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Right where I am – two years, 9 months.

May 26, 2011

I’m especially grateful to Angie for starting this Right Where I Am project (for more about it, see her post) because it helps to see where others are in their grief as well. It adds context and makes me feel less isolated and odd.

I am not always sure that I know where I am, which is, I guess, a big part of where I am. Almost three years later and I’ve only now sought out professional help for depression and anxiety (or/and possibly PTSD). One of my biggest problems in life is that, even though my poker face is transparent as plastic wrap, I pull off a very convincing imitation of “fine.” I also keep telling myself that I should really be fine, even while I tell myself that “should” has little to do with my reality. I am trying to pretend less and to speak to myself kindly instead of critically, and that is difficult. And if this sounds like I’ve got a lot of voices in my head, well, there are lots of days where it feels pretty crowded in here.

I am still figuring out how Teddy’s death has affected me and I am starting to realize that some of my coping strategies aren’t good long-term plans. Two years ago, I did whatever I needed to do to get through – to get through another day, another hour, another damned diaper commercial. These days, getting through isn’t the only thing, usually isn’t the main thing to consider. That’s a relief, but it also means a lot of readjusting, and I’m not sure I’m ready to readjust yet. My timeline, it is not a timeline that syncs well with this world that moves on as if babies dying is no big deal.

It helps that Teddy’s little sister is in our lives. She has been a big part of my healing and she is bright and busy and amazing. Yesterday before bed she sat in the rocking chair reading Ten Little Ducks to me with much babbling and emphasis on the high points.

“Oh, no!” she said.

“Oh! The ducks all fell into the ocean!” I said.

She turned a page. “Growr!”

“The polar bear says “Growr,” I affirmed.

“Ar, ar.”

“Oh, the seal does say ‘Ar, ar!'”

“Quack, quack. Quack, quack, quack! D’ar.”

“You make such good duck noises. And I see the stars.”

She read it to me twice. I almost cried just because I’m so amazed at how alive and interesting she is, because she’s turning more and more into her own little person and I revel in the fact that I get the chance to watch it happen and see who she is becoming.

The flip side to all of this is that she also reminds me of all I’m missing. She wears her brother’s Cubs cap, she reads his books, but she takes up her own space in the world. His space is still empty and I can’t fill it with busyness or imagination or distractions or sheer force of will. Would Teddy have laughed like that? Would he have loved ducks and bears and lions? Would he have been busy, busy, busy all the time, or more laid-back? The biggest part of my grief right now is all of these things I’ll never know, that I should know, and while many days this ache is just part of the background noise of my life, there are still times when it knocks me over, makes me gasp and gulp.

I still miss my faith and at the same time I’m still angry at God. I realize this doesn’t make much sense. I’m some sort of mish-mosh of  lapsed Lutheran, Agnostic, Neopagan, and Neoplatonist at the moment. It’s very messy, but maybe I should come up with a catchy name for it, find some followers and make some billboards?

Two containers of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sit in the freezer, waiting for me (did you know their “Late Night Snack” ice cream has chocolate covered potato chips?!), and my lunch today was a chocolate bar, pop tarts, and a diet coke. Which is an example of one of those coping strategies that I need to revise and rethink. At some point in the past year eating, specifically eating things I know are bad for me (the pleasures of rebellion, maybe?) has become a strong source of comfort and relief. It makes me feel better, the primal mindlessness of eating ice cream straight out of the container, turning my brain off and focusing on the tactile sensations and the flavors and the small but suddenly really important decisions like whether or not to take another spoonful. I love it, but it’s not sustainable.

But this week I have ditched the nursing bras and am really happy to be wearing ones that hoist my breasts up and make them look more bouncy and less jiggly, more Mad Men and less Madwoman in the Attic. Seriously, I’ve been checking my boobs out in every mirrored surface I pass today just to see how fine they look (mighty fine!). It occurs to me that there hasn’t been a time in past couple of years I would have done that or even been able to imagine it.

I am happy, a lot of the time, but it’s a complicated happiness.

And I still want Teddy back.

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21 comments

  1. I see right where you are – and it’s still a difficult spot!

    Having the rainbows after the storm is a big help, no?


  2. “A complicated happiness”… couldn’t have said it better myself. Much love to you, Erica. xo


  3. Complicated happiness is perfectly put. I am not too far behind you and so I get this. A lot. Thor reminds me of what I missed with Lucy, which is ironic, because I already knew since I just had passed it with Bea, but still, it sometimes catches me off guard. Thank you for right where you are. XO


  4. Wow, so much of this rings true for me – the “convincing imitation of ‘fine'” while so much brews just under the surface, the overcrowding from the voices in the head…

    Thank you for sharing this so poignantly, and for walking this path, lighting the road ahead of me…(though I know they will not be exact mirrors, it is helpful to have a guide of some sort..)

    with love.
    sarah


  5. complicated happiness. that is perfect. thank you for sharing…


  6. Of course you still want him back. I want him back for you. All of the missing children. Every last one of them.
    Given we’re just days apart on this road of grief, I feel so many of these beautiful laid out emotions, so acutely.
    Like the constant amazement of watching Angus grow and the simple pleasures of reading with him and watching him get such enjoyment out of books that I once did as a child and books that we had ready for his big sister who never made it. I probably should have written more about this in my own post. It has been great to finally sit down and read all of these posts now and look at all the other ways grief has changed me and brought me to this very point in time.
    On religion, when I read about girls like you and the struggle you have, I sometimes feel glad that I never had religion in my life in the first place, as that feels like one less thing I have to make sense of in this mess. I have no god, so that feels like one less person to be pissed at, and I’m already pissed at many.
    You’re a wonderful writer, Erica. And I’m so glad we connected way back when.
    I’ll always miss and remember your dear Teddy with you. I know you have only shared his photo once (or twice?) but I can still picture your sweet little boy. All of these missed and missing babies have such a special place in my heart.
    Revelling in this complicated happiness with you.
    xo


  7. I often wonder if there is such a thing as grief induced schizophrenia? I’m glad to know I am not the only one choosing junk over other alternatives. I find it gives me a sense of control, though admittedly to my own detriment. Thank you for sharing Teddy with us~


  8. First, I’m so sorry that Teddy isn’t here with you. Second, congratulations on his little sister. Third, glad to hear that you’ve found excellent foundation garments to show off your…assets.

    To me this post really sums up the grief experience. After being forced to care about too many heavy things, it just becomes necessary to give your brain and soul a break. Enjoy those pop tarts, take your time with the rest of it.


  9. “While many days this ache is just part of the background noise of my life, there are still times when it knocks me over, makes me gasp and gulp.” I think this gets really well at what I want to say so often. That the ache is still there but I don’t have to “deal” with it all the time; sometimes it just is.

    That and the complicate happiness are all still with me a bit further down the road. And the amazement and reveling in little sisters too.


  10. thanks for letting us have a glimpse of where you are now. So much wisdom in the comments above I just don’t know what to say except thanks.


  11. Firstly, I have to ask . . is it true about the “Late Night Snack” ice cream? Potato chips?! I don’t think we get that flavour here in the UK.

    I’m afraid that I also use the consumption of junk food, particularly Diet Coke, as a coping strategy. Strange as I was a bit of a control freak about my eating prior to the birth of the twins and now I am still a control freak but in completely the opposite direction. The direction that is thinking that ice cream containing potato chip could be a good thing.

    I love your conversation with Dot and I recognise that ache, the horribleness of never, ever knowing.

    I’m sorry for your struggles with your faith, I think that door was starting to close for me even before G died and her death, well, that just slammed the door firmly shut. At least for the moment. But I’m interested in your new mish-mosh religion.

    And yay for bouncy, hoisty up bras. x


  12. Erica, there’s so much here. The lovely, living Dot. The way she reminds you of beautiful Teddy. I hear you. Complicated, complicated, complicated.

    You make me laugh so much. In a choking through tears kind of way, admittedly, but the boobs and the billboards – brilliantly funny. You are such an interesting, lovely, characterful person.


  13. My therapist often likens losing a child as PTSD as well, which is why I am also afraid of pregnant women. The weirdest part of that is that I am pregnant again myself and I still very much dislike being near other pregnant women. This also extends to people who love being around pregnant women and talking about pregnancy. It is all complicated and only gets more complicated with time in some ways and more simple in others.


  14. Your writing is so real…and so pure. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for opening up and sharing the story of Teddy and for writing this post. I love your honesty. I love your acceptance of who you are because of Teddy and because of grief. It’s such a long and difficult road. Thinking of you and sending hugs your way.


  15. Thank you Erica
    So good to read where you are
    It really is complicated
    I can relate on many levels- except I’m still sporting the not so flattering nursing bras!
    Missing Teddy with you
    Xox


  16. I think when you lose a child you learn how to perfect a mask so that the world thinks you are ok when you really aren’t. Thanks for sharing where you’re at on this journey.


  17. “I almost cried just because I’m so amazed at how alive and interesting she is, because she’s turning more and more into her own little person and I revel in the fact that I get the chance to watch it happen and see who she is becoming.”

    Yes, yes, and yes. So fortunate are we amidst our hearbreak to find such joy in these small moments, that do not seem small when the very act of being able to witness them, witness a live child, is so precious. I loved this post and related to so much of it. xo


  18. Oh my word … SO,so much of this reflects my life too (aside from the mighty fine breasts – mine are less “Hello Boys” and more “Hello Knees, sadly). The deliberately destructive choices around food, I relate to completely and to the ongoing attempts to reconcile/reject faith and babyloss. And yes, I want Emma back too. I want my happiness uncomplicated.


  19. Wouldn’t the potato chips get soggy in the ice cream?

    Thank you for sharing your Teddy here with Angie’s great project, I’m sorry too that he isn’t here in your arms. Thank you for sharing your perspective, shining a light and not glossing over the hardest parts. I am scared of what the future holds for my grief, more specifically how I’ll cope when this new soul gets here; having the stark realisation of what and who I’m missing now. I am however really looking forward to the healing that comes with that…

    Thank you Erica


  20. Erica, thank you so much for this – such a rich, truthful picture of where you are now. It sounds like you’re in the midst of a booby-led renaissance – taking some new approaches to the depression & anxiety and gently re-assessing some of your grief. Teddy is such a beautiful name. I wish he was here with you still. Sending love xxxh


  21. yes… “complicated happiness” is probably the only type of happiness that we can really reach. i don’t think the missing will ever stop, but it gets easier. and your description of the ice cream–i can totally relate to that escape from the larger decisions. sometimes we do need that. but, definitely not sustainable.



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