During the pandemic I've spent a lot of (too much) time on social media and the other day I saw someone complaining about people who have a "dead relative" in their bio. Couldn't figure out what the specific criticism was. At time of writing my twitter profile reads "My son died at birth & I am a worse person because of it & a better person because of him. He lives on in our hearts, thoughts & actions." It made me think about changing it. [update: I've changed it! lol.] After all I'm not just tweeting about stillbirth, death and grief anymore. Since I stopped doing the concentrated stillbirth work a few years ago, I've expanded my learning and activism to include many different social justice issues. So I could change it to something more general and not have a DEAD RELATIVE in my profile. It doesn't actually matter because I don't have many followers and I'm fine with that. It's never been about growing my account, it's just an outlet (one of many) for grief and somewhere to put stuff. The other big change I've gone through over the years is that I'm less focused on what I have lost, what our family has lost, and starting to think more about him and what he has lost. Obviously I have thought about the fact that he died just at the moment his life was starting ("well before his time" sounds like a ludicrous understatement when we're talking about a newborn baby). But it's hard to think about that piece so I haven't really done much of it. Much easier to be self-absorbed. Spend years in therapy talking about me me me. But the further we get from his death and birth, the harder it is for me to place him anywhere in my life. It's that unresolvable conflict of him being 9 years old and also a newborn baby in the same moment. And I don't want to lose him. Love never dies and all that, remember??
The difficult truth is that there is a certain privilege in feeling pain. I am alive. He is not. That's not to say that people suffering from chronic pain, or any kind of pain, should feel grateful. No. That's absurd. All physical pain should be able to be eliminated (and we would be able to, if we collectively decided this was important), and all non-physical pain should be supported to the point where the person feels able to live. Wants to live. Can feel hope again. And joy.
Pain? Of course. Extended suffering? Never.
He doesn't get to feel pain because he doesn't get to feel anything. There's nothing I can do for him about that now. And so I don't like to think about it because what parent wants to feel this helpless.
I would like to change this identity. Hopelessly bereaved mother. After 9 years I'm tired of it. But would I rather feel these conflicting emotions and identities than feel nothing? Most days, yes.
Of course I know people who complain about those who continue to love their dead relatives are really just not wanting to be reminded of death and sadness. Makes sense. Who does? But these people really need to move on from needing me to move on from my grief. I'm right where I need to be. Which both sucks and is amazing.