After the Horrible Thing, there comes a lot of Awkwardness

Some people have remarked, “You must be sick of being asked how you are.” I am not. Because, surprisingly, not that many people are asking. I’ve gone back to my normal life. I get along out in the world without crying publicly. I talk about regular things like movies and the weather. I’m managing. I’m not a basket case. But I’m not alright either.

It hits me at strange times. Like after retelling my ordeal to a friend who hadn’t read my posts. Like after talking to a pregnant acquaintance and it coming up. Like being somewhere where there are a lot of kids. I love being around kids, holding babies, and entertaining toddlers but it hits me in a different way now because the “what if” hangs heavy on my heart. Sometimes I just cry because a commercial strikes me as sad and I’ve had a day where I’ve seen too many pregnant people. I don’t really understand the psychology behind it all but that’s why I made an appointment with a counselor who specializes in infertility and grief. I do not know how to navigate this.

I think the most awkward situation has been encountering pregnant people. It’s usually a situation where they don’t know what happened to me and it somehow comes up and I see their face turn to horror as the capital A Awkward Situation unfolds. How awful must it be for them to stand in front of a woman who went through some horrific “miscarriage” while they are carrying a baby inside them? I mean, I feel so terrible having them find out about what happened to me. And at the same time my heart breaks because WHAT THE FUCK? WHY IS THIS A THING I HAVE TO ENDURE? But I try to be kind and gentle and reassuring. I do not blame them. I’m not angry with them. Of course I’m envious. I’m human after all.

I wish I was the kind of person who was extremely private. But, uh, I am quite the opposite. I’m a sharer. Maybe an over-sharer. But having shared my struggles publicly has brought a lot of people into my life who are in a similar place. For that reason alone I don’t ever regret sharing because no one should have to feel alone. And I think that by being vulnerable, I’m encouraging other people to do the same.

I know it’s difficult for people to know what to say when someone is having a hard time. So many tell me they are afraid they will say the wrong thing which I think leads a lot of people to say nothing. I have totally said the wrong thing to someone. It was not the end of the world even though I felt terrible and it was absolutely not intentional. I can’t speak for every person who has had a crisis but for me, saying nothing is not the response I need. I’m publicly acknowledging that something terrible happened to me. It’s okay for you to bring it up. It’s okay for you to email, text, call, stop me in the hallway and say, “I’ve been keeping up with what you’ve been going through and I just wanted to say how sorry I am. I’ve been thinking of you.” It’s really that simple. You do not have to fix anything. Please don’t try to. You do not have to give me advice on what I should do next. You don’t have to remind me how strong I am because right now I do not feel very strong and it makes me feel like a failure. That’s not your fault! It’s just how it is. Showing up for someone is not an easy thing and there is no manual on it. But I think most people want to be reached out to, to be thought of, to be cared about on good days so it’s even more needed on bad ones.

Grief is a lonely experience as are health crises, and break ups, and all that other hard stuff. We’ve all been there at one time. We can relate. Maybe you’re the type to call up and ask for help. There are some of us who struggle doing that when we’re in a good place so think how hard it must be when you’re feeling so down. A few friends pushed through my resistance and showed up because they knew I would never be able to ask for it. They’ve admitted they worried I’d think them pushy but honestly, they lovingly forced me to connect with people at a time I wanted to crawl into a hole. Every card, call, text, email, comment on my blog, tweet, or Facebook status meant something to me. Even if you just said you were sorry, it helped. Thank you for showing up for me.

And so, here I am in this complicated place. I appreciate you listening.


42 thoughts on “After the Horrible Thing, there comes a lot of Awkwardness

  1. I am sorry you are going through this. It just sucks, and there is nothing I can say that will make it easier to bear. Wishing you peace and clarity as you navigate this difficult path.

  2. Thank you for putting this all out there in so many words. What you are going through is a shock and a legitimate loss and that deserves your time and attending to.

    Personally I noted my own grief (in other situations) would come in waves, often very unexpectedly, though occasionally in very predictable ways. There were times I was quite sure I was done with grief long before it was done with me. There were times I was obviously sad and other times my grief looked like anger. Seething resentment and swaddling sorrow were hard to tease apart some days.

    I can only hope you will continue to be patient with yourself, patient with your friends, patient with all of us who struggle to be supportive even when we say things that are well meant but unfortunately not particularly helpful. This is your life, you’ll get through processing your ups and downs in your own way. And, while you are doing that, we are and will be here for you, however you are feeling, however that looks.

  3. I have been thinking so much about what you have been experiencing, and I’ve had to hide out a bit because it brings back so many painful memories of my own. I wish like Hell you didn’t have to go through what I’ve gone through. You are still YOU, and this circumstance will never diminish who and what you are in the eyes of the people who really love (and like) you. You will still have a full and complete life regardless of what you choose going forward, because you are still you, and you are awesome!

  4. I have so many thoughts bouncing around my head on this topic (I weirdly think a lot about grief). I don’t think I’m going to be able to articulate them all well, but I do want to say I’m glad you’re open about your grief. I think it will help you process it more, and it will help your loved ones and friends acknowledge your grief better. So many people process grief privately — which I completely understand — but at the same time, their grief is often ignored or forgotten by others, which makes it so much harder on the person grieving. Having extra shoulders to help carry the burden of grief is a good thing, in my own humble opinion.

    I’m sorry that you are going through all of this. I hope you do find that over time the pain will dull and become more of a memory than an ever-present burden.

  5. I have put two kids in the ground. Nobody really understands the grief a person goes through. I still today choke up and find a tear slipping out when I speak of the girls.

  6. Although I cannot relate to your loss (insert great guilt for being one of *those people* with a child at home), I can appreciate your need for people to reach out. When G was in the NICU, we saw so many different reactions from our friends. I was surprised when close friends gave us (too much?) space and when not-so-close friends quietly dropped off meals when we were not at home. Blog and Facebook posts garnered more comments than I could respond to (must be safe places to reach out, I guess). When you’re on the outside, I think it’s hard to really know where the affected person is in their grief process and what they need. You’re right, people should reach out, period, regardless of whether they say or do the right thing (or not). Hugs to you.

  7. “I’ve been keeping up with what you’ve been going through and I just wanted to say how sorry I am. I’ve been thinking of you.” 🙂

  8. I’ve been in your situation before and it totally sucks. The not talking about *the thing* is the worst – as if it hadn’t happened. I ended up getting a – very visible – tattoo on the baby’s due date and even nearly 15 years later, I *get to* talk about it quite often since people ask me about it. My oldest son knows that he once had an older sibling and brings it up from time to time as well. Talk about it, write about and cry about it as often as you need to. You’re definitely not alone. xoxoxo

  9. I’ve found health issues make people run away, unfortunately. I’m still here. Still reading. Still caring. Still hoping it all works out for you x

  10. I’ve been wanting to write to you for weeks. I had a similar situation to yours and every time I tried to write to you, I have been so filled with my own grief, I just shut down. Today, I want to tell you that I am so incredibly sorry and as someone who is about 4 months into the grief process, I am still working on being gentle with myself when I burst into tears for no reason. If you want to get together to talk…I am here!

  11. I think about you daily; please know that if you need another person to email, talk to, text, whatever you can always reach out to me. Extending a hand across the US to you, and a hug, as well. xo

  12. I wish I could bottle up a bunch of love and mail it to you. I’ve been thinking about you and have told your story to some people who you’ll likely never meet. You are always so caring and so available to the people in your life – I’m glad you have some pushing through to return that back to you. I’m so sorry you’re hurting and I hope the therapist can help. I don’t know why but I feel like I should send you funny cat videos or something just to shoot something lighthearted your way. For some reason, that stuff helped when I was really scared about my mom’s breast cancer. Don’t be surprised if you see my name in your inbox, and feel free to tell me to knock it off. XO

  13. Hey… I don’t know you or your story (yet) – I’m catching up, but a friend pointed me to your blog because I had a lot of struggles with infertility and miscarriages, and, like, no one to share it with because we’d *just* moved to Seattle and so I pretty much spent all my time blogging about it. ANYWAY, if you want to go grab coffee sometime and vent to me, I would love to get together. Infertility sucks, miscarriages suck, but you shouldn’t have to be lonely while you go through it ❤ I'm here if you need me, and I know you might not be ready to chat, and that's cool, too. Just feel free to bug me, any time 🙂

  14. You are beloved by many complete strangers, I suspect. We are the multitude lurking between the lines of your beautiful posts.

  15. So sorry you are going through this. I can imagine it must be so sad and difficult. I’m an over-sharer myself sometimes but I think in some ways it’s better than keeping everything inside.

  16. I have been thinking about you a lot lately, how the other day on Twitter you mentioned how long you’ve lived in Seattle and I remembered when you moved there and holy crap, I am really glad you are a sharer, because I am so glad we know each other. That sentence was kind of a mess, but I hope you get the point. I am glad you share, I hope it helps in some way, and I am glad you know how to reach out. Even when it seems dark and is hard, you still know how to be alive. I love that about you.

  17. I firmly believe in the power of prayer … and that is all I have to offer you and Chris. And your baby that is in heaven. Peace always.

  18. I’ve held off on commenting because I didn’t know what to say. I’m so sorry that this is happening to you. Be kind to yourself and do let your friends help when they offer. As Mdel says in a previous comment, you are beloved.

  19. So many people don’t know how to respond to someone who is grieving. I’ve even been through it and I’m still unsure how each specific person would appreciate to be responded to.

    I’ve read that it’s better to ask a sick/terminally ill person, “Would like me to ask you how you’re feeling” instead of “How are you feeling?” That way they can just say Yes or No. Maybe that would work in this case, too?

    I wrote a bit about grief last year, and I link to some articles, if you’re interested. But what I tell everyone, even my dad most recently is, “Grief never goes away. You just learn to fit it into your life and live with it. It changes you and becomes a part of you.”

    Thinking of you.

  20. Sizzle –

    I just caught up with what happened. And I am so sorry. Having been through a miscarriage before, I am familiar with many of the feelings you’re experiencing. I have no words of advice – just strong, positive thoughts.

    I lied…I have 1 piece of advice: don’t let anyone make you feel bad for mourning or sharing your story. If that is how you cope, that’s all the matters.

  21. 1) I am happy to see you found a grief counselor. I wondered about that but didn’t think it appropriate to ask in the beginning, even though I know you are very pro-therapy like I am. My co-worker went through A Horrible Thing (pre-term labor) so unfortunately I knew well there are a great number of resources.
    2) Thank you SO MUCH for being you and open and honest. As a never-pregnant person, it drives me absolutely bananas when pregos (heh) and new Moms post all over Facebook about how hard it is, baby doesn’t sleep, why did I ever do this, blah blah. I know it is hard, but it would be nice if people would show a little sensitivity to other women whose path has not been easy and long for those challenges. And any woman who steps forward to bring that awareness, or says, “Hey, I had this Horrible Thing, you are not alone if you had one too” is my hero right now.
    3) Friends who know what you need and when and how you need it are truly amazing, aren’t they?

  22. The worst is people who are all “I didn’t want to bother you” when what they really mean is “I didn’t want to endure my own difficult feelings, but I’m pretending it was a favor to you.”

    I’ve felt a lot like a cautionary tale (about what, I’m not sure) these past couple of years, and it feels so shitty. I want to say, “I’m genuinely sorry for ruining your day with my sad life, but MY SAD LIFE IS RUINING MY SAD LIFE TOO. And also my sad life is full of joy and wonder, and I wish you could know that I am both totally sad and totally fabulous and enviable, but I wouldn’t believe me either, if I were you.” But it’s hard to say that and not have people think you’re crazy.

    Fuck anyone who can’t handle the awfulness. I had a friend–who I thought was a good friend–breastfeed her eight-week-old in my living room a week after I got my boobs chopped off. I said I was tired, sneaked away, and emailed her later explaining that I was sorry for being weird, and I loved her and her baby, but it was hard for me to watch her do this thing I would never do when I was still struggling so hard to become a parent. She has not spoken to me since. It still hurts.

    I’m not sure what my point is here. Maybe that I, for one, know your life is full of joy and wonder, as well as sadness and awkwardness, and that you are a better person for enduring and trying and sharing, and I am a better person for knowing you.

  23. Life is full of wrenching awkwardness. I have a male colleague who’s 27 and found out yesterday his wife, 25, has brain cancer. She has a 20% chance of surviving 5 years and will be on chemo for the rest of her life. They have a 7-month old baby. Yeah . . . that conversation in the office yesterday was awkward. I offered all the support I knew how but finally stammered “I’m so sorry and I wish I knew something better to say or offer.” As you said, just showing up and listening is appreciated . . . Awkwardness be damned! Hugs to you, Siz.

  24. I admire how brave you are to share your story. And smart for knowing it helps you as you move through this time in your life. I am not a sharer. I wish I were more like you as it’s not good when you do need support to be unable to ask for it and no one knows you’re suffering so they can’t offer it to you. As Nilsa wrote, people’s reactions shocked me when I was in a horrible wreck and had surgery. Don’t get me wrong, so many were kind, but I was amazed how so-called friends disappeared, didn’t even offer up a “sorry it happened” yet people I barely knew at work stopped by frequently to see if I needed food, drink or help to the restroom as I was on crutches for many, many weeks. Instead of the kind ones warming me, the ones that didn’t react like I expected made me very sad. Looking back, I hate that I was looking at the situation from the wrong angle. But it was what it was at that time. From everyone’s responses here it’s quite obvious many, many folks are there for you- you’re a lucky woman. Take advantage of all the love pouring your way, soak it all up, lean on some shoulders, talk it out till you’re blue in the face. Do what you need to, don’t worry about how it appears to everyone else.

    I’ll be sending well wishes and good thoughts your way.

  25. I am an over sharer, like you (so related to a lot of that extrovert thing you posted on FB), and working through my stuff with anyone who will listen (and be caring) helps me so much. I am happy you are sharing this and seeing a specialist therapist.

    I have a friend who has a close acquaintance with cancer and feels like no one will ask how her acquaintance is. And it really hurts her. This isn’t the exact same thing, but it made me think of that. Just asking, helps! It feels good to know people care, even if there is nothing they can do.

    I feel like a jerk because I wrote about people being negative all the time on my blog today. And I feel like I need to say (although you probably know) that I don’t think of you this way and think it’s important to share this sort of heartbreak in whatever way helps you. I was talking more about the people who complain about traffic/work/whatever… the things that don’t matter so much in the long run.

  26. Have you ever seen one of those top ten list of dumb things people say to someone who has had a loss. My niece has endured the same loss as you are experiencing more than once, even. I can’t even imagine how it must feel but I am thinking of you too. I don’t know how you feel about prayers or what not, but I actually put you on a prayer chain list that I update frequently, I add people to it as needed. 😉 Hope it helps!

  27. You are so brave to share! I am truly sorry for what you have been through and I offer you many good thoughts as you work your way through it all. I sucks where there are no answers and sucks worse sometimes when there are. I instinctively want to say things like “be strong” but I think it makes more sense to say do whatever you need to to build your strength and carry on; it’s lcear you have a whole squad of people cheering you on, I’ll be among them.

  28. I’m so sorry this is happening to you. I’m quite pissed about it, actually. But you don’t need that, so I send you hugs, big bear hugs.

  29. Yeah, I find that there is this weird thing that happens, when people first find and sometimes later, the Poor Thing look. And it comes right before The Question, which is Are you on the transplant list? Because in the world of famous people it seems that simple. But, dude, nothing is ever really that simple.
    The other thing, no less awkward and especially when people find out about the bipolar and arthritis is the Giving Of Advice By Non Medical Professionals. Most of which are filthy hippies with conspiracy theories about well, everything, usually.
    It’s the goddamned pants all damn day, I tell ya.

  30. I was referred to your blog by a friend so this is my first time commenting. I know we don’t know each other, but holy shit dude. This BLOWS. I am so so sorry. I have been battling infertility for over three years but I cannot imagine what you’re going through. I am absolutely praying for you and thinking of you and punching things as well because you should not have to deal with this.

  31. Hi Sizzly,
    I read this the day you posted but couldn’t bring myself to finish reading. I was going through a similar thing, and I’m not very open with how I feel or what’s going on, so I just disappeared and holed up for a while until my mother – who lives halfway across the world (intuition?) – started to worry. The crying at random times? Lasted weeks.

    I admire you so much for being so open, I think it’s a wonderful way to process things and state your needs. You’re right – sometimes people just don’t know what to say or are worried about saying the wrong thing (I myself have stumbled for words a few times). A simple “I’ve been thinking of you” or a quiet act of kindness goes a long way, and I’ll be sure to remember this myself when I know of someone going through a rough time.

    Sending you a huge, huge, huge hug.

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