Grieving expectations

I came home and Chris was in the middle of watching an episode of Walking Dead. We watched the first two seasons together, but then I somehow fell off- sometimes the intensity of the show got me a little too worked up. When we first started watching it, I couldn’t watch it when it was dark out of alone, that’s how much it creeped me out. Now Chris is a season and a half ahead of me, which is okay because we each have our own shows we watch when the other is not there. Having exhausted Friday night Lights early into my grief, I now am captivated by Scandal. I watch while on the elliptical.

This night I was working late, doing some evening hours in my office. When I came home he was in the middle of the episode, so we watched the rest together. There was a scene with two women and a baby. One asked the other “were there children?” trying to ascertain if she lost any family in the zombie outbreak. She nodded and then turned away from the woman who was holding the baby. A few moments later, after a messy spit up, the first woman practically thrusted the baby into the second woman’s reluctant arms so she could clean up. She held the baby at bay at first, but then brought her closer and cuddled her in a pool of tears. The first woman came back to witness the second woman’s grief and healing.

The scene angered me. I should be pleased that the show recognized the difficulty in baby loss and how a babyloss mother might feel in the presence of a small child- and I am pleased. I’m angered because I feel like that’s what’s expected of me. Of course, holding babies will be hard, but I should do it, have a good cry and then all will be well. I’ll hold babies again, no problem.

I think it tapped into feelings of guilt and shame I have about not wanting to hold babies. Technically I did hold one, but there are other babies I feel I need to hold (and if I dig deep emotionally, I want to want to hold them- does that make sense? Is that too many “wants?”). Family babies. The holidays are fast approaching and they are causing me so much anxiety. Holidays when I was supposed to have my baby. Holidays where there will be other family babies. This scene tapped right into my anxiety and self-consciousness around what is expected of me. Just hold the baby. Have a good cry. Have your emotional meltdown- you’ll feel better after. I imagine them thinking. (who is “them?” everyone! Family, friends, colleagues, everyone.) Well, I don’t want to. I’m not ready.

I am constantly told that there is no right way to grieve. But then why do I feel like I’m doing wrong after watching that scene?

Do you feel like you’re not living up to grieving expectations?

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11 thoughts on “Grieving expectations

  1. Grieving expectations? My dear husband, who knows grief, has taught me not to have expectations about grieving. Period. He’s taught me to ride the wave, not to fight it, regardless of duration or intensity. So that’s what I try to do. Sometimes I even embrace it. I still get frustrated when I feel I’m grieving “too much” or “too long” but the overwhelming emotion eventually passes and I can return to my functional everyday grief. I don’t know if it will ever cease and part of me hopes it does not. You understand.
    Others’ expectations of us? I really don’t know. But no one except my parents asks how I’m doing anymore, so that’s a pretty big hint. As a result, I try to suppress any emotion or grief except when I’m alone.

  2. Driving. I haven’t been able to drive a car much more than 20 miles without wanting to lose my mind. I take my daughter with me everywhere and if I’m alone, I usually only drive around town. Unfortunately, my disability insurer is not happy with my ‘lack of progress.’ They’ve placed some very large, very judgmental expectations on my shoulders. I just have to keep reminding myself that I will do it in my own time and not to push more than I am comfortable with. I’m not going to do anything that I don’t want to, insurance be damned, if I’m not ready. Think about how far you’ve come instead of how far you need to go.

    • Ugh! the beaurocracy of disability insurance. I’ve had some not too pleasant phone calls with them myself. I feel for you! And yes, I have come a long way- a good way to look at it!

  3. I did really well at first with holding babies. The farther I get from having my own, though, the harder it is. I’ve been avoiding a friend whose baby I held last spring, just two months after Ander died. Now her baby – who was born the day Ander died – is so big, and it’s just gotten too hard, too painful to see her. I need to explain to her why that is. I think she’d try to understand. It’s not even the baby, really – it’s the mothering. My friend loves being a new mother. I can’t begrudge her that, but I also can’t be around that anymore.

    • so much like that article I posted today. there will always be reminders- especially if there is a friend or relative with a baby close in age to yours. this is a huge struggle for me right now.

  4. I think there are two particularly difficult things for me, as it relates to others’ expectations of my grief.

    First, I think the non-bereaved, either from pop culture or from the tidbits they know of Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief, assume that grief is linear. And, as bereaved parents, we know that this grief is anything but – often circular, throwing us backward, etc.

    Second, and this is more specific to the fact that I’ve lost 2 children…., and maybe I’m just crazy…., but I do feel like there are some people that believe I should be doing better with Zachary’s death because I already live with B.W.’s death. Like, the experience of having lost one child should give me enough insight/perspective that losing an entire other son would maybe not be as soul crushing. Of course, this couldn’t be further from the reality. Instead, it feels like I worked so hard, for so many years, to climb back up the mountain (the one I was pushed down when B.W. died), to see the beauty of the “new normal” view, scars and all. Being pushed down the mountain again with Zachary’s sudden death is no easier, “the second time around”. In fact, my injuries from the first fall have inflamed again, on top of the new, independent loss of Zachary, preventing me (slowing me?) from wanting to climb back up at all.

    • wow Gretchen, yes! I dont think you’re crazy- I could imagine people thinking that! as crazy as it is to think TWO baby losses are easier than one! Chris often thinks I”m projecting- and perhaps I am projecting my fears, but they come from somewhere! Its not like we just make these things up. no one might outwardly say “you should be dong better. you’ve been through this before- it’s like riding a bike!” but their actions, expressions and words can hint at it, right? i feel you on this one.

      • I don’t think Gretchen is crazy either. In my experience as a “habitual aborter,” (isn’t that a lovely term?) I’ve gotten a little less support after each loss. It’s as if people have used up all their sympathy for me. It didn’t take them long. Some of them only had enough sympathy for the 1st loss, a few managed to acknowledge the 2nd, but almost everyone pretends the 3rd never even happened. I think maybe people are afraid to think about me. They can admit that miscarriages happen (in fact, they will calmly assure you they happen all the time, as if that is a comfort), but they’re supposed to be a fluke immediately followed up by a rainbow baby. I’ve become someone you must not look at for too long, in case my curse should be catching. I also think that some people think I deserve this, for undergoing fertility treatment. I must have angered the gods with my use of science. Science is okay for rescuscitating people, or giving them perky boobs, but not for making babies. Making babies is strictly magical. But I digress. The point is that I asked for my broken heart, should have known it would happen and therefore not have to grieve, and haven’t I killed enough babies already? I’m soooo selfish.

      • what terrible terms we have in obstetrics! habitual aborter- like you’re trying to abort! I can imagine the lack of support you get. As if miscarriage wasnt a silent enough struggle, but to have the little support you’ve gotten dwindle away with each loss- at the time you need it the most. When I heard someone I know just vaguely had her third miscarriage, I sent her a card (we had never actually met, just a mutual friend and we knew of each other.) I hadnt reached out after her first or second, because I didnt really know her, but the third, which happened a few months after losing Mabel, just felt like it had to be too much. it felt a little weird to do, but her response and reading your words, makes me glad I did.

        And I have my beef with science too! Different reasons of course, but in someway along the same lines. Science can do all those amazing things you wrote, but it couldnt save my sick baby. I think some people thinking (here’s me projecting again) that it just wasnt meant to be- she had Down syndrome, she had birth defects. Well, if that were the case, why should we resuscitate anyone? And had we known she had no chance of survival, maybe we would have done just comfort care. I’m guessing you feel the same way- people probably think “well, it wasnt meant to be.” screw that! perky boobs werent meant to be.

  5. I constantly ask myself, how am I doing with my grief? Am I on the track? What more shall I do to make myself feel better? It drives me crazy. In the end, I have to let it be, throw away the expectations.

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