Thursday, September 8, 2016

Narcissism & Grief

Let's see if I can make this story short . . .

I'm convinced one of my colleague's is a narcissist. This person is focused on self to a degree that has destroyed past and present friendships and work relationships. I probably shouldn't write about this. But I will.

I have a few things to "say" that I can't say to this person directly. Any attempt to reason or engage in adult conversation will likely "feed the tornado." I did my homework. The psychologist's advice for working for a narcissist is - - - leave. Recently, this person was unsuccessful in winning a bid for administrative control at my workplace. I was blamed for that outcome. Here's my "silent" responses:

  1. I voted my conscience. 
  2. I made the voices of those without power heard.
  3. No threats or promises to destroy my credibility, reputation, or affection of others will deter me from continuing in a manner that honors who I believe I am and who I aspire to be.
  4. You may be successful in "dimming" my light from others, but that's not happening with my permission or without my push-back. 
  5. Success in actually destroying my credibility, reputation, or affection of others may hurt me, but my life experiences assure me that nothing will ever destroy me after surviving and learning to thrive in this life after the death of my child excepting my own death. In which case that stuff won't matter anymore.
  6. I am the boss of my emotions and you have no power over me.
  7. I continue to be grateful for the kindnesses you showed to me in the past. Although, I suspect they may have had selfish motivations, my gratitude for the deeds stand.
  8. I will be kind, but I won't be manipulated or a become a complacent receptacle for your anger.
  9. I wish you didn't believe that hurting others would make your grief lessen. 
  10. I wish you peace and release from the sorrows you bear. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Cemetery Visit: Year Nine

I made it to the cemetery yesterday. I went without anything. I used to have items in the trunk of my car, so that if I went I was never empty-handed. I have a new car, and the stuff from the old one didn't make it into the trunk. So, I was relieved and comforted, that one of the butterflies was still there from a year ago. And that some human angel(s) left some items there. A comfort. 

I dusted off the grass as there was a recent mowing, and I laid some empty canvas bags on her grave and sat and read John O'Donahue's "Blessings." It was a sunny, yet comfortable day. 

I spent about an hour there. Then went off to a visitation for the former student I had that died tragically. Sat beside another bereaved mom, and we both had a weight only we could see. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Wish She Were Here

I was taking this picture of the sunrise on the beach. It was peaceful and beautiful. When I uploaded the photos I noticed that a little girl who looked about the age Caitlin Anne should be today had run into my shot. I suppose I could say it was a sign. It's not. It's a sad and lovely moment where I am reminded that I should be taking pictures of my daughter at the beach, rather than catching a glimpse of what life should be. I'm glad she ran into the shot. There's so much joy, motion, and life. I'm missing what I do know.

Happy Birthday, Caitlin Anne.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

It's Been Some Time

It's been some time. Some time since I've needed this space. Since I've been unable to focus on anything but my grief. With singular attention on wishing things were different. Experiencing inertia, with some far-off voice of mine begging me to "get up."

Someone's only son was killed a couple days ago. His mother was interviewed. She said, squinting through her swollen eye lids with cheeks still wet, "I'm not prepared to bury a child."

"How is she even talking?" I thought. But, I knew how. What else can she do?

I liked her son. I was hopeful for him. He was kind and gentle. A stable force for his girlfriend. I hoped to have him in my classes again. I was certain he was pulling it together.

"Get up. Get YOUR shit together." to myself again. I know I have limited time to get my tasks completed. Big deal things with deadlines. But all I can do is search for photos. Agonize over poetry and music that may comfort friends, family, me.

I'm ignoring my pleas to get something done. Time is precious. But I remain in the fog. Well, not really. There is clarity of purpose where I am--remembering the dead. But the living, that's all a heavy fog.

Earlier this summer a young mom lost her baby before it was born. She didn't know if it was a boy or girl. We sat and talked for hours. I tried to focus on her story. I did pretty well, but after she left I couldn't breath. The air was thick.

In two days it will be Caitlin's birthday. I hope to make it to the cemetery. I haven't been there is so long. Maybe if I go, I will be able to breath again.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Market and Death

In short: The Super Bowl is known for cool ads--ads that make us laugh; ads that are irreverent; ads that stick; and ads that we'll talk about and share.

This super bowl ad season did not disappoint. Well not the advertisers anyway--they got the attention they wanted. But it did disappoint this bereaved mom. In particular the ad that used child death to sell it's product to get people to link to it's pages and to remember it's name. I'm not linking the ad and I'm not naming it. You can figure it out if you desire. But I am sharing my thoughts about it, because many in my community are conflicted about it.

The ad shows a boy who is unable to do what all the other children are doing. Then after a few examples he explains that he's dead. And then the company shows images of preventable, but all to common household accidents that result in a child's death.

And, I've been thinking about this one. Some liked it because finally someone was talking about child death. But, I didn't like it. Not because it reminded me my child is dead--like I ever forget she's gone.
Not because it was an inappropriate venue to discuss child death--for me everything's on the table for discussion. I'm not afraid to talk death.

It's because they didn't start with "we care about your kids." Instead they drew folks in with light music, heartwarming images, and manipulated the expectations of the market. The market--you know--us. And the market research told them that this approach would ge a strong emotional reaction and the stronger the emotional reaction, the more likely consumers (again us) will remember the brand. They used the element of surprise like a M. Night Shyamalan movie, and this I believe, was purposeful. I suspect the company knew there would be outrage and controversy because that very outrage translates to free social media marketing. I don't believe for an instant that they aimed to diminish the viewer's shock and horror at realizing that they were staring at a dead child. Rather, that emotion was their aim. And they succeeded.

Nope, I didn't like it. I didn't like what I perceived as a "sucker punch" to parents of living children, hopeful parents to be, and bereaved parents with or without living children.

I am sorry children die. I'm sorry my child died. I'm not afraid to include my child in casual or formal conversations. I'm no longer so fragile to avoid or be destroyed for days after viewing a storyline about children dying.

The "mad men" succeeded in starting a conversation as they claimed was their goal, but I can't award any kudos for their efforts. They'll get those in website hits and $$$.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Every Year

Remembering my daughter, Caitlin Anne, today on her death date--the first day of the meaning of forever.

Every year in July, I write my daughter's name in the sand at the beach. I pick up a stick or shell, and trace the letters of her first and middle name in quick cursive. Stepping back with my bare feet firmly on shore, I study it--the lines, curves, and dot above the i in her name. In this ritual of devotion and observance of her life, I once again enter the realm of magical thinking--my hope that the ocean won't wash her away. And every year, the wave does what it does--and once again shares with me what forever means.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

I am not Blessed

When people describe their blessings as bestowed by God, I cringe. Because, I know that I am not blessed. I was not blessed with meeting the perfect husband in my child-bearing years. I was not blessed with a healthy baby who now is everything I live for. I was not blessed with a birth family who picked us to parent their child. If these are the blessings that some attribute to God, then I am not blessed.

Blessings, you see are relative.  One knows to call something a blessing when one knows the antithesis. I live the antithesis so that others know what to call their blessings.

People generally, don't like it when one self-describes herself as "not blessed." When I articulate my reasoning, people say to me, "ah, but you should count your blessings." That makes me cringe too. Because what they are really doing is "should-ing" on me. They assume, and wrongly so, that I am not grateful for what is good in my life. I love the husband I married. I love my work. I love my family. I love that Caitlin made me a mom. I'm aware that I am loved when I least deserve it.

But, I won't "count my blessings." Why? Because when I'm told that I "should count my blessings, that means that I should be grateful that I have some things that others do not have---and therein lies the problem. I reject the notion that by finding "blessings" that someone else was not "worthy" to receive, that that should make me feel better. I can be grateful for what I have without feeling happy that others are less fortunate.

I will not be uplifted by the misfortunes of others, and I will not be diminished by the fortunes of others. I am grateful, thought not blessed.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fuck You, Cancer

Ah, $h!it . . . I reached a new hope that life would settle a bit. My new/old job and return to my music family and friends and then cancer strikes again . . .  I know, I know, it's not about me and I'm grateful I'm home this time to support my friend through the end of remission, and through her second round of Chemo, and on to the second remission.

But let's be honest, I struggle with knowing the if she dies, I am going to take it personally. HOW DARE God/Universe/ALLAH/and the like take another beautiful person with no regard for what the world needs. How dare it. There is no prayer that can soothe this anger. But it's my anger not her's, so once again I'll do my best to choose joy when she's around, but when she's not, I will seethe. I will curse. And I will weep.

Fuck you cancer. And fuck you industry, commercialism, and corporations that have successfully created an environment that enables, and yes, even causes this disease.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Though, it's been several months, for Caitlin's death date, her dad and I released balloons at her grave site. As I looked up and watched the balloons fade into the the brilliantly blue winter sky, DH snapped a family portrait. Parents at their only child's grave site. It is what it is. We must acknowledge the family we have.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

What's Your "Anything"?

“I would have done anything to save her.” When parents of dead children make this declamation; they mean it. Unfortunately, the “anything” was not available. For me, my daughter’s heart didn’t develop correctly, ‘nor did her GI system, which we didn’t know until her bowel perforated and she died. With prayers flowing and medical science using up all its options and me making one-sided deals with the great beyond, I held Caitlin as she took her last breath. And when her breath escaped, I wanted to go with her.

“I would have done anything to save her.” I meant it, and I still do.

Like many bereaved parents, I’ve come to see that now my child parents my heart. I am still her mother, and I continue to strive to be the mother she deserved. Which brings me to Sandy Hook, and why I will continue to invite others to consider supporting the “anything” that may save a child’s life. The “anything” that is only an option in prevention and not an option after the last breath escapes a child’s body. Knowing that prevention is too often dismissed and unappreciated—usually because observation of the results of preventive actions is difficult—I persist.

Why? Because Caitlin deserves the kind of mother who will risk the judgment and ridicule of others for what should have been her daughter’s freedom to be in a school without fear for her life. She deserves a mother who will aim to use respectful and factual pleas, rather than hurtful name-calling. She deserves a mother that will push-back against the natural proclivity of those not directly affected to end their empathetic mourning within about 5 weeks and return to hoping it won’t happen to them.

It will happen to someone, and rather than silently hoping, I’m asking that others consider acting as if they knew it would be their children. Is that cruel to name a parent’s worst fear? Or unfair and manipulative of parents’ love for their children? I’ll risk that condemnation, because I would have done anything to save my child.

What is the “anything” you can support? One of the proposed gun violence laws? Changes to mental health guidelines? Training for teachers and health workers to identify depression and prevent bullying? Suicide prevention programs? Gun safety education? And how will you support this “anything”? Letters to lawmakers? Reach out to individuals? Report that “off comment” to a child protection agency? Practice the lock-down procedure at your school, place of work, home? Take a gun safety class? Join a community watch group? 

With so many ways to engage in something, it's tempting to throw up one's hands overwhelmed and defeated that "nothing will fix it completely." Consider the bereaved parents and community members of Sandy Hook and their response to creating safe communities. They launched the Sandy Hook Promise that highlights the bereaveds’ impassioned plea:

I promise to honor the 26 lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I promise to do everything I can to encourage and support common sense solutions that make my community and our country safer from similar acts of violence.

Prayer, hugging our children tighter, lighting a candle, and sending condolences address the first part of the promise. I’m inviting those for whom this promise resonates to consider how they might address the second part of the promise.