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Thursday, October 19, 2006

It's Not That Bad (Children Mentioned--in the beginning)

Apparently, it starts back around age two.

Two days ago, I'm looking out the window. It's dark and damp and threatening to rain. When I comment that I don't think we'll be able to play outside today, my daughter glances outside and says, "it's not dark out; it's nice out. Not dark. It's nice. It's nice, Mommy. Okay, Mommy? It's not dark; it's nice."


Last week, I sat down on the kitchen floor and started crying. My daughter came up and stared at me. Finally, after a minute of watching me cry, she tells me: "Mommy is happy! So happy!"

I know one thing that drives another person to minimize your pain or provide a new story about your emotions: when someone loves you, they don't want to see you hurt. Rather than allowing the couple to mourn after a loss, they're immediately told stories that are either comparative in nature (do you remember our neighbour back at the old house? Well, her daughter miscarried at 14 weeks) or minimizing in nature (at least it happened early. It's not as bad as it could have been). You're told to be thankful for what happened vs. what could have been. People want you to get through the mourning process as quickly as possible and seem surprised if you're still speaking about the loss long after the fact.

I know another reason why we do it. Mourning is uncomfortable: not just for the couple experiencing the loss but for the people who need to comfort them. Msfitza had a post this week about seeing a woman she knows at Costco. The woman, who knew about her loss, did an I-can't-see-you maneuver where she suddenly became deeply interested in a stack of books when their oversized shopping carts passed one another. I like to call this move the you-just-suffered-a-terrible-loss-and-I-don't-know-what-to-say-so-I'll-pretend-that-I-don't-see-you (or a YJSATLAIDKWTSSIPTIDSY. Which shouldn't be confused with the LBWWMTDASADFFIHAOTAC).

And it's not just pregnancy loss--we do this to each other over anything that falls into a sad-inducing category. Divorce, break-ups, job loss, bankruptcy, death. There's always someone there in your life who tries to convince you that it's not that bad. That it could be worse. That you shouldn't be feeling sad right now; or, if you have to feel sad, you shouldn't feel that sad. Or if you have to feel that sad, you shouldn't feel it for too long. Think back to any time in the past six months that you've been having a crappy day for no reason. I'm sure if you expressed that idea to someone, they gave you a sympathetic, "I'm so sorry" and then immediately changed the topic with the hope of changing your mood.

Because people don't like to see other people sad. Sadness is just one of those emotions that needs fixing. Like anger. If you're angry, you need to fix it. You need to get out of that emotion. And if you're sad, you need to fix it. It seems like the only emotion that doesn't need fixing is happy. No one tries to get you to stop being happy. Which would lead one to believe that we need to be happy 100% of the time or as close as we can get to that emotion in order for other people to be comfortable. People understand if you're sad for a period of time after a loss, as long as they also know that you're going to be working yourself back to that happy place. People who don't work themselves back to that happy place tend to be shunned in our society.

There just isn't a revered spot on the guest list for the party of life for the widow who has been in mourning for three years or the infertile woman who is miserable or the middle-aged man who suffers from depression. They're invited to the party because they have to be invited to the party. But secretly, most of the other guests are hoping that they snap out of it. That they don't bring them down. Because it's an uphill battle, fighting to be happy all the time. Fixing all of those emotions to only read happy. And it's hard to be around a person who still wants you to be mourning with them. Or who needs not to be cheered up, but be allowed to experience what they're experiencing. It's not that they don't want to move away from mourning--but not everyone finds that door out of hell.

Which leads to my question--if we know how crappy it feels when someone is trying to change our emotions for us (through stories, through goading--I mean, what is it with people telling those who have just suffered a pregnancy loss that they need to try again?), why do we do it to other people? Why does this phenomenon exist at all if we truly understand that golden rule: do unto others as you would want done unto you?

Hmmm...sorry that I can't muse on this any longer. I need to go convince some people that their feelings aren't valid and they should just be happy by now...


Tara said...

Aww...I think it's sweet what your daughter was trying to do for you. :) But she's 2. It isn't sweet when adults do this to us, I agree. This was a really interesting post and it's so true. I'd like to believe that infertility has really taught me NOT to do this to people. I really try to be conscious not to try to fix people's feelings. Sometimes it's a hard line to draw, though, because if they are asking for advice, you're going to give advice that might make them feel better. I guess a big part is just knowing who is asking for advice and when, and who is sad and just needs to be sad..or angry...or irrational....

And I'm sorry you were crying on the kitchen floor last week. I hope you're feeling better this week. Or not...maybe you still need to be sad. :)

Anonymous said...

Sending a cyber-hug your way for your crying episode last week... I still do that from time to time (my last two being rather public...).

I must say, my m/c experience - even more so than my IF experience - has taught me to not minimize how others handle their pain. I am close to a year away to when my real m/c journey started (with the bleeding that started on 10/30/05) and, thanks to my counselor and my DH, I know it is okay to still cry. I know that, even years from now, it is okay to cry when the anniversary of the loss or EDD comes up. These are my emotions - no one elses. No one else can rule my emotions.

Your DD sounds like such a sweetie. I have felt bad for a long time that when DS sees me cry, he comes over to me, hugs me and pats my shoulder. He days nothing but holds me. A 2-year old shouldn't have to do that. But, my counselor said that I shouldn't feel guilty for that - it is a wonderful sign of compassion and empathy on his part and it should be nurtured. As long as I am working on my hurts so it doesn't affect how I treat him as he grows up, then it is okay for him to do this. It is an invaluable life lesson for him...and a source of strength for me.

I hope you can see your DD's reactions the same way.

Kir said...

I was actually going to blog about this this week, but hey THANK YOU for doing it for me!! This post is perfect and so true.
I was thinking the same thing the other day. I have a co-worker who is "in love/lust" with a guy who said he just wanted to "Be friends" right from the beginning, but she got hooked and fell for him, in the meantime he is "hooked" on another girl and of course because they are "friends" feels the need to tell her about this other girl all the time (ok everybody still with me?) .

I know about men like this, men I have secretly fallen madly in love with, who were more than friends with me a couple times, decide we can only be friends and then takes me on the journey of the new girl with them, telling me everything.It sucks .
Yet with this coworker, who is so sad, so angry , so frustrated I couldn't help being positive for her, "he's not worth it", "he's just a jerk" "you're better off without him" OMG, I said this to her. It's no wonder people tell me to enjoy this "baby free time for now..cause it won't last long"

I thought that this TTC journey had taught me to be more sensitive and to allow people to "Feel" things, but in many moments, the old Kir takes over and I want to please them, make them smile..get past the bad stuff. I don't know why I do it, but maybe it's just that I hate to see anyone sad, unloved, in limbo. Maybe I hate being there myself that it breaks me to see others there. I just don't know.

of course I am sorry that you were feeling sad, but hey that emotion is a good one for now. I will get blasted for this , but being sad all the time isn't good for you,it just isn't. I am not convinced the being happy all the time is either, but that's another post.

I can send Hugs, I can say I understand (Because I do) and I can let you feel all the things you need to ...for as long as ..well as long as you want.

Anonymous said...

I think you are absolutely right on this one. I've definitely become more sensitive to it since I've been at the receiving end of the advice, diversions, emotional redirection, etc. I'll admit, though I still catch myself doing it too, although now I know to stop and think it through.

I remember getting a card right after my miscarriage from a family member that didn't sit well with me. She had tried to make me feel better by telling me over and over that she knew plenty of people who had ttc for a long time and plenty of people who had miscarried with their first pregnancy that ended up getting pregnant again right away with perfect babies. I tried so hard to not burst into tears because I knew that she was trying to comfort me, but she just didn't get it. At that time, I needed to go into that dark hole and grieve. I didn't care about everyone else that she knew and their perfect babies. I didn't care that mine may not have been perfect...I still yearned for my baby. I didn't care about next time yet. I wanted this time. The card she sent said something in it like "Don't you wish that life was like a VCR? You could just fast forward through the crummy times!" Crummy? She thought what I was going through was "crummy"? Surely she was kidding...

Since then she's really made an effort to understand infertility and how it relates to me, and I've found myself very willing to offer up any detail that she wants to know about.

I really try to stop myself if I have a knee-jerk reaction to stop someone else's sadness. I understand the process takes a while and that it's different for every individual person. I've really learned about myself and how I need to cope with grief also- I'm not like my mother who needs a cheerleader to remind her of what happiness feels like. I need to embrace my sadness and work through it in my own way, or I'll never get to the other side of the tunnel. I just have to remember that when dealing with other people, too.

KE said...

I feel like dealing with infertility has taught me so much about dealing with others. I will NEVER try and tell someone that it could be worse, that they'll get over it, etc. I just hug them, tell them I'm sorry and it really sucks, and offer to be there for them whenever they need me. This is what I need others to do for me, too. I don't want to hear about relaxing, adopting to get pregnant, or your friend who tried for a zillion years, stopped trying, and got pregnant. I'd just like to know that you're thinking about me.

I'm sorry about your sad day last week. I hope you feel better. Your daughter sounds very sweet.

Anonymous said...

What an awesome awesome post. Thank you for this. It was right on-point for a most annoying conversation I had today.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

And when did anyone enjoy being on the receiving end of a pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps type speech? And yet those same people who know they don't enjoy hearing them give them. I'm sorry that you sometimes don't get the support you need. We need to be more patient with each other as a society and realize that not everyone can be happy all the time.

Anonymous said...

I've been trying to think of a way to respond all day. I ran over to myspace (eww, the bastard of blogs) to spew out sidethoughts that meant nothing here- the progression of the thought ended with: should we still say our "thankfuls" this year at Thanksgiving when we are all still grieving over the loss of our favorite uncle in June?

I've been thinking more about shared loss, and the difference my two cousins showed when I had to call and tell them about our uncle. One couldn't speak, she had to be alone with it. The other spent an hour on the phone with me until her boyfriend got home, we talked about the good times and the amazingness of our uncle. We spoke messages of "you'll get through this" back and forth. We tried to rescue each other from the pain and change the subject. Even in that time of extreme grief we were doing it, trying to make each other feel better. I can't explain why, but I think it has something to do with love. When we love, we want to make the lives of those we love better, we want them to experience nothing but joy. Sometimes we're so focused on it that we forget that they need to feel the sadness to be able to recognize the joy. We just want them happy.

ms. c said...

An interesting post, as always, Mel. I am fortunate tonot have experienced a loss so far in my IF journey. (I say so far, becasue PCOS carries such a high m/c rate, just thinking aobut it freaks me right on out.) Even without a "loss", I do experience much pain and sadness. There are so many times that I think about this subject, and the dunbass things that people say to try to make me feel better. Most of the annoying comments come from my mother, though, who I feel should somehow be the most supportive to me in all this. (Am I wrong about that people?) I do have one wonderful friend who, when I report the specific shitiness of a day or event, asks me if I want to talk about it, how much we should talk about it, and if we are haveing a beneficial conversation. She happens to rock.
Since I have become so in tune with inappropriateness of others' responses to my nad moments, I try so hard not to do the same when others lean on me for support. I am acutely tuned to "doing unto others" in this instance.

Chantelle said...

I found a great poem called the "The Invitation" that expressed what I want to tell people when they lovingly rush in to try and make things better. It has a line in it that reads: "I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it."

I'm not surprised others can't sit with my pain(even though I desperately want them to)because I have a hard time doing it without trying to "hide it, fade it or fix it".

Thanks for today's post. It really hit the spot.

Carol said...

I think it's a great topic that you bring up. I have been very concious of this lately - and really trying not to change someone elses emotions, but just let them experience them. I have a good friend who is going through some depression, and she knows what I've been going through, and I think it's comforting to both of us that neither of us is trying to snap the other one out of it, but we are just here to listen and be by each others side as we experience the journey through these emotions. I'm a big believer that you can't change how other people feel, you have to let them be where they need to be. That's not to say that you shouldn't try to help someone move out of that emotion - but it just has to be when they are ready.

Anonymous said...

Yep, I'm a fixer. So full of assvice my cup runneth over with shite.
Even after all my losses and my IF and my crappy-parts-that-are-unfixable-along-with-good-parts life, I still do it to others.
I know for me, some of my medical things are contributing right now. I am literally a manic explosion on crack mood-wise, due to my hormones.
But really, IF is also one of those medical issues that brings it out, because so much is unknown and badly done by Docs.
Breast Cancer, Heart Disease, even with MS everyone knows the latest research, but IF? M/C? Most family Docs and OB/Gyns are convinced all M/Cs are inevitable, and every stupid comment the public says, I've heard come out of a docs mouth as well. And the press? Bluurghhh... Governments know nothing either.

So when I try to "fix" someones feelings with IF, my real intentions are to try to give them hope when they're down, and maybe some accurate information, unlike the crap they read in the media. Right now, I've had a bottle of wine, so I'm being vv blabby.

But tomorrow I'll reread this and try not to be a fixer, k? Maybe even turn over a new leaf...I swear, I'll try.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... I hope I didn't do that to my mum the other night. I mean, I did say there was a *time* for anger. Turn, turn etc. And I didn't specify what time that *was*.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes people want to help. And they guess at what others want to hear. And, in retrospect, what they say is stupid-either to them, or to the recipient, who had changed their perspective, as we all do as we gather more life experiences. This entry was disappointing, and had the feel that others were out to get us, or out to take away our feelings. When, at least for me, mine are all over the place during this process, I guess I have a hard time holding them accountable for trying.

Josefina said...

I believe that everybody reacts different to experiences (as someone said on another comment), so for some, the same "comfort words" or "comments", can be received in the best or worst way...the problem is we don't always know what others want us to say (or not say) to them, but I think we always think we know better and a lot of times say the wrong words...therefore making the other person feel even worse...

I've been on all situations: I have said the right words, the wrong words and have been said the right and wrong I really don't know if there's one "adecquate" way of acting...only we can try to empathize and give our love to the person in pain..and as someone said here, try to ask if they want to talk, or if we can do anything for them...if they open the door for us, there we'll be, but if not, we have to be respectful enough...
I'm not sure if I made any sense, it's a really deep subject that maybe needs more analysis, but at least I'm sure that respect is crucial and many times we forget this...