I lost my daughter then I lost my friends. Not simply lost them. It was more like they drove me out into the country and told me to go run out in the woods for a while, they waited by the car.
"There, Angie, check out behind that big tree. A little further away. There is something shiny there. It is the internet and there are people on there whose babies died too."
"Over here? I don't see it."
"Just a little further. Go on now. Be good. I loved you once."
"Okay. I love you too."
And I watched their license plate become illegible in the distance. I walked back to town, determined to understand, only to find that they moved without a forwarding address. So, I suppose, they lost me.
photo by Denise ~*~.
Villages of friends were gone. I walk into the ghost towns of my past, sidle up to the bar. There is nothing left. I am not part of their tribe any longer. I slam the empty bottle of the long bar. They were drinking buddies, after all, not friends. For years, it made me angry. It made me angry that my daughter died and then I kept losing more and more and more until it was just me.
When it was just me, I saw you. And you. And you. And you. And you is beautiful and amazing. I told you all about the pain of losing friendships, and my daughter, and raising a daughter and every little thing about this experience. I listened to you talk about it too. We suddenly had a little boom town of the babylost. I felt normal.
Normal was all I ever wanted.
Everything about my life changed after Lucia died, even though it looked exactly the same. And I feel attached to all those things I once was, like grape vines winding around the withered parts of me--my arrogance, my lightness of being, my inappropriate anger, my bravado, my aloofness, my old friendships, the confidence I had in my body. I cut the shoots, understanding that those bits of me are dead, but the tentacles grow back, clutching dearly again to something already gone. (I fear it takes the nutrients of my thriving, beautiful bits.)
In the weeks after, it became abundantly clear that I had no idea how to feel anything but anger and longing about her death. I was not emotionally equipped to handle the death of my daughter, except I had to handle it. It was awkward and painful. I clumsily talked to people, until I just couldn't do it anymore. I drank heavily. I watched the same safe comedies over and over. I was afraid to call friends and cry. I thought I would never stop--hysterical, uncontrolled tears. Keening. Misplaced anger. Blame. Fear. Blubbering. I heard the conversation before I uttered a word.
If I say I want to die now, you won't understand. You will think I am suicidal. You will call the authorities. You will take my only living child. I just don't know how to live this life without her. I don't know how to shop for groceries now that she is dead. I don't know how to make small talk. I don't know how to watch Law & Order. I don't know how to do anything.
And so, thinking they understood that about me, I expected them to call me. Surely someone calling a grieving mother would know what they signed up for if they called. It felt rude to call someone, even a very good friend, just to cry, even though, ironically, I longed for someone to call me in the early months and cry. I just wanted to be needed, not underestimated. I had once a month calls from a few friends, which were like tall cool glasses of water in a drought. I never cried during those conversations. I was almost maniacally positive about how fine I was doing. Then those petered away too. Mostly, it was silence broken by long, drunken tirade emails.
Left to my own devices, I behaved badly. Oh, I behaved graciously here and there, but mostly I was angry, chaotic, impulsive, and afraid, lashing out at unsuspecting strangers in markets and yoga studios. The crying stopped eventually. The misplaced anger at other people slowed. I quit drinking. I figured out how to shop, and chitchat, and watch crime dramas. I learned how to feel all the emotions of grief, not just the loudest ones. I went to baby showers, and parties, and stopped expecting, or wanting, anything Lucia-related to be discussed. That took time, but it happened. The grief fog lifted.
Being the me I was and grieving was fucking torture. So I changed stuff about me, like who I trust and when I trust and what I trust and how much I trust. I changed what I give and what I take and what I give personally and what I take personally. I changed what I complain about and what I don't.
I couldn't call those old friends after I changed. I didn't know what to say to them anymore. I wasn't over her death. I would never be over her death. But I learned to live with it. Time had moved forward. I moved forward. They moved forward. I missed so much, and they missed so much. Not many people stepped up. Those that did, stepped away eventually. I never called them to ask about the thing I should have been asking about--birthdays, illnesses, new jobs, old jobs, pets, boyfriends, girlfriends, new babies. When I came to fully understand that my daughter was never coming back, I came to understand that neither were my friends. I don't blame them anymore. I was a terrible friend--grieving and overly sensitive, impetuous and distant. I didn't and still do not understand how I could have been any better. I did the absolute best I could with who I was. Emotionally, I was stunted and small. And maybe they were too.
I wrote because I didn't know what else to do with this ache in me. I couldn't speak it to my closest friends, so I wrote her birth story. I posted it on the internet. I thought that was everything I knew about her. I put it on a blog. Maybe someone will read it, maybe someone will understand. It was a flare shot into the night. Or a campfire, as we say around here.
Then I wrote about going to the market. Suddenly, people were there. Other grieving parents. I read about tears in the produce department. I wrote about my fears and anxieties and loves and revelations. I wrote like no one but babylost folk were reading, and sometimes, I wrote like they weren't even reading. I wrote with a kind of freedom that is both naive and slightly endearing. I found myself in the community I longed for since birth--supportive, honest, loving, compassionate. I made friends who appreciated my dark side, as well as the other parts of me. And I theirs. I had found normal.
Writing publicly about grief and pain and the darker parts of losing your child remains both incredibly comforting and absolutely terrifying. In most of my friendships that ended, the complaints centered around my blog and writing. My friends didn't like grieving, complaining, sad, disappointed Angie.
You wrote about the friends! How unforgivable! You made it sound like we are terrible people! You write about your dead baby every week! That's too much! You make art and sell it! It is about the death of your baby! How terrible! How gauche! Everyone is sick of everything BABYLOST! It is unhealthy! It is wrong! We can't have it!
I never expected any friends to read my blog. It had nothing to offer them. It certainly had nothing to offer me for them to read my innermost, ugliest thoughts about the death of my daughter. I never imagined they would read, but they did.
I wrote because I had no idea what else to do. I wrote because my friends didn't call, and I couldn't call them. I wrote because I needed a community, to feel normal, to feel worthy of compassion. But it came with a steep price.
Because I lost Lucia, I found something of myself tangled in the tumbleweeds of my emotional and physical defects. After everyone left, something dark and ego-filled, sensitive and critical, drunk and capable of sobriety, redemption, and forgiveness emerged. I forgive those friends, not because they have made amends, but because I have. I had to forgive my humanness. In doing that, I had to forgive theirs. I was grieving the death of my daughter. I did the best I could, and so did they. I sit with who I am now, a human being worthy of compassion. You taught me that. Thank you.
How have your friendships been affected since the death of your baby(ies)? Do you have a blog, or on-line presence? Do your before-friends know about your on-line community of babylost? Do they read your blog, or participate in your forums? How do they feel about it? How have you felt about being public, or not so public? Anonymous?