Anonymity allows us to explore the monologue that we can sometimes barely acknowledge to ourselves. This can open doors, help us knock down what's blocking better days. One way to do this is the exercise of namelessness. Please welcome Anonymous 1—for the sake of response, let's call her Ann.
There's a gulf in my living room, a black hole that houses me, and it's been this way since my daughter died.
You'll have to hold your hands out in front of you at first, feel around for the edges, but then light will seep in and you'll see: I have almost everything I need down here. Sustenance. Diversions, books, songs, writing. Places to curl up and rest, accustomed now to the fitfulness.
Far above me my husband sits on the couch. He watches basketball, draws breath in through teeth and groans at every missed pass. His hand digs in a bowl of chips. I stare at his oblivious chewing. How can he just sit there, eating chips? How can he not know that we are failing?
I know what you're thinking. You cannot expect him to be psychic. You need to tell him what you need.
A reasonable response. As I've heard said before: be the love that you want. A bomb of a sentiment that forces all of us to quit assessing the hits or misses of our spouses and consider what we offer. And what do I offer? I sit at the bottom of this hole. I have made it comfortable and liveable, this inner solitude. This place is not one of pure misery, or consant depression. It is just differentness. Since our daughter, I am compelled to embrace it. In contrast, my husband is compelled to insist that he is unchanged.
Still, the hole is self-imposed exile. I no longer expect accompaniment. What feels to me like acceptance must appear to anyone else as giving up on him, on us.
But you know what else makes sense?
I shouldn't have to tell my husband how to love me.
For the first months after our daughter's death my grief was a spectacle. I needed those around me to acknowledge my loss, dammit, and so for a while I made it impossible to ignore. I needed to confront friends and family with it, to make them hear. They asked me how are you and I answered them entirely without sugar.
She needs to get it together.
My husband almost instantly crossed the line that divided Us and Them. This left Me and Them, of which my husband was a part. He stared back from the other side, arms folded across his chest with a crowd at his back.
I don't think of it anymore. You shouldn't either.
Some time passed: weeks, months. I took steps towards him holding abbreviated memories at arm's length, thinking that calm, measured attempts at sharing her memory were necessary to keep us connected.
Over toast I'd say casually I dreamed about her last night. I was composed, outwardly fine. His cereal would hit the bowl with a clatter, his back to me, and he would say Oh. Then it was Pass the jam and Is there any more coffee in the pot and I can't find my keys.
In my head it was different. Oh, what did you see? and I like that and It's okay to dream or maybe just I love you.
But he was closed, gone elsewhere. It was an inescapable heaviness as heartbreaking as the loss of our daughter. It was the loss of us.
We are still unfound. We are roommates. We tend to life together, me from down here.
That's not to say I'm continually depressed. Our lives are full and blessed. My husband is a good man, ethical and straightforward. But the death of our daughter served to highlight that perhaps the unit of he and I were not strong enough to sustain this. His crossing of that line prolonged the spectacle by way of isolation. I am forever changed, and not for the worse, now that time has passed. He is unaffected, or rather, his facade of unaffectedness is more important to him than bearing a crack in it through which to talk to me.
We speak of very little beyond shared bills and shared space. I see continued silence as failure. He sees it as relief. Is this the rest of my life? A life with someone who will only care for the parts of me that are tidy, presentable? This is not marriage. This is claustrophobia, for both of us.
I see others mention here It made us stronger and I couldn't have gone through this without my husband and I stare at the screen, mystified and envious.
The death of our baby caused us to fail one another completely. I failed him by being a spectacle, as he and his family defined me. He failed me by refusing to remember our daughter. I made it impossible for him to forget her, as was his instinct. He didn't come for me, to either sit with me or yank me from that place, to demand that I be with him because he needs me, these days the definition of passionate love. I no longer share my occasional dark with him, these days the definition of inauthenticity. He shakes his head at me, as he always has, and I retreat. He digs through chips, chewing, drawing breath in through teeth at a flickering screen.
Some people reference high divorce rates among babylost parents. Others insist that's a myth. Most agree that men and women tend to grieve differently. How do we cross that gulf to one another? How did your marriage sustain the loss of your baby/babies?
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