June 1, 2009

I used to love novels about secret identities.  The Scarlet Pimpernel, for example, or Cynthia Voigt’s Jackaroo.  And yes, I used to fantasize about Zoro  (throw on a mask, sweetheart, and watch me purr).  But secret identities in real life seem to lack the swashbuckling and fun aspects of my fictional favorites.  I don’t know of any real people who actually enjoy keeping huge secrets or hiding important bits of themselves from the world.  I’m sure a few are out there, but I suspect it’s just a few.

I don’t really have a secret identity (unless you count Grief Girl, who often isn’t secret at all).  I write here as myself.  However, I do keep this place secret.  Not that it’s that secret.  Any decent PI, or extremely interested and nosy party, for example, could figure out who I am in real life.

But, for now, no one in my family knows I write here.  My best IRL friends don’t know either.  Not even N knows.  Sometimes this makes me feel a little sad, as though I’m closeting part of myself from, well, just about everyone I know.  N has a bound journal that he writes in frequently, and I would never attempt to read it or ask to do so, but his journal doesn’t present itself in a format that facilitates and encourages readership, either.  Things written online have a very different, and more public, life than the things I wrote in my diary with the little brass lock and key when I was thirteen.

I am eternally grateful that blogging didn’t exist when I was thirteen, by the way.  All of that awkward adolescent angst (like so many of us, I was emo before emo was cool) served up in awkward adolescent fashion for the world to consume? The crushes, the petty arguments, the foolish and absolute certainty that I was wise and virtuous and right – I would have been embarrassed by it for the rest of my life.

I’m not very good at the double life thing.  I can just about manage this blog, but twitter keeps catching me up.  I slip every week or so and say things in the wrong places.  Probably a good thing I’m not a spy or an undercover agent, then.

More often than I really want to admit to myself, however, I’m very glad that I haven’t told people about this place where I come to write.  Sometimes I need to vent and ponder and work things out in words in ways that I want to keep hidden from the people I live and work with.  Sometimes I don’t want to mix business (well, work, anyway) with grieving.  Sometimes I have to write about how work and grieving have merged, but writing about my workplace is something I’ve never been comfortable with.  Not to mention, if you aren’t very careful of how you go about it, you can find yourself in trouble, and I’ve had enough trouble, thank you.

Sometimes I just need a safe space where I can repeat, over and over, I want Teddy back, or I miss you, Teddy, or Damn it, damn it, damn it, this is hard. And I don’t want to be inhibited by what people will think, or whether I’ll make someone feel bad, or whether people who don’t get it will look at me and wonder if I haven’t gone slightly mad.

Sometimes I want to share things here, with you, that I don’t share with anyone else.

And, of course, sometimes I worry about what this says about me, that I feel the need to cordon off my grieving self this way.  Not that grief isn’t part of my daily life, but talking about grief is seldom part of daily life, and is it unfair, or cowardly to hide these words away?  It hardly ever feels unfair or cowardly.  Most of the time, it feels like what I need to do.

What about you? If you keep your online writing secret, why do you do it?  Does the “double life” bother you?  If you write publicly, are there times when you wish you had an secret identity or non-public space?



  1. Interesting question. I started blogging after I had my baby but before she died. I had already been blogging for years and I needed a place to vent and express myself. I gave the details of my blog out to family and friends rather than have to field phonecalls about what was wrong with my daughter. For the most part I have been grateful that my friends and family read my blog as I thought that it meant they understood how I was feeling. I reached my first one year anniversary of my Jordan’s death on Sunday and quite frankly I now don’t think that all. I think people are moving on, if they haven’t already, and they have grown tired of my grief. My family (who never talk about my blog anyway) think my blog tells people I am depressed and dwelling.

    Right now I wish I had chosen to be anonymous. I have had to make my blog private and unfortunately that makes it difficult to interact in the babylost community.

    What has really struck me in the last few days is that people really aren’t all that interested one year on. Life has moved on for them and they think I should be doing the same. Glow’s last post was interesting, did you read it?

  2. My family does not know I have a blog. Neither does D’s family. But I did share it with quite a number of close friends. I have mixed feelings about having shared it with them. They never comment. They rarely acknowledge they are reading. But if they are reading then it gives them the impression they are in touch with how I’m feeling, while in actuality they aren’t bothering to ask or really listen IRL.

  3. you sound like pretty much all of us, expressing ou grief here, with limited chances to really express it with friends and family.

    I started completely anonymously, but have flexed as tme went on (and after I quit my job). I did send the blog out to a very few friends. I think one still checks in periodically, and she comments. I like that (a well chosen person to send it to). I dont know if anyone else reads or not.

    I still like to keep details secret, and if I was talking about smeone and they were reading, they could rpobably figure it out.

    I have no problems with my family tho, because they are not internet savvy.

  4. I too have problems maintaining a double-identity, so I don’t. 🙂 My family knows but they seldom read. The most ironic thing is dh knows but does not read because he has no time for touch-feely stuff. Some of my friends know and read my blog, but hardly comment.

    Sometimes I do wish I am more “mysterious”, esp those times when I just want to scream and tantrum till I foam at the mouth.

  5. My family and many of my friends know about mine and it does not sit comfortably with me. Then I found out a few months back, more knew about it than I first thought, but many never told me, so I felt as if I was being watched. And more importantly, being judged. I know I put it out there and made it open for all to see, but it was still my space. And I didn’t appreciate hearing from people “well I read this on your blog, and I really don’t think that was fair”. So now I am totally sensored, and wish I could say more of what my heart was feeling. Simon knows about it, but doesn’t always read. He’s happy for it to be my place. My family read, but most of the time I wish they wouldn’t. I thought it would help people understand how I’m feeling, so they could be more sensitive around me, but really the opposite has been true. They seem to understand me less, hence I feel more alienated. You people are the only ones who make me feel normal. Day in, day out. I’d be lost without you all.

  6. I think that you are right, you need to separate the two things out. It certainly isn’t cowardly. It’s necessary.
    Grief isn’t acknowledged in daily life really. Weird when you think that nobody can avoid grief for their entire lifespan. So, everyone over a certain age is really just pretending to be alright?
    I don’t have a blog. I don’t feel that I have the words to do the situation justice. They all just seem to stick in my throat.
    But I am so, so glad that all you eloquent ladies do. I need to hear that chorus of ‘you are not alone’ over and over.
    Sometimes my lack of blogging bubbles over in to overly long comments and, I suspect, crys of “go find your OWN blog lady” from the poor blog owner in question. I comment under my own name and it probably wouldn’t take a genius to figure out who I am IRL if you knew me. I would probably opt for anonymity with hindsight but my story is (relatively) unusual so it would probably would have been pointless.
    My husband knows that I read blogs, he doesn’t understand why and thinks that they upset me. As far as I know they has never looked at a single one or read any of my comments. I don’t envisage any of my family or friends entering DBL to see what I am actually thinking, although most of them know that it is out there. So I guess I have a secret identity that nobody else cares to know about. Hmmm.

  7. My blog is secret. Although I blog with my real name and I’m sure if someone I knew stumbled on it, it wouldn’t take them long to figure it out.

    I desperately, desperately, need this place apart from real life. It truly is my safe zone, and in terms of my grief, the only place where I can really be me, without judgment or pity.

    Once in a while I check my stat counter to make sure there are no hits from my city. It hasn’t happened, yet. I dread if it ever does.

  8. there are definitely times i wish i’d started writing anonymously instead of emailing the blog link to the people i knew. i basically just didn’t know anyone else would actually READ if they didn’t.

    most of my readership are people who only (or mostly) know my online persona, but i have a lot of lurkers in my small town. which is weird. and my inlaws read. which definitely keeps some things off the discussion list.

    at the same time, over 3 yrs i’ve sometimes used the blog to say things that i couldn’t ever say aloud to people i know, yet wish i could. i’ve used it to make a more honest statement of who i am, grief and all…to say, the child who is not here is still a part of my family, and i think of him, and i also think about this and that and my living kids and blah blah blah. and occasionally i’m happy for the record of the full picture. it somehow makes me feel integrated. 🙂

  9. Thanks so much for these comments – it’s fascinating and reassuring to see so many perspectives and approaches. I wonder if I’ll share this URL with people I know after more time has passed, or if I’ll keep it as a sort of bat cave.

    I think it was Julia’s most recent post at Glow that got me thinking of this, Sophie. This place and this community are where I come to say what I need and want to say without worrying about people thinking I’m unhinged. But I sometimes think that, if it were more acceptable to grieve in public, I would share this space with more people.

  10. thanks for this post erica and starting this dialogue. i’ve thought about this a lot. i actually started my blog for friends to read. i didn’t want to talk on the phone and i went away for a couple of weeks. i sent the url to many people in my real life- friends, parents, relatives, in-laws, people from my old job…maybe too many people. it was my way of communicating without having to talk to anyone. but the blog took on a life of it’s own and i met this amazing community. it’s strange to not know who is reading, and that so many people in my real life know all the deep dark parts of my grief. sometimes it feels like too much, being too exposed and other times i feel liberated being honest and authentic. and as bon said, i feel integrated and know that i don’t have to tell anyone how i’m feeling, they can just read my blog and they will know.

  11. […] today i read a post over at erica’s blog and felt compelled to write more on this […]

  12. Many times a day, I wish less people knew about my blog. It’s read by family, friends, and so many people I know about and don’t know about. Sometimes that makes me more inhibited about what I write than I’d like to be, or at least more self-aware, and probably a bit more self-censoring.

  13. Sometimes I wish that no one in my family knew about my blog because I would love to have a really angry rant now and then. But that passes. I am still angry at my mother though. I can write that here!

  14. We started our blog as a way to communicate how we’re doing to our far-flung families. It never occurred to me to make it anonymous because I didn’t know that the babylost community existed until later. Sometimes I wish that people IRL didn’t read, but mostly I like that they do. I want them to understand our journey.

  15. I started my blog as a way to let our far away family know what we were doing. After we found out we were having a baby, it was a great place to share our preparations, ultrasound pics, etc. I still write there, but most times I feel very exposed and sometimes sensor myself so that friends and family don’t think I have totally lost my mind or need to be locked up in some padded room. I should probably start another blog, one that can remain my secret, so I can write without thinking about the response of others. Very few people “get” how hard is really is to lose your child. I’m thankful to have found Glow in the Woods and the other babylost moms. It helps to know I’m NOT crazy, just a grieving mom.

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