I just need to vent. The complication of venting to the public is knowing that there will be people who read this and think I’m talking or venting about them. Let me preface this post by making it clear that this post is not, in any way, directed at one or two people in particular. It is directed at society, at how the world works, at what humans are taught when it comes to grieving. I hope no one takes offense to what I’m about to say.
We lost our daughter 40 days ago. Our living, breathing, beautiful daughter died. People don’t like to use the words “death or died.” I’m learning that. We sugar coat it with “passed away, gone too soon, left this earth.” I do it too sometimes. Especially when I’m talking to other people. I rarely say “Our daughter died.” I usually say “We lost our daughter.” I did it when I started this paragraph. See? It’s annoying that we do this. As if it makes the pain any less severe. We can’t call it what it is because if we say the word “died” out loud it sounds so much more permanent. We as humans hate permanence. Let’s just call it what it is from now on.. okay? Alright, enough about that.
So our precious daughter died 40 days ago. Ryan and I had no idea what to expect. As we have said before, there is no play book that walks you through how to grieve the loss of your baby and successfully “recover.” There is no recovery. We undoubtedly knew it would be the hardest thing we would ever experience, and it has been, by far. We were prepared for tears, anger, guilt, irritability.. we were prepared to suffer. We’ve undergone all of these emotions, and they resurface daily. What we could never have prepared ourselves for is how we would deal with the world around us. We never could have prepared for our expectations of how others would handle Ava’s death. We never could have prepared for other people’s expectations of us. This is where grief is absolutely exhausting. Having a child die is more than any human should ever have to deal with, but when it is added to your own expectations along with the expectations of other people, it makes the already unbearable seem impossible.
We had an outpouring of support the first couple of weeks after we lost Ava. Family and friends brought us meals, bought groceries, sat with us, listened and loved on us. Family came with us to find her burial site, choose flowers, plan her memorial service; they helped us financially. We couldn’t have gotten through those first couple of weeks without them. They were all absolute life savers. We stayed in our small circle of friends and family for those first couple weeks, and didn’t venture out into the world any more than we had to. It was as if the world consisted of just us for that time. But it can never stay that way, can it? Eventually family and friends had their own lives to get back to. Ryan and I understood this. And we had to begin subjecting ourselves to the outside world. Ryan had to go back to work after 3 weeks, and I couldn’t bear to sit at home by myself every day. This is when things started to change.
I truly do not understand what it is about a child dying that tells society we shouldn’t talk about it. I hear more often about people’s pets dying than I do about children doing so. I’ve seen more compassion and empathy from people who hear about pets dying than when children die. It’s not that I don’t think pets are important, but more important than an innocent child? No. No way. We talk about our pets dying, our parents and grandparents dying, a sibling dying. It comes relatively easily from what I’ve seen. But when a child dies we shut the door on conversing about it as quickly as possible. I think everyone can agree on the fact that there is no greater loss than the loss of a child, so why won’t we talk about it? I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three ways people deal with this. I believe that whether you are a family member or friend to parents who have lost a child, or you’re a complete stranger who has been made aware of it, you still fall into one of these three groups. The first way is facing it head on. Dealing with the grief. Talking about it. Allowing ourselves to feel. We progress through the hurt from the start and we don’t ignore or try to hide the emotions that come with it. For family and friends, this may last for weeks, months, years, or a life time. For strangers, maybe just a few minutes. Either way, we face it. The second way is to ignore or postpone the grief. Not thinking about it. Not talking about it. Resisting the hurt. We delay it, push it away, focus on the “positive.” It’s our defense mechanism so we don’t have to hurt so much. Some of us can only delay the grief for an unknown amount of time before it rears its ugly head. Some of us will never deal with it. Family and friends might deal with it later on in life. Strangers may think about it briefly and then move on as to not allow it to cause pain. And then, and I believe this whole-heartedly, there are people who are so selfish and self-centered that they truly just do not care. They do not want to deal with your “problems.” They do not want you raining on their parade or negatively influencing their happy, little life. It’s mentioned and quickly forgotten. The word “grief” doesn’t exist in their language unless it pertains to them directly. It doesn’t matter if these people are friends and family or strangers, because it’s all going to be the same when it comes to dealing with is this way.
People are allowed to grieve, or not grieve, however they wish. I won’t even begin to try to control that because I would fail miserably. I wont lie and say that I don’t have expectations for how some close family and friends interact with us regarding Ava’s death, and I won’t say that other people’s actions don’t hurt sometimes, but I certainly won’t tell anyone what to do. With that, though, it has to be understood that Ryan and I have to put ourselves first right now. And right now, the only people my heart can be around in this moment, are the people who are dealing with losing Ava in the first way I mentioned. Who are grieving with me by facing it, talking about it, feeling it. Because this is where I’m at. And from what I’ve learned in support groups and such, it’s all about meeting a person going through grief where they’re at. If you’re dealing with it the second way right now, that’s okay. Deal with it however you need to. But please be understanding, respectful, and compassionate by allowing Ryan and I to grieve how we need to. Even if that means we need some space from some people for a while. Don’t take offense, or think that you’re failing us. Our needs are just different then your’s are. If you’re dealing with it the third way, well, honestly I don’t have any nice words for you. And I would never beg someone to care about my daughter anyway. I know her worth and that’s all that matters. The point of this is to help family and friends of those who lost a child to respect how much understanding we need from you. We need your love and support. We need you to be there when we ask you to, and to not be offended if we need space. It might sound like we’re asking a lot, I don’t know. But I think if each person just takes a moment to put one’s self in our shoes and think about what you would need if you lost your child, you might realize that you would expect the same things.