Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Checking in from the journey.

Last week we went to church with my father in law at his assisted living place, (Steve and I were the youngest folks in there by 25 years.) It's hard to go to church - or to reflect anywhere for an hour or so - and not get sad about Maggie.  One of the residents noted my sadness and asked quietly and respectfully about it. I told her, "Well, I just lost my daughter." She exclaimed something like "Good God in Heaven," and I felt a little bit better because of her reaction. She doesn't know me or Maggie, but with that one reaction, she validated the enormity of my loss and it made me feel better.  

After I thought, I can't really say that any more. I didn't "just" lose her. It's been two months already. Two months! How can that possibly be? It seems like about 2 minutes. And it seems like a lifetime since I've seen Maggie's smile.  The journey is well underway and it doesn't feel like it's even started.

Grief is a weird thing. It's definitely not a linear experience. Whoever penned those "stages of grief" wasn't in my head, I can tell you that.  There is no denial or bargaining going on. I am not particularly angry (or no more than usual) and I "accept" what has happened, but it's not like that resolves anything. Maggie is still gone and I'm still lost.

 I still don't sleep much and I'm not feeling better as time goes by, that's for sure. Perhaps the initial shock has worn off a bit, but I'm not even sure about that. Even if it has, it's not like it's any better. The shock and numbness gives way to sadness.  For me it's just a jumble of so many emotions and a warped concept of time and space. 

Many people told me it would be hardest when all the hoopla of the funeral etc faded and everyone else returns to their normal lives. That is when one is left to face one's grief. That is just not so. You don't have to face it, it's part of you. It's there and sometimes its good and sometimes it's bad, but it's just part of who you are now.

I am outside of myself a lot of the time. It's as though I am watching myself experience this. Note: I chose the word "experience" on purpose. Others say grief is something you have to "go through," but that suggests a resolution or coming out the other end. There is no other end. This is the way it is now.  Perhaps in time I will learn how to make if fit into my life better but it's not something I will get over. Maggie is my daughter and losing her changes me. That is OK for me, but it is not OK for everyone else.

There seems to be a private and a public grief. Everyone experiences grief privately in their own way and finds a way to go on with their lives despite the giant hole. Many tell me things I should do that are not at all helpful to me, but I suspect would be comforting to them (or they think they would be.)  I thank them and do what feels right to me. It's an individual process.

Publicly it's different. Society has expectations. When folks ask How are you guys doing?  They don't want an honest answer. They want to hear that we are doing "fine." They don't want to deal with my sadness. It asks too much of most people. Others feel better when we put on a brave face and marshall on so that they can all marvel at how well we are doing. It's an act, but I think a necessary one. Continuing the act will help me fit this loss into my life. It is the embodiment of  "fake it til you make it."

 The most casual of conversations feels phony and I find myself avoiding those situations that require them. What if Maggie comes up? Will I tear up? Is that OK here? Or worse, what if Maggie doesn't come up in the conversation? Should I try to carry on a conversation when my every thought is on her or just exchange pleasantries and move on. Most people avoid the subject and then I don't bring it up because it's not part of the act. The subject of Maggie remains unspoken and hangs between us awkwardly.

If you are wondering, let me tell you: It is absolutely fine to bring up the subject of Maggie. She was one of the best things in my life. In fact she defined our lives for 20 years.  The sadness is hard, losing her is hard, but remembering her is not. Loving her is not. She is important to me and that doesn't change just because she's gone. Everything else has changed. Everything. Except the significance Maggie had in our lives.

I have to add that we could not have made it through the last two months without the family members and close friends who have helped us tremendously. When I'm with them I feel like I'm in a protective bubble. I thank you all. This is a long road and may not lead anywhere, but I appreciate you all being on it with us. 

So, the journey continues. In a way I welcome it, I just don't know what the hell is happening or where I am half the time.  Stay tuned.


  1. Big hugs, friend! I was absent for a bit, and just read the news. I've enjoyed hearing about your life and Maggie's beauty through LJ; her photos and your stories still make me smile. :)

    1. Thank you so much for checking in. Maggie may be gone, but her incredible spirit lives on.

  2. Each of your posts on this proverbial "journey" take my breath away in their simplicity and enormous depth. Even though I can't, I wish that I could possibly go with you along the path -- travel with you a bit , hold your hand, make you laugh, cry some tears with and for you. I understand that there is no end to it, this journey and perhaps it's more a circle around which you will travel for some time, if not always. And you will have strength and courage to honor Maggie's life -- and your own.

    1. Right, its a circle or perhaps a labyrinth...

  3. I lost my son about 2 months ago too. Your words echo my own feelings. Thank you for being so honest and sharing them with me. I feel the same way.

  4. You did "just" lose Maggie. And that "just" should last as long as it feels that way to you...it shouldn't be prescribed by some arbitrary societal norm. I have not lost a child but everything you write here resonates deeply with me and my experience of grief....even and especially the conversations with others. In time I came to crave those moments when my grief wasn't known, where I didn't have to expose it, so that I could have a break from it myself. But I never wanted those brief respites to last. I needed to be able to acknowledge my grief and be with those who understood. I'm glad you've had close friends and family to share your loss of Maggie with you.

  5. I'm so sorry for the loss of your daughter. Thank you for sharing this part of your painful journey. Many of your words brought back the confusion and sorrow of the early months after my husband's death. Please be patient with yourself as you experience the "weird things" of grieving. The sleeplessness (or desire to sleep nonstop), the surreal passage of time that shouldn't have "already" gone by, the self-censoring questions of what to say and to whom ... all are "normal" outpourings of the devastation of your broken heart.


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