We lost Margot on March 24, around 6pm, just as the normally chipper blue sky turned to gray and started raining. For the next two weeks, my partner fought for her life and then for her failed kidneys, as we grieved for our daughter in a cold, sterile hospital room.
Then, finally, our kidney specialist sauntered into our room with some better test results and casually stated that we could leave the hospital the next day. That was April 6. And on April 12, one day after Kari’s gloriously pathetic 30th birthday and six days after we left the hospital without a newborn and nineteen days after the worst day of our lives, we bought a ginormous twenty-eight foot 1980 Dodge Jamboree motorhome.
We followed up our baby’s death by buying a fucking motorhome.
It was pretty sweet too. Off white in color, with vintage orange and gold lines streaking down the side of it and a silver ladder running up it’s back. The inside featured orange shag carpet, big cushy chairs that swiveled and a classic faux wood steering wheel. Add a kitchen, bathroom and two full size beds to the package and we were all set to go. The day we went to buy it, after trying to learn all it’s quirks from the RV salesman, Kari turned to me and said, “I didn’t picture Margot’s face every moment when we were in there.” And we both secretly hoped that maybe this RV would save us for the time being. It felt kind of good, this motorhome distraction.
Except Margot was still dead. And nothing about owning the camper, even with the shag carpet, felt satisfying.
So we sold it. But before we knew it, more timely distractions came along, even though we weren’t looking for anything in particular. Suddenly, it sounded good to download all of the past seasons of Survivor and watch them over vodka every night. And then little vacations to Palm Springs and the coast popped up. And then it sounded like a good idea to completely renovate our bedroom and other parts of our little dwelling, so we spent this summer building beds and tables and desks and frames, and endlessly shopping on Craigslist for everything else. When we finally found our perfect little used couch, with it’s carmel colored leather and shiny gold beads, it was nearing October.
I’m not exactly sure why these distractions keep popping up. It’s not as if any of these escapes have brought any long term satisfaction to our lives, or that they are somehow preventing us from facing our grief. And yet, I’m constantly amazed by my ability to get somewhat excited about something, even when I know it’s temporary and unfulfilling in the end.
In the very beginning, I came to loathe the distractions, the motorhome especially, for how it left me feeling like a cheap trick. So much promise followed by zero payoff. But now I see these distractions as a little gift from grief, as if it’s grief’s way of letting our heads above water, a short breath of air before we are pulled back under. Like earlier this week when I cried for an hour over pictures of Margot, and then promptly opened my web browser and searched for a “vintage chair” for our living room.
Recently, a woman from our support group described the nightmare of losing two babies in the same year. She wept and squeezed her partners hand and shared her losses with a beautiful blend of courage and despondency. And then, towards the end of her story, after a few moments of quiet, her face suddenly changed into a smile as she said, “We have been redecorating our house, so that is nice.”
Yes, that is nice.
Have you used distractions to cope with your losses? Have they been helpful? Have the distractions lessoned as time marched forward?