“Inserting” People Back in Our Lives

From my journal dated December 16, 2002:

I don’t know if it’s Christmastime that makes it “safe” for people to call – people we haven’t heard from in months and months – but we have had more calls than usual lately. Maybe they feel like they’re on “safer” ground to call now that some time has passed. Maybe they think of us and feel they should call since it’s Christmas. Maybe it’s that they feel enough time has gone by that we should be “okay” or “better” by now. Some days it feels like I’ll never be “okay” ever again. I’ll probably reach a point of being functional, but I’ll never be the same.

I feel like it would be hard to just “insert” people back into our lives now, especially the ones we depended on, the ones we felt so abandoned us when we needed them most. Honestly, do people think they can just pop back into our lives after disappearing and being no support for so long, and everything will be the same?

I know in my head it’s true what I’ve been reading, especially in the Ann Finkbeiner book, After the Death of a Child. People don’t want to look at mortality when it comes to the death of a child. They don’t want to “catch” it for their own kids. It’s a hard thing to look at and to think about. It’s easier to look away, pretend like it never happened, wait until things are “better.” My head knows all that; I can reason it and maybe even understand it. But my heart doesn’t. My heart hurts. It hurt my heart when they all disappeared. It hurt my heart to see my family struggle alone.

The thing about people trying to reconnect with us now is that they want to reconnect the person they are – and have continued on the same path to be – with me (or Joe or Jenna), the person they think they know, the person they used to know, the person we used to be before the accident. They have been waiting for me to “come back” to them (as someone recently said to me) as the same person I was. They’ve been waiting for me to get over or get better so we can pick up the relationship we had as it once was.

The problem is that, while they may be the same person they were, I’m not the same person I was. For the most part, she’s gone; she’s changed. We’ve been devastated by the death of our precious son. Our world turned upside down. Nothing is the same. We, as a family, have had to walk alone through so many, many things. I’ve been crushed. I’m hurt. I’m still struggling. My heart has been broken. I’m less trusting of relationships. I’m so much more guarded.

When we go to Tulsa to visit my sister, we usually hang out with her friends. Her friends feel like they know me, because my sister has talked a lot about me. They know LOTS about me; my sister is quite the talker and shares nearly everything! The problem is that it’s one-sided. I don’t know them at all. I know hardly anything about them other than a name. I’ll start to tell some story – and they’ll say, “Oh, yeah! Doris told us about that! That was so funny!” They feel a connection with me and my life (through my sister) that I don’t feel for them. It’s not equal; it’s not reciprocal. They feel like they know me, but they are total strangers to me. I have to take the time to get to know them; they have to take the time to get to know the real me, instead their interpretation of my sister’s version of me. It’s an artificial relationship in that it’s not equal. It’s not real.

The flip side is true for me now. I know these people; I know quite a bit about them. I’ve known some of them for a long time. But they don’t know the person I am now. Do they want to take the time to get to know the “new” me? Can they accept the “new” me for who I am? Or do they just want to pick up where we left off before Jason died and just ignore or skip over the past 9+ months? They expect me to be the same. I may look like the same Becky, sound like the same Becky, act like the same Becky, but I’m not the same Becky I was on March 2nd.

It’s like we have to start all over again with our relationships. True relationships and friendships take time and energy. They take concerted commitment over time by both parties. I don’t think I have the energy right now. Sometimes I think it would be easier to start over with people I don’t know. We’d start on an even playing field. That way I wouldn’t have my own abandonment issues to deal with; we could start with a clean slate. Sometimes I wish people would just say they were sorry they left us alone. That way I would know they realize and acknowledge what they had done and how much it hurt us, so I could forgive them and move on. Maybe that would help. I don’t know.

The issues are mine. I bring them along with me whenever I see the people I know. I’m trying really hard to deal with them, to get rid of the hard feelings, and keep my heart right. But it makes it hard to just “insert” people back in my life. I can’t do it. It takes all the energy I have to do what I need to do. It takes a lot of energy to grieve, to keep on keeping on, to go to school, to take care of my family.

© 2011 Rebecca R. Carney

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5 thoughts on ““Inserting” People Back in Our Lives

  1. My family (son, brother, sister-in-law, nephews) have not talked to me much since mom died. My brother has tried to check in, but it feels obligatory, and not sincere. On top of the sorrow of losing mom is the sorrow of losing connection to family. Their lives continued as before, as if my sole purpose had been to be the caretaker of mom, grandma and great grandma. Now that that’s taken care of, they simply continued with their lives without a backward glance. It’s been devastating. But I am working my way out of that hole, needing to separate emotionally from the people I love the most in the world. Finding new people to love. But even that is tricky because I have history and I want to be known.

  2. I have a friend whose daughter died when my own daughter (who died) was just 5 years old. I did everything I could for that friend of mine for the 3 years she suffered terribly until she died. Endless hospital visits, taking in her other children when I could, and even planned and provided food for her funeral.

    After that, we slowly went our own ways (I think I reminded her too much of the hurt) and did my best to give her as much space as she needed (and that hurt me – but who was I to complain?).

    About 9 years later, my own daughter died. When I saw her at the funeral visitation, my heart did a leap and I was so glad to see her and didn’t want to let her go…I needed her. I needed the hope that she could provide.

    She’s never called or spoken to me since.

    Sometimes people really SUCK!

    • Yeah…I know. Not long after the accident, I called Jason’s soccer coach’s wife who had lost two children in a fire. I left a voicemail, asking her to call me. She never did. I just wanted her to tell me I would make it, that I would eventually be okay, to give me any insight into the walk in front of me.

      I guess I hope if we, as bereaved parents, keep speaking and writing about our experiences, maybe we can help create some understanding about what it’s like to be on “our side of the fence.” Maybe we can spare another bereaved parent some of the things we have had to walk through. Idealistic, I know, but hopeful.

      • My Aunt and Uncle’s son died recently and I drove my parents the 10 hours to the funeral. After my brother died I knew I wanted to support the family by being there (and my parents driving that far alone DID make me a little nervous) My Uncle told my parents so many times during those few days that as strange as it sounded, it was wonderful and encouraging to hug them and SEE them living their lives, because it was proof that he could actually live through and survive the horrible devastation he was feeling about the death of his son.

  3. Pingback: Trust, Once Broken, is Not Easily Mended | Grief: One Woman's Perspective

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