Another WTH?! And Babies (later). And a Response

One of my former neighbors from Utah announced on Facebook that she was going to inform her husband that she wanted Baby #3 n.o.w. -- I just laughed at that, and thought about how grief does interesting things in a person's life -- including prompting them to lose the birth control and plan a new life (literally).

How is grief related to a plot to hatch a new baby? This family recently experienced the sudden death of a close friend -- a young father and husband -- and reminded my former neighbor that life is short and waiting is not always a good plan -- so expect a new little soccer player in Utah in nine months or so.

Grief is an invitation to step out of the pretend world in our heads -- the one in which we have lots of time ahead of us -- and just get busy being real. There is no time to waste -- every minute that passes is gone so don't waste one second pretending about anything -- just do what needs doing, and say what needs saying.

And always be prepared for the unexpected -- because that should be expected.

Yesterday morning I was informed of yet another unexpected loss - I am sorry to share that Cadi's dad, Marshall, died yesterday morning. We do not yet have any answers about what happened -- only that he was unwell the day before, checked over carefully by his veterinarian, and heading back to the vet -- and died en route.

Marshall is all good things in a dog -- seriously. His temperament is perfect, and if you knew Cadi -- you knew Marshall as she was just like him. He was the breed's first Versatility Dog Excellent -- and therefore a Grand Champion -- and has titles in obedience, draft and agility. You seriously could not say a bad thing about Marshall -- he is a once in a lifetime dog.

Although I recently went through a similar experience with Cadi, my interactions with Val (his mom) will not be about that -- it will be about her suffering and about Marshall. I will not tell her that I know exactly how she feels -- because I don't -- her grief experience is hers, and not mine. I won't tell her all the details of my experience and how similar it is to hers -- because this is not about me -- it is about her and Marshall.

Instead, I will tell her all the wonderful things I know about Marshall and how grateful I am to have known him. And I will tell her how sorry I am and let her know that her suffering is known -- and that she is loved. And I will keep telling her those things because her grief will not end anytime soon, and the really lonely parts are later -- when everyone goes back to normal life and forgets you are still in the Dark Place.

I expected to see Marshall in two weeks -- I was both dreading it and so looking forward to it -- because looking into his face would allow me to see Cadi since she looked just like him. And I knew it would make me cry yet again, but I imagined kissing her one more time through him -- and now he is also gone. Unexpected. Unwanted. Heartbreaking.

But this is where we set aside all that we are dealing with and run along the raging river of grief to call encouragement to Val -- email me privately if you would like her contact info.

You might not want a new baby -- but perhaps there is something you have been putting off? It might be a good idea to get busy on it -- just saying...

Later -- In Response to Carol

Carol asks such an excellent question (see Comments) and I appreciate that because it gives me a chance to clarify. I cannot suggest that speaking from the heart is ever wrong -- it isn't. And so much the better to say SOMETHING because saying nothing is so lonely and sad. But that doesn't mean that what we are saying is always the best -- and the "best" is different for different people so take what I am going to say with a grain of salt.

Lori -- one of "us" -- lost her sweet boy recently and has a broken heart that most cannot see. I want Lori to know that I care and that I understand that it hurts -- it is about Lori and conveying a message to her. So what to say? Tell her all about my experience with Cadi and that I know EXACTLY how she feels? No.

The first issue is that a grieving person has no Little Soldiers to send your way -- and when you tell her a sad story about your dog who died in 12 hours and how you are heartbroken -- well, the already saturated grieving person whose Little Soldiers are all on stretchers has just been presented with a burden she really cannot bear.

She wants to reach out and say how sorry she is that your heart is broken and your dog died but -- well, her loss and grief are so acute and she has nothing to give. So she just feels worse because she should be able to say how sorry she is but the words don't come out -- only more tears.

And so presenting grieving people with your own personal story of loss and grief -- especially when done in great detail -- can be a burden on them. And if what we want to do is help, we need to avoid putting more weight on people who are drowning.

But Carol's point is well-taken -- there is comfort in knowing others have walked a similar path and "get it". But similar is not the same, and telling someone we know exactly how they feel is a lie -- because we do not -- we only know how WE felt in a similar situation. As I have said before, all loss and grief is filtered through what is unique about us -- and therefore it is something only we know. Grief is one of those strange things that is both universal -- and personal.

So when we tell someone we know exactly how she feels, we typically create the opposite of what we intend -- we create distance. The other person is well aware that you do not know exactly how she feels and so she now knows you do not understand.

So as a general rule, when loss/grief is acute, it is best to leave your own "stuff" at home and focus on the one who needs support at that moment  -- the time for swapping loss and grief stories is later in the process.

I share this not to make any of us feel badly -- because we shouldn't!!! First of all, it is never wrong to care -- or to be human and not do everything perfectly. And second, I share because where do we learn this stuff?! So far schools are not covering Grief 101. (However, feel free to visit the website for info about grief: www.helpwithgrief.org and yes, soon we will get the pet loss one finished -- but I need everyone to please stop dying!!!!). Finally, I share because I suspect we all want to be better at supporting those we care about -- so these are just some ideas to help all of us...

And Lori, I have not forgotten your boy or that you share the Dark Place with us. I am sorry -- and I am thinking of you. Hugs. Jennifer, too...

And now -- something to make us smile -- Double Dose Wednesday has arrived!

John sends his update in the form of a pictures this week -- with explanations -- here we go:

"Mornings in our bedroom (Kristine made me crop herself and Kai out of the picture…)  Quite the party!"

 "Kai insists he needs to drink from a REAL glass…"

"Nice weather + Car repairs = nice walk on Saturday"

"Got home and Heidi and Mika were hot (it was mid-80s Saturday!)… Heidi played in the sprinklers while Mika went into hiding :)"

Our babies - all of them -- are growing up so fast!!!!!!!!! Quick -- make more!!!!! Just kidding -- kind of...

8 comments

by Carol Kracht on Wed, 04/25/2012 - 08:40

So MA, Can you tell me more about why it would not be helpful to Val to discuss Cadi?- Since your recent loss was somewhat similar as it was so sudden and shocking and seemingly out of no where- Am I just clueless or what? Seriously, I really feel less alone in my grief when people reach out with similar types of loss- then I know they are right there with me and understand my pain and for me that is so helpful...Though people may handle their grief differently, I always thought knowing you were not alone would help- so sorry if I did that to you.....not my intention...I had heard the terrible news about Marshall and thought- at least Mary Ann will be able to talk with Val and they will have a common place to work from which may comfort both of you. I still wish that for you both...My regards, Carol

by Lori Simidian on Wed, 04/25/2012 - 12:32

"and the really lonely parts are later -- when everyone goes back to normal life and forgets you are still in the Dark Place."

Oh, Mary-Ann, that certainly must be a common thread of grief because that is where I reside right now.

by Jennifer Z on Wed, 04/25/2012 - 13:25

Lori, I haven't been keeping up w/the Berner-l, so I don't know who you've lost, but I want you to know that you are not alone in the dark place. Nor is Val, or Mary-Ann. So sad with so many losses in our little community recently. I take comfort in knowing that others understand, but I am saddened that they must also go through such losses. I hold all of you in my thoughts as I navigate my own sorrow.

by Barb on Wed, 04/25/2012 - 14:52

He is so stinkin' cute!! I just want to tickle him. Zaida and Mika not the water babies...So far Zeke hasn't gone swimming but does run right in up to his belly. Zelda swims like a golden-can't keep her out; so Zeke has both examples we'll see what he does.
Kai you are a ray of sunshine in these dark days.

by Favorite Auntie... on Wed, 04/25/2012 - 17:05

Far, far too many losses! I suppose it is a consequence of how widely my "friend" network (some of whom I've never met!) is spread these days, but wow.

M-A, the Little Soldiers analogy (?) continues to be so very spot-on for me; visualizing them through your words really, really helps me understand. Thank you.

by Becky on Wed, 04/25/2012 - 19:11

I want to thank you so very, very much for all that you have shared in your blog. Your words have been so powerful and helpful and are helping me to see through my current storm clouds to brighter days ahead. I was especially touched today by these words..."Grief is an invitation to step out of the pretend world in our heads -- the one in which we have lots of time ahead of us -- and just get busy being real. There is no time to waste -- every minute that passes is gone so don't waste one second pretending about anything -- just do what needs doing, and say what needs saying.". Again...thank you!

by CA Heidi :-) on Wed, 04/25/2012 - 21:02

I think the most surprising thing I have learned about grief is how continually unprepared I feel for it. Now that I know that much, at least. I have learned that I need to take a moment to collect myself before I jump into saying anything. Not too long -- after all, the grieving are indeed in that dark place, and no one wants to be there long on their own, but long enough that I can be sure that I have as bright and steady a light as I know how to bring with me when I go to join them where they are.

I can feel so attacked by how sneaky grief can be; even more than a year after losing my precious Berner Harley, I still find that when another person loses their dear dog, a Berner especially, I need to take a minute to shed a tear or two for my own boy. I was upset by that; it felt selfish and wrong to be crying for my own taken-too-soon dog, when there are other people crying for a loss that is more immediate. But you can't control grief much more you can control the tides, so now I have learned to take a moment to get through that as much as I can before 'going in,' so to speak. I know that I stumble and blunder around the grieving; another complaint I have is that my broken heart often seems to come the the side effect of a less than functioning mind, too, but I get along as best as I am able.

I will email you M-A. I would very much like to send a card, give a call, or anything that I can do for Marshall's mom. He sounds like a wonderful spirit, and losing him suddenly is tragic and sad. I hope it will help in a small way to have other people around who are able to bear witness to that.

~H

by Carmen K. on Wed, 04/25/2012 - 23:12

I've been reading the blog daily though could not respond due to keyboard problems...I am so sorry to hear about the recent losses. My heart reaches out to those loved and lost and to their grieving families. So, so very sad and heartbreaking. Sometimes and many times I do not know what else to say and so I end up saying nothing. I would like to share that my silence does not necessarily mean that those grieving or in the dark place have been forgotten. Perhaps this is true for others. For me, the process of experiencing and learning how to reach out through my words and actions to those who are grieving is a learning experience also. I hope that in my attempts to reach out and communicate I have not hurt the grieving person more or added to his or her burden. Thank you for your guidance, Mary-Ann. I feel I am not alone in learning so much from your blog.

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