Thursday, May 20, 2010

Why being strong sucks sometimes

In my family, I'm know as the strong one. The tough cookie. The one who can take pretty much anything. And Aaron, if possible, is then, by definition, even stronger - as he is the one I lean on when I need support.

When we had the ectopic pregnancy, not many people in the family said much - I'm guessing because they didn't know what to say. Someone did send flowers - and that struck me as a little weird. And when we had the miscarriage, not many even knew we were pregnant. So we dealt with it. I remember finding out that one of the women on my street with a broken ankle had meals delivered for WEEKS to her, and feeling a little cheated that after my m/c - no one even offered food for us, but didn't think much of it. And I recognize that we don't really throw out a 'help us' vibe. People did really step up when my FIL had he stroke, and that was wonderful. Of course, the pain of dealing with someone who has a stroke isn't a quick fix. Aaron is still struggling with issues with his father 2 years later (his refusal of PT, moving to new facilities, and his very obvious depression when we visit him). But since the major event has passed, it just isn't talked about much.

When Nora died, loads of people swooped in right away. And we were taken care of. We had friends basically move into our house for weeks and answer phones and be sure we were fed and help deal with things like memorial services for a child and things a 35 year old should never have to think about. To this day, I am SO thankful to the wonderful network of friends that we have surrounded ourselves with and am totally grateful for it. Now that I'm 6 months away from her death, and I have time to reflect on it... it was our 'chosen' family that helped us. Mostly friends and more removed relatives. One of Aaron's brothers didn't even attend the memorial service, and the other never even called him to check up after it. Never. Like in MONTHS. I guess people just assume we are OK. And we are pretty OK. But as OK as you can be when a child dies. Which, while we are coping pretty damn well - we still need help. And hugs. And people showing concern. And love. And support. Because some days, I just want to cry. Or scream. Or drink 15 margaritas.

We DO get great support from a select few. We have an aunt in town that loves our kids to pieces and checks in on us weekly. And there are friends on the block that will take care of the kids so Aaron and I can go to the movies to reconnect as a couple. And other friends have offered up vacation houses so we can go away for nice weekends - which we are taking advantage of this weekend, in fact. And I have friends that I have lunch with weekly that listen to my random freak outs.

But sometimes it is very apparent to me that we are the most put together couple in both our families. We have such a strong relationship that everyone just assumes we are OK. And while it is great - doesn't mean it doesn't hurt a little when people don't even call to check up on us. Or stop by and say hi. Or respond to emails that are blatantly reaching out for connection (as Aaron did this week to a brother. Who 48 hours later hasn't even acknowledged the email).

So I call bullshit. I don't want to be the woman who is so sad that she can't raise herself out of bed - but I bet I would get a little more attention if I was. I don't really know where I'm going with this post - but this is what I'm thinking about right now. It isn't like I want people at my doorstep asking 'How are you' (because in all honesty that is hard to hear and answer. We are OK. But there is a new level of OK. Like I say I'm OK pretty much anytime someone asks. But for me, a good day is one in which I don't relive that whole evening over and over and over again in my head.). I guess I just wish that those who are supposed to care the most did. Or acted more like they did. If that makes any sense.


Molly said...

Im sorry that the people that should care more are not, that must be hard. We have family like that too. But as for the food and your neighbour, with a broken ankle one can hardly walk so I can see why they helped her with the food and for so long ... that's very nice of your neighbours to help like that, one of our neighbours broke her leg and she only got two days of food, so wow for weeks !! I had 4 m/c after 7 yrs of IF and I got nothing neither, but thats ok, I preferred to be in private without anyone coming to me and talk. I prefer actually not even talking about it at all. Most people in my circle dont even know !

Kate said...

i think miscarriage & the loss of a child are thigns that scare people. they don't know what to do, so they do nothing. its not an excuse, or even a very good explanation, really.
chosen family can be a wonderful thing. i think sometiems we choose to surround ourselves with people who fill the gaps that our "real" family can't... i don't know, i'm rambling. this post just kind of struck a chord with me & for what it's worth, i'm glad you have people in your life who care & have been there to help, even if they aren't the ones who are "supposed" to.

Debbi said...

Always remember we can not choose our family but we can choose our friends. No excuses, family should be there but very very frenquently they are not and we need the friends to close the gap. I am glad for you and Aaron that you have each other and that you have a family of friends that are there for you. I understand completely about the lack of understanding and thought on the part of your family, my family (mom and sister) didn't even attend my wedding and I live with them. So I guess what I am trying to say is to try and let it go otherwise it will eat you up inside. Don't expect anything from them and you will be a tiny bit less disappointed (not a lot) and hug your friends tight, remember they are the ones that count.

Carrie27 said...

Ok is not happy and fluctuates. Just to know someone cares definitely means so much to anyone.

I'm always here for hugs, a vent, or cry.

Calliope said...

I am always amazed by your strength so I know it is hard to be vulnerable and need/want support. People that know us best should be able to know when to swoop in without a phone call or e-mail- they just know. Sadly, at least based on my own, family kind of sucks ass at the swoop in. It sucks & I am sorry that your husband's brother is clearly not getting that a response would mean so much.

Tina said...

Oh, I know what you mean regarding family. Mine couldn't be bothered to see my first child after he was born. My mother and grandmother were supposed to come when he was a couple of weeks old (they live maybe 30 minutes away in the same city) but never got around to it. I FORCED my grandmother to see him when he was 5 weeks old and she was so indifferent that she didn't even stay in the same room. That was the straw that broke this camel's back.

I just stopped calling and going over. I have since had another child and no one in my family has been interested enough to meet either of them.

As for hard times, I have had one hell of a time adjusting to life with 2. Not one single one of my family or friends has ever once shown up with food. I hear ya.

Deborah said...

That sounds so hard. I understand what you mean, though, that showing an "I am strong" vibe can come back to hurt you. Also, as others said, people just aren't as comfortable with m/c as with illnesses like broken ankles or strokes. If you're the kind of person who can be vocal about what you need, you can get the help, but if not, nothing.

Heather said...

This really resonated with me. My mom told me, about 4 hours after our son was stillborn, "I know you and Hans will be ok, you are so strong for each other and will get each other through this". And variations of that is about all she would say for the next two years. I was so strong so she knew I didn't need anything else. Attempts to bring up my son would just end in the above statements and a change in conversation.

The rest of the family is about the same. I could go on... actually I did but I deleted it. Let's just say I SO get where you are coming from. I was glad that we could still enjoy life and manage the day to day things, but things were still damn hard and some help would have been nice. More than nice, really.

Jill said...

Your post mad me cry. There are so many thoughts going through my head right now...perhaps I should just email you. But, please know that I think about you DAILY...not that it helps you much since we rarely talk. But, I think about you...and send good thoughts your way. Every day.

Cece, you have really had more than your share of challenges in this lifetime...and not just Nora but other stuff too. I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry that this has happened to you and Aaron. I'm sorry it is something you need to think about daily (or hourly). I hope it gets easier somehow. I am happy you have so much love around you. It doesn't always matter who it comes from but that it is there. None-the-less, it's too bad that family is not more supportive or involved. They are missing out. And, like someone else said, I think it scares people and they don't know what to say or how to say it...and they forget that they just need to love.

Stace said...

I've been lurking... or maybe I commented awhile ago, I can't remember. But I completely agree with the last few lines of your post. When we lost Connor in July the social worker at the hospital told us that we would be surprised, so be prepared. Some of those people that we thought we could depend on would let us down (intentionally or not) and some of those people that we would least expect would come through for us.

And her words could not have been more true. We had family and close friends avoid the funeral, never call, never reach out. But we also had unexpected friends and supporters come out of the woodwork when we needed it most. To this day I feel like the best thing that came from the funeral was that we really learned who we could depend on.

Nearlydawn said...

I think I know what you mean a little too well. I'm pretty strong myself.

It does seem odd - who comes and helps and who doesn't. I'm not sure if it is always indicative of who would be there in a different situation. I THINK that it has more to do with the death of a child being so terribly hard to fathom... People just don't seem to know what the hell to do for you. I can't say I'm much better at knowing what to do, but the difference is I DO SOMETHING. Even if it turns out to be the wrong thing, it is tangible and people know I'm there for them.

However, I've not always been like that. I'm used to be a "call me if you need anything" kind of person. My own losses are what's changed me.