From my journal dated December 11, 2002:
I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading on grief and the death of a child. The book I’m reading now is called After the Death of a Child by Ann Finkbeiner. She writes as a journalist, but also as the mother of a deceased child. This book is based on interviews with parents who had also lost a child.
In one chapter she talks about changes in relationships. I think the most interesting thing about that topic was that she said parents feel abandoned and hurt because they feel almost a contractual obligation for families and friends to understand and support them.
I think that’s exactly what happened to me. I expected those we knew – those in whose lives we had invested, those who we had adopted as our extended family here, those who knew we were alone – to understand. When they didn’t, I felt hurt and abandoned. I expected those who knew Jenna to surround her and be there for her. When they didn’t, she was so hurt; and it incredibly hurt me to see her struggle being so hurt and alone.
It still hurts. I still struggle with feeling abandoned, alone, and hurt. I struggle with not feeling bitter toward those who deserted us.
I did try to reach out to people after Jason died. But people just didn’t get it or I felt like my outstretched hand was slapped, so I quit trying.
I just have a tendency to handle things by myself even now. All alone. Some people always grasp for help or feel a compulsive need to tell others everything they feel or are going through. I would have to put myself at the other end of the spectrum, trying to handle everything alone without bothering anyone. I’ve always been that way. That’s the way I am now.
People expect me to be strong and independent. I expect me to be strong and independent. To be able to handle whatever comes. The in-charge person. That’s not me any more. I am crushed, vulnerable, hurt. I have been needy (and I hate feeling needy). I have really needed kindness and caring for my broken heart. I’ve desperately wanted kindness and caring for my precious daughter, for Joe, for Eric, for me.
I think Ms. Finkbeiner said it correctly. I felt a contractual obligation for people we knew to understand and support us. When they didn’t or couldn’t, I felt betrayed.
© 2011 Rebecca R. Carney