

I’m glad to hear that This is Us difficult to watch. Because it’s difficult to live. Some of the headlines for episode reviews are, “‘This is Us’ Stars Warn That Tonight’s Episode Will ‘Sit With You For Days‘” and “‘This is Us’ Funeral Will Wreck You“. Bravo! Well done! Bad things happen. People get sick and they suffer. Beloved partners pass away unexpectedly in the night. Babies die. Everyone will lose someone they love someday. Not thinking or talking about it doesn’t make it any less true and the act of considering these dark possibilities and acknowledging their existence is not self-destructive. In fact, I think that recognizing the fragility of life has the potential to make us kinder, more forgiving, and more fulfilled humans (working on it). I totally understand the use of entertainment as an escape from reality, and I make good use of that escape (a lot). But life can be devastating and the fact that death and grief are so rarely talked about makes the experience of losing someone incredibly isolating. People don’t know what to say or do for people in grief (myself included) because talking about grief is not part of our socialization (in North America anyway). It’s all hidden away and suffered through privately. This is why I think that it’s important that a show like This is Us is bringing loss into the popular culture. I hope that programs like this will help us grow a greater capacity for empathy and inspire us to think about living our best lives.

Some people might read my blog and think “oh wow, this is very sad. I wonder if she’s alright” or “I admire this project but I can’t read this stuff, it’s too sad” or “She should really try to be more positive”. I was actually feeling guilty last week that my blog is a downer and was trying to think of something uplifting or inspiring to write about. But omg, I’m here and I’m writing and that needs to be enough for me (working on it). It’s not my job to reassure anyone that I’m okay because, real talk: None of this is okay. My son should be here but he’s not and that will never change. I will never stop missing him and I plan on blathering on and on for as long as it feels right, for better or worse, without worrying if I sound “too negative” or “too sad” or “too” anything, really. For sure I’m most inspired to write when I’m feeling sad or fired up, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not trying to feel joy and be happy. I try everyday! For Odin. And I’m grateful for a show like This is Us shining a light in the darkness of how difficult that is.