Assessed (verb, past tense): Evaluate or estimate the nature, ability or quality of someone
The first verbal conversation you have with EVERY SINGLE PERSON after you’ve experienced loss, can bring a lot of anxiety. It’s why my phone might start ringing in my hands and I’ll just stare at it dumbly – that’s happened a lot. I’ve found it much easier to schedule calls instead.
It’s all because the person who’s grieving is acutely aware of every first conversation, because that person is readying themselves for assessment. What do I mean by that? Well, people are calling to see how you are, so it’s an evaluation system, you’re essentially being interviewed, assessed – over and over and over again.
Family and friends want to see how you’re holding up. They want to judge how you’re doing. From my perspective, people have greater expectations of the mother. People always seem to eye me up a lot more than they do James. Do people expect me to a bawling wreck the whole time? I think so. They expect tears, dammit I expect tears. I SHOULD be sad ALL of the time, shouldn’t I? I just lost another baby. Sadly, grief doesn’t work like that. I wish it did.
In the early weeks of loss, you really do look like you feel: a wreck. As time passes, you have to learn to function again: get up, get showered, get dressed, get back to work; it gets easier to disguise what’s going on inside. Not that that’s your intention, it’s just what brushing your hair does – it makes you look presentable.
On my first group video call after losing Summer a friend said “oh you look nice!” and although it was meant as a compliment, I heard surprise. She was surprised I was looking so well – I hadn’t straightened my hair or put on any makeup, but I did smile and talk a lot. Afterwards, I felt bad for that, like I’d betrayed my baby, and myself, for not doing Summer justice with my presentation of grief.
More recently we had a video call with some friends. I’m sure they would have hung up and said “oh that went well, they both seem to be doing ok”, but their assessment wasn’t complete. What they had assessed was our ability to have a ‘normal’ discussion; about the lovely weather, our impressions of working from home, our ongoing building work. What they didn’t assess is how we are actually doing. I think the only way to really judge that is to discuss the topic of baby loss. That’s how you’ll really know. Now I’m not suggesting that that’s appropriate every time, I just want you to be aware that you can’t judge that people are doing ok, if you don’t delve into the difficult questions. It’s easier for you – and me – If I am a bawling wreck, but if that’s the case, I’m not going to take a call, am I? In all honesty, when they hung up, I felt deflated. From my perspective, I’d had the nervous anticipation of the call, but then we didn’t talk about anything real.
I find that I’m getting better talking about this topic (this blog helps with that immeasurably), I can answer your questions on baby loss, because I think it’s important to. But if I transport myself back to that room, picture my baby, remember how short that time was, it’s still extremely painful. I think it might always be. Everything I have done since, is just a distraction, to keep me from revisiting that room. All of the beauty of it and all of the regret.
So yes, it’s a really hard one: should we be talking about baby loss, or not? I don’t know (sorry). I just wanted to give you an insight into my life and the situations I have to contend with. When your friends and family know it’s something you’re dealing with, call to see how you are, refrain from delving into it, then perhaps pat themselves on the back for getting in touch and concluding you’re ok (i.e. leaving you feeling like you’ve done yourself and your baby a disservice) – that’s what’s difficult. Perhaps the caller just needs to get their intentions clear; are you calling to provide a distraction or are you calling to ask some of the difficult questions today? One will tell you how we’re functioning, the other will tell you how we are.
It’s actually really simple: in lots of ways we are ok, in lots of ways we aren’t. How we are on the inside, cannot be judged by the outside. Please remember that, even when we’re smiling.
N.B. This blog has been extremely difficult to write. I’m not ‘happy’ with it. I have none of the usual relief after blog writing, I still feel in a muddle. I’d love to know what your takeaways are so that I can assess whether it’s delivering the intended message.