2004-03-04 22:46:31 (UTC)

Dealing with the Past

I understand that people don't know what to say when someone
dies. There's only one thing that someone wants to hear when
someone they loved has died and it's something that they can
never hear --"He's alive. He's fine. It was all just a big
mistake." The one phrase I heard most often from well
meaning people when Steven and then my daughter died was "it
was God's will and He has a plan for you." Well, what had I
ever done to God to deserve the loss of my husband and
child? And I had plans too but they were with my husband
and baby.

That isn't to say that a sincere "I'm sorry. My thoughts and
prayers are with you" doesn't help. It does, it does. It's
all those platitudes that people who feel they have to say
something say that end up being all wrong

Another comment I heard many times was "You're young. You'll
find another husband. You'll have other children." But I
had a husband and a child! They were ripped away from me.
You don't replace husbands or children like you replace
parts in an appliance. They're not interchangeable. Well,
I did remarry and I did have other children and I'm very
grateful for that. But it doesn't discount what I lost.

I also heard "I know what you're going through." Only if
someone has had a husband or wife die do they know. A
sister, an uncle, a cousin or a dog--yes, I've actually had
people compare my husband and child dying to their dog's
dying --is not the same. People have begun to argue
with me about that last one, trying to convince me that
it is the same. I just walk away.

Even now I'm careful about who I talk to about Steven and my
daughter. It's not a subject I want to hear discussed
casually like the weather or the price of bananas. But
still I've found myself blindsided. Last year, for example,
I was shopping in Junction City when an older woman walked
up to me and began talking to me. She apparently knew who I
was but I had no idea who she was. I still don't. She said
hello and used my name and asked how John and the boys were
and then she took my hand and told me that she hadn't
learned until recently that I'd lost my first husband and
baby many years before. I was so startled at this that I
couldn't respond. Who had told her and why? She continued
patting my hand and saying that their deaths were "a
blessing in disguise because now you have John and the
boys". I couldn't speak. How could anyone believe their
deaths were "a blessing in disguise"? I was stunned and
then, just as suddenly as she'd appeared, she left.

The euphemisms annoy me no end. They died. They did not pass
on or depart or go to their reward. I didn't lose them like
a misplaced set of keys. The one I hate the most is
"expired". They were not cartons of milk that went bad.

Even the military wouldn't use the word died. When the two
men in uniform came to my apartment door I knew I
was going to hear some terrible news. Before they began
talking I was praying they were going to tell me that Steven
was wounded, not that he was dead. It was all very formal.
One asked me to confirm my name. He asked me to confirm my
husband's name. He asked if they could come in and then we
all sat down. And he began "We regret to inform you...."
In my mind I was trying to hurry him along, my thoughts
racing, frightened at what I was going to hear and then I
heard the word "wounded". I interrupted. "How badly is he
wounded?" He stopped and looked at me and was silent. Then
he swallowed and began again. "We regret to inform you..."
and this time I listened more carefully and I heard the word
I'd missed the first time. Steven had been "fatally
wounded". They never used the word dead or died.

And as for my daughter, I've had people tell me how lucky I
was that she'd died before I'd had the chance to get to know
her. Lucky! It's another example of people trying to say
something kind and comforting and having it come out all

One of my friends has suffered several miscarriages but she
recognizes that a miscarriage is not the same as having a
stillborn child and for that I am grateful. But my own
mother-in-law fully believes that she knows how I felt
because she suffered a miscarriage. When Steven died, I kept
on breathing and walking around only because I still had a
part of him left; I was expecting his child. I had a reason
to live. But when my baby was stillborn I didn't have that
anymore. I didn't have a husband to comfort me like she'd
had when she suffered a miscarriage; I'd buried him two days
before. He was in his grave. I didn't have any warm,
living children to hug and kiss and take care of like she
did. No, those living children did not make up for the one
she'd miscarried but she still had them. When my daughter
died, I had nothing. All I wanted to do was join my husband
and daughter. All I wanted to do was die. And I damn well
nearly did.
I find it draining to write all of this down but it's been
in me thirty years and I won't be able to deal fully with my
mother's recent death until I put this to rest. Right now I
need to stop.