Please do not tell me I should count my blessings this holiday season.
If you want to know the truth, nothing in my life feels blessed. Maybe it helps you to imagine I would be capable of counting my blessings amidst the massive tragedy of Zachary's death this year. I wonder why you would choose the Christmas holiday, with all the painful splendor of the baby Jesus in the manger, for highlighting my many blessings,... when my own baby has just died. I wonder if you even considered how disorienting it is to have my blessings dangled in my face at the same time that I'm seeking professional help to manage the PTSD that plagues my hours, as I battle headaches and anxiety brought on by my grief and the trauma of Zachary's suffering and death. I wish I could return to the good old days when I might have reflected on my blessings, but that would mean Zachary was here with me this Christmas. Instead, he is dead and my grief is inflamed, stressed and trampled by the unrelenting joy and spirit of Christmas, by the pressures to participate in it despite the carnage that has befallen my family.
Please do not tell me I should be thankful for C.T.
You must know how much I love C.T. What you don't see is the degree of effort and care I put into mothering and loving this developing person, our C.T., on a daily basis. He is all I/we have. But showing my gratitude for C.T., as I do each day, does not diminish my brokenness in Zachary's suffering and death. The life of one son does not offset the death of another. It just doesn't work that way. Maybe you feel you are being helpful to "encourage" me to see the light that not all has been lost. I don't need any help to realize how fortunate I am that C.T. is still here. But, telling me how thankful I should be about it is like imploring a double (leg) amputee to be thankful that at least she still has her arms. It only serves to make me feel more isolated in the reality of my loss, my day to day reality and my future.
Please don't tell me you miss me.
The me whom you miss is gone forever. No one misses her (and the life she had) more than I do. When you guilt me with this, when you mention, for instance, your concern at not having seen me in some time, my insides boil with rage and frustration at your "needs" being held in higher regard than my tender, bereaved mother heart. I miss Zachary every minute of every day - much more than you miss seeing me occasionally. My fear is that your fleeting thoughts about missing me (and B and C.T.) are somehow worth more to you than my son's suffering and death, more than the grief of his loving mother. Please allow me to take care of myself, even if I'm not able to see you as often as you expect or hope, even if our rare meetings are awkward and painful because I'm in a dark place. Zachary left us only ten and 1/2 months ago. If you miss me, please come alongside me in my grief instead of waiting for the old me, and for me to show up in familiar contexts. I rarely have the strength to reach out on my own. Offers of "if you ever need anything" almost always fall flat. I am just starting to process what happened to my boy, just beginning to accept he has died. It takes a tremendous amount of time and emotional energy, and I find I have almost nothing left to give, even to those who care deeply. Like you, I desperately wish it were different.
I know you care about me and I don't believe you intentionally hurt me. I know that you have your own stuff going on. I know that you'd like to take it all away for me, so that you could see me happy again. But, I am so incredibly fragile because of what I've been through. Like a burnt match ready to disintegrate at the slightest touch, your words and your opinions about my grief, no matter how subtle, gentle or well intentioned, can crumble me. It makes me feel so helpless when you seem disappointed about how I'm doing or frustrated that I can't just focus on joy and gratitude again. Right now, I am existing and doing what I can to cope. I am caring for my family and executing the day to day stuff pretty well. I think that's actually pretty stellar considering the circumstances. I wonder if you would be coping any better or more acceptably if you wore my shoes.
Please try to remember my beautiful baby boy, my third son. His tender skin, his dark, spiky hair, his perfect fingers and toes. Remember that I am his loving mother. Remember that he became ill so suddenly and senselessly, that I witnessed him suffer more than I imagined possible, that I was forced to watch him leave us, forever, just as we were planning to bring him home. Even if you can't tangibly imagine the trauma the four of us endured, please remember that it exists and that we must live with it every day.
I need to continue to be gentle with myself, to allow myself to process and grieve Zachary's death and the compounded loss of my boys. My responsibility is to care of myself, B and C.T. Although subtle suggestions call it into question, I am not responsible for making sure that everyone is satisfied with how I'm handling Zachary's death.