What You Say…(What I Hear)
Written by Connie Small
For the last eight days, I have read comments to my article “Stop telling me how wrong I am!” I have read the emails sent to me in response to that article. I have listened to what people have told me when they see me in the store or talk to me on the phone. I have cried because of the heartless and cruel things that have been said to me. It doesn’t seem to matter what I want. It doesn’t seem to matter how much pain I’m in and how much more those comments have added to it. Every day, every single one of the last eight days, I have cried because of something said to me about my grief.
Today, I lay on the couch, wishing so hard to die, because the depression had taken such a hold on me. I cursed my body for breathing automatically, so that I couldn’t just stop. I thought this was another stage of grief I had to face, that I hadn’t been through yet. It seemed that this was the hardest stage of all. I felt so helpless, powerless, to do anything about it. I couldn’t reach out to anyone. I couldn’t even cry. I felt drained by this feeling of darkness that squeezed my heart so hard. I felt worthless, useless. Lost. And in pain so deep, it threatened to swallow me.
As I lay there, I wondered how I was to survive this stage. How I was to find a reason to want to even want to survive? I tried to will myself. But I couldn’t. It was as if I was dead inside, even though my body belied that fact.
I began to think of all the hurtful things said to me the last eight days. As I thought of each one, I felt something stir inside. I realized it was anger. I grabbed onto that emotion, as if I were grabbing a life ring. I let the anger grow, even though it has scared me in the past few weeks. As bad as I hate the anger, it’s better than feeling nothing.
Now, the rage has brought me here, to my keyboard. I feel, my fingers type. I realize that I have to get this out, or I will turn it inward again. I don’t like the anger. But I like the depression even less.
Here is some of what I’ve had to hear the last eight days.
“It doesn’t do you any good to talk about her.” (Forget your dead child, stop making me uncomfortable.)
I can’t forget her anymore than if she were alive.
“It’s O.K. to be angry, but don’t be mad too long, it’s not good for you.” (Be mad for a little while, but don’t get ridiculously mad.)
I’m mad at everything and everyone. I am FURIOUS at things that I wouldn’t even have noticed five months ago. I’m told by others that my anger is normal, but I still don’t like it. Especially when I see it get stronger every day. I just hope each day, that I can continue to control it, instead of letting it control me.
“You have to ‘get on with your life’.” (If you stop grieving and act normal, I’ll be relieved.)
What do you think I’m doing?! I wake up each day. I function through the day’s routine. Is that not going on with my life? If not, what is it? I’m certainly not dead.
“You need therapy for your depression.” (I don’t know what to tell you to stop your grief, so get help to get over it.)
Why do you think you have to help me? Why do I have to “get over it” within your time frame?
“Do something to distract yourself. You’ll feel better.” (If you find a hobby or something, I won’t have to listen to you cry about your daughter.)
Nothing, absolutely nothing, can distract me from the loss of my child. No more than you could be distracted from the loss of your right arm. She was as much a part of me, as your arm is a part of you.
Now, the “you should’s” have arrived.
I have so many people telling me how to grieve. Every day, it seems like someone is telling me I should be doing this or I shouldn’t be doing that. I want to ask them, “What gives you the right to say that to me? Did I ask you for your advice?!”
Why is it, people won’t hesitate to give you advice on a subject that no one wants to talk about? Few would speak out if they saw a child being mistreated in a store. Many would, and do, speak out when it comes to grief. In fact, they seem to make it their goal in life to get you to stop grieving as soon as possible, so they won’t have to hear your grief, see your tears and feel your pain. They won’t have to think to themselves, “That could be ME!”
Why can’t I just grieve in my own way? Why???
I’m supposed to “get on with my life.” Isn’t that what I’m doing?! I wake up each day. I function through the day’s routine. I work. I cook & clean. I take care of Adam. I talk to and visit my family. I do everything you do in your daily routine. Is that not going on with my life?
Am I not living because I don’t go on dates? Because I don’t smile and laugh all day long? Because I don’t go to parties or dances? Because I don’t go out to dinner and a movie? Because I don’t want to learn something new? Because I don’t want to set a big goal in life to work towards?
Am I not living because my heart is irretrievably broken? Because my arms ache to hold my child? Because my eyes can’t hold back the tears that come forth daily? Because I want my daughter back more than anything in the world? Because I love and miss her with all my heart? It is my pain that tells me every single minute of every single day, I am alive. I feel the hurting that being alive causes me. How can I be not living?
Because I’m not living “normally,” that’s why.
Because I’m not living “normally,” I’m considered to be grieving too long or too hard. If my child was still alive, would I be chastised for loving her too much and for this long? No! If my child was still alive, would I be told to forget her and not talk about her? No! If she were here, would I be told to not dream of a future with her, look at her pictures, or remember her? No! If she were alive, would I be told to not worry about her and cry if I missed her? No!
I don’t stop total strangers in the store and tell them, “Live your life as if there were no tomorrow. Grab your child and tell them they are the most important person in your life. Spend every spare second of your life with your child, because they may not be here tomorrow. Don’t take anything for granted. Not a single ‘I love you,’ not one hug. Play with your child. Listen to them when they talk to you. Have conversations with them. Learn about them. Encourage them. Be supportive. Help them in any way you can. Love them like their lives depended on it.” I don’t tell people that, even though I want to shout it to the world until everyone who has a child, hears and listens to me. Why I don’t tell them what’s in my heart? Simple.
Respect. I respect their right to live their life within their beliefs, needs, wants and feelings. Theirs. Not mine imposed upon them. Theirs.
Why can’t I get the same respect?
If you see yourself in any of the above, I want you to stop and please, think about what effect your words will have if you say them to someone like me. We do hear what you say. We do take it to heart. Your words can and do hurt, more than you’ll ever know.
We who have lost a child, balance precariously on a fine line between hanging on…and letting go. If you care, really care, don’t make us lose our fragile grip.
About the author: I was blessed by God with six children. Two were taken back by Him when they were born. Three live and have given me precious grandchildren. The last, my baby, my special angel, was called back by the Lord on November 6, 2000.
Copyright © 2000 by Connie Small. All rights reserved.
Dear Dear Angie
Thank you so very very very much for taking the time to put this on forum.I too feel that Connie has put into words EXACTLY how the MOMS are feeling.Wish I could see how she's doing now,Ya know just talk to her.I'm crying as I read this because no one does understand like the other MOMS,Most people don't know how to respond to you and therefore should keep their mouths shut.All we really need is to keep our angels name and what they were about ALIVE.This helps to shatter the fact that they are dead.It doesn't take the fact away it just helps us cope a little better.God Bless and hugs your way.Barb/Nicky's MOM
I had someone say to me "Now that the trial is over you can put this behind you."
I was stunned, couldn't believe what I was hearing.
Right, I'll just put it behind me no problem like a paid traffic ticket.
Thank you so much for sharing that with us. I too cried at the end. It pretty much says it all. I can't believe they said that to you Shirley, wait, yes I can as they can be so insensitive. I keep hearing stories of how other mothers have had near death expeirences with their children and how they prayed to God and a miracle happened and their child was saved. And they believe this happened through a loved one who by God's grace was looking over them in the spiritual world. They don't realize that makes you feel as if somehow they were better than you. Lisa's life was over in 12 minutes (of terror and struggle). We never had a chance to pray for her life and I guess we just must not of had any loved ones in Heaven looking out for her. DON'T THEY GET IT!?!Tell them the only thing you want to put behind you is the murderer while you are in your car so you can back over his pathetice sorry excuse for a human being!
I am so glad you posted this. I am seriously thinking about printing it out and when someone says something like that just giving them a copy. Prbly won't but I am thinking about it. It IS exactly how I have been feeling too. I guess all of us MOMS do feel that way. I hate hearing "She's in a better place." I am sure she is but I still want her here with me. I am selfish I guess. Or the "at least you had 20 years with her." Was there an expiration date on her? I wanted her longer. I was supposed to die first not her. Thank you for posting this.
Oh Kim thanks for the idea,I think it would be great handing them out.If we all handed out a sheet to every one that asks us or tells us something stupid just think how sensitive the world would become.Problem is they would still have to GET IT first wouldn't they? Hugs your way.Barb/Nicky's MOM
I just printed this out. I had to. This article says every single thing about the way I feel. Yes, I've been angry. To the point of wanting to kill. Grieving so hard I started the drinking. Still angry and still grieving. I know we all have been feeling this way. I keep fighting people who say "calm down" try to put it behind you, it's eating you up. blah, blah blah.
Just this weekend Oscar kicked JoJo out of the house in Phoenix, My brother in Holbrook took him in. I talked to JoJo we cried and cried. He misses his brother so much. JoJO said he want's to just be ok and find a way to put everything behind him. I told him, baby, please don't worry about that, take your time dealing with the grief. Just one day at a time and call me, any time, day or night. Becuase I'm right here grieving with you and thinking about you everyday. I admitted to him that I had started drinking and it became a real problem. He was crying and said, Auntie you don't even drink. I said I know, I stopped it too, It was really hard but I stopped. I told him if he would rather come live with me that it was ok. We could make it together. He said not until after the trial. He wants to be there when it starts and has to be because he is the main witness.
My god it's so hard. I thought I was the only one upset about Oscar, but now it's a whole lot of us and I honestly feel better because, I thought I was alone. I talked to Oscar and asked him if it was true he threw JoJo out. He said yes, he said this is my house, I couldn't take it anymore. He has problems and I can't deal with it. I'm not going to tell you what I said to him. But I will tell you this.
The next time that man stands in front of me he better have some protection between the legs.
Angie, all the Mom's I sure wish I could meet you. I've seen most of your pictures and heard all your thoughts and advise and grief. I'd just like to meet you and have a cup of coffee. It would feel good to be in the same room with people who feel like I do.
Blessings to all of you.