Thursday, June 3, 2010

How can I smile when my child is dead?

Dear Stevie,
I haven't been able to get into most of the "pregnancy and infant loss" books I've tried reading. They're all a little too much like a college textbook I might have had to read for a Physcology class or something. "Losing a child is a difficult time and you will undoubtedly experience feelings of intense sadness." (No, really?) "You will feel [blank] about your pregnancy loss for [blank] amount of time." They just haven't been very helpful for me.

Elizabeth McCracken's "An Exact Replica of A Figment of My Imagination" is a totally different story. It's a brilliantly written memoir about the loss of Elizabeth's first baby and the birth of her second baby, almost exactly one year later. It's sad and funny and thought-provoking and depressing and full of so much hope, all at the same time. It's like this woman has stolen all the disjointed thoughts floating around in my head and arranged them perfectly into book format for me to read.

Anyway, as I was reading this morning, this passage really stuck out to me:

"Lighter things will happen to you, birds will steal your husbands sandwich on the beach, and your child will still be dead, and your husband's shock will still be funny, and you will spend your life trying to resolve this."

How am I ever supposed to resolve this? How am I supposed to balance finding joy and being happy again, with the fact that you are dead? That my precious daughter died? How can I be simultaneously happy and sad?

This is something I've been really struggling with the last week or so. The dogs will do something funny, I'll start to laugh, but then I feel guilty and silently give myself a stern reminder that you died. I mean, what kind of mother laughs when her child is dead? Or Dad will go to take a picture of me and I will start to smile for the camera, then think to myself, "what kind of mother smiles for pictures when her child is dead?" and give him a sad pout or closed-mouth half-smile instead. Even more irrational is how I'll see my friends and family's happy pictures posted on facebook (which I should really just take a break from for a while) and think, "How can they be so happy when my baby has died?" How can the world just move on so quickly?

I think what Elizabeth is trying to say with the above quote is that 1) you will always be dead and I will always be sad about it, 2) I will be happy and laugh again as my life moves on, and 3) those two things are not mutually exclusive. Just because I feel joy, doesn't mean I'm not also sad about you dying. I don't need to feel guilty for feeling happy. It's not one or the other.

I am going to try my best to enjoy the happy moments when they come. Someone told me once, "those happy moments are gifts from your little girl." If that's true, keep on sending them down my way, Baby, I promise I'll try and embrace them for you.

Love you so much,

"An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination" on Amazon


The Griegers said...

I was wondering about that book. I am scared that it will make me depressed even beyond how I feel now but it sounds like it may actually be helpful. I'm thinking of you <3

car said...

I second the book recommendation. (I think this post could have come from my brain, if I could write more than one coherent sentence in a row)
The smiling for the camera has already hit me over the head a couple times.

Kelley and Chris said...

I have been reading your blog regularly since I too lost my little boy. You always take the words right out of my mouth. I'm going to download this book on my Kindle right now and I can't wait to start reading it. Sounds like just what I need. Thank you.

Danae said...

I've had problems reading the infant loss books also. I'll have to look into this one though. I've been thinking about you, your husband, and Stevie!

Leanne said...

Yikes, some of those books sound awful (from what you said). How are those supposed to be helpful?!?! I'm so glad you finally found a book that was helpful! I obviously have never lost a child, but from hearing from other people who have, I have heard them say lots of the same things about feeling guilty for smiling, laughing, etc.

One of my blogging friends lost her baby when she was 30-some weeks along. I don't know if you have seen her blog before, but she is in case you are interested in stopping over there.

Maggie said...

I love that book. I think I read it in one night! (((HUGS)))

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