Sunday, September 09, 2012

Remembering & Forgetting

We’ve been away for the weekend to remember our friend Lachlan who died four years ago of cholangiocarcinoma. We went back to the spot where Lachlan’s family and a small group of friends scattered his ashes on the first anniversary of his death. I’ve been picturing Toren with us on this weekend. He would have been 8 months old, so I’ve been thinking about where in our bedroom we would have put the playpen and how he would have been crawling around grabbing at things. For mothers of stillborn babies, this seems to be part of “remembering”, a sad substitute for actual memories of a live baby outside of the womb. I haven’t done this kind of fantasizing for a few months now. I never assume one “stage” of the grief is completely gone when I move out of it. I just move in and out of various thoughts, feelings and experiences, whether anger, depression, shock, obsessive thoughts, calmness, agitation. Whatever comes my way. This is all part of the new normal. I don’t love it but I don’t fight it anymore like I did in the early days.

This morning when our daughter woke up, she started yelling, “Wake up, Daddy!” She’s been sleeping in our bed with us for this trip. I rolled over and started to say, “Shhh, don’t wake the baby.” I stopped. No baby. I guess I’ve been pretty successful at imagining him with us this weekend.  

It’s only happened two other times (so far) that I’ve “forgotten” he’s dead. The first time it happened was in the first few weeks. I was sorting through all the condolence cards trying to figure out what to do with them. At the time I was thinking I would put them in a scrapbook. I thought, “Yes, a scrapbook. Then when he’s older, I can show it to him and he can see how much people loved him.” I realized my mistake almost as soon as I finished the thought. I felt frightened. I thought I was going crazy.

The second time was in Hawaii about 3 months after he died. I was sitting on the beach watching a man play catch with his son. The father was standing in the water and the boy was on the shore. The father would throw the football and the boy would run into the water and dive to catch it. It looked like a lot of fun. I suddenly thought, “Oh, Pete will be able to do that with Toren when he gets that age.” That time I just felt incredibly sad. Hawaii is a warm, sunny, beautiful place to feel incredibly sad.

Moving forward through remembering. I know this is the healthy way to go. But it seems like first I have to stop forgetting.