It’s My Story And I’ll Cry If I Want To

September 28, 2009

You need to get over this.

I hope you’ll get over this and start writing about other stuff again soon.

It’s terrible what happened, but you need to remember that there’s worse. You didn’t lose a child.

Some people get hate mail. I get hate mail, but I also get mail of a slightly different strain: well-intentioned mail that aims at constructive criticism but lands somewhere in the area of a belly punch.

You need to get over this.

There are worse things.

You didn’t lose a child.

I don’t know if the authors meant for their words to hurt, but hurt they did. I can no more make myself get over my grief than I can make myself stop loving my husband and my children, nor do I want to: my grief over my father’s death is part of me now, part of the emotional landscape that undergirds my whole lifeworld. But my critics – if I can call them that – didn’t mean that I should resolve my grief. They meant that I should stop writing about it. Because, it seems, the death of a parent, while painful, doesn’t warrant long-form narrative consideration. It might be sad, sure, but it’s not the death of a child.

Which, no, it’s not. Nothing compares to the death of a child. But then again, nothing compares to a tsunami, or genocide, or terrorist attacks, or, for that matter, suicide or murder or accidents in bathtubs or long painful illnesses or being struck by a meteor. Tragedies shouldn’t be compared. Anything that causes the human heart to shatter so utterly should not be analyzed for comparative purposes. Facing the pain of loved ones, facing the loss of loved ones – these can cause unbearable, immeasurable pain, irrespective of the who and the why and the how. Such pain can’t be ranked on a scale, weighed against other hurts, other griefs. It’s just pain. Its weight is infinite.

I’ve seen enough Disney movies to know that the Death Of A Parent is just part of The Circle Of Life, and that I should be approaching my own personal tragedy philosophically, that I should be learning from this and embracing my role as my father’s legacy and marching bravely forward and Moving On. But life isn’t a Disney movie, and I’m struggling, because my father’s unexpected death knocked the wind out of me, literally and figuratively, and some days all I can do is sit, gasping, overwhelmed by the pain, the shock of having the landscape of my life so suddenly and irrevocably altered, of having lost, in such a sudden and terrible way, this person who I loved so much and wanted so badly to protect. That pain defies my narrative abilities, and yet narration is all that I have, is my only way through the pain. To be told that I should just get over it, that I should stop struggling to tell the story, stop working through my grief on the page and understand the lowly place of my tragedy in the greater scheme of All Possible Terrible Tragedies and adjust my narrative attitude accordingly  – because, really, this story is of very limited appeal, is it not? Where would Disney be if Bambi had spent the whole story in mourning? – hits in a very sore place, a place that I was only dimly aware that I had, a place where all the vulnerabilities of the heart meet all the insecurities of the ego. It hurts there.

This is partly, I suppose, a problem of genre. I am a mommy-blogger, and so some would expect that the lens through which I view tragedy always be adjusted according to the terms of that genre. For a parent, there is – at least according to the literary conventions of written parenthood – no greater horror than the loss of a child, and so as a writer who writes, mostly, about the experience of being a parent, I might reasonably be expected to measure any tragedy against that most dreaded of tragedies and to realize – and, I suppose, to publicly proclaim – that I haven’t suffered the worst tragedy that one can suffer and to be thankful for that and then – of course – to move on. But I am not just a mommy blogger, nor I am just a mommy or a mother or a mom. I was and am and always will be, too, a daughter.

A daughter who just lost her father. It’s going to take me some time to work through that.

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    { 139 comments }

    Belle September 29, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    There can always be worse, true. But that doesn’t at all take away from your own personal tragedy. Take your time. On the plus side, I would consider those criticisms a sort of hidden compliment… Those people obviously love your ‘normal’ writing enough to get upset when it is supplanted by a different topic. But still, it’s not fair to tell someone else how to grieve. So write on! As you please!

    Anonymous September 29, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    My mother died 24 years ago and while I think I’ve finally gotten through it, I will never get “over” it. I still miss her. My brother died 8 years ago. He was my best friend and I still haven’t gotten through OR over it. I was told by my father that my grief wasn’t as bad as his because I’m not the parent. Pain is pain…it shouldn’t be a contest. The end result was that I suppressed my pain/grief and didn’t deal with it. I’m now in therapy partly for this reason. I very much admire your strength in being able to express how you’re feeling. I sometimes find myself nodding in agreement with something you’ve said thinking “I know just what she means.” Your writing is beautiful and, as much as I wish you didn’t have to experience this pain, your words have helped me and I just wanted you to know that. Write whatever you need to write for yourself and I will keep reading. Do whatever you need to do in however much time it takes, regardless of what others think you “should” do. I wish you much peace.

    Emsxiety September 29, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    I lost my mother last September. Some days it still consumes me. No, I didn’t lose a child. But I did lose someone very important in my life and if I want to drone on about it endlessly until I get some sembelance of my life back I will. I totally understand what you are saying and back you 100%.
    .-= Emsxiety´s last blog ..Twenty-Two, a nice number =-.

    roo September 29, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    How dare anyone question what you choose to write about in your own space?

    And what kind of utterly solipsistic social retard would write a grieving woman to let her know her writing was no longer entertaining?

    A fat roman emperor in a decaying empire, drooling wine and demanding new gladiators because the current ones are no longer amusing.

    I’m disgusted. And I’m so sorry they hurt you.

    Jaden September 29, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Those comments are so insensitive, whether or not they were meant that way. As someone above so aptly stated- you’re not forcing people to come, sit down, and read what you have to say each day. They can stop reading if they don’t like watching you go through this phase. I can only imagine going through what you have recently gone through, and I know I would not be “over it” yet, either. You have many loyal readers who sincerely care what you’re feeling and empathize with you. Try not to let the others get to you!
    .-= Jaden´s last blog ..What She Says… About TV & More =-.

    Steve September 29, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    You are entirely right.

    And I pity the people so shallow as to say those things to you.
    .-= Steve´s last blog ..BBC NEWS | Health | Working mums’ children ‘less fit’ =-.

    Amy September 29, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    I am shocked that people have sent you emails suggesting you don’t write about your father and your grief. It’s YOUR blog. This is YOUR space. If someone doesn’t want to read what YOU write, then they shouldn’t. If you lose readers because your life isn’t what they want to read about, then you don’t want them as readers anyway. I’d be willing to bet the people who wrote those comments never lost a parent completely unexpectedly, which is all the more reason why you should write about it if you want to–so people can learn from others’ experience and gain some compassion in the process.

    Barbara September 29, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Um, people have told you to get over it? Wow, really? Well, I believe it, but, wow . . .

    It takes as long as it takes. Period.

    My condolences on your loss.

    jeri lynne September 29, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    In my opionion {and I lost my daddy 5/15/08} the only thing you “need” to do is take care of yourself and your family..the best you can right now…it won’t ever be the same…trust me.There are days I can’t even function.Thankfully my kids are older and can do for themselves..

    Grieve what ever way YOU feel fit…you have nothing to prove to anyone..we will be here when you are ready!

    Ginger September 29, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    I only want you to keep writing here, because I love to read you, and I don’t care what you write about because I’ll read whatever it is, because I like your voice. More importantly, I want you to be well.
    .-= Ginger´s last blog ..Helping out, husband style =-.

    Jae September 29, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Please please don’t allow anyone, well-meaning or otherwise to try and dictate your feelings and pain or processes or life or tears. My beloved grandparents died peacefully but did that make my experience of it any easier? There’s this whole big love with their names upon it and nowhere to go! And really, each person we love, that love is unique. I can’t have another love like my grandfather (who was a million times more a father than my father ever was) or I can’t be loved the same way by my cherished aunts and as I grow older, the loss of them all hurts still. Some loves are so precious so close, so deep especially for those that feel and have big hearts!

    That whole “get over” “moving on” attitude is totally worthless, often it means”Oh, we don’t want to hear about it anymore” or it truly means, “You’re making me uncomfortable because deep feelings and unpleasant reality sucks.”

    Hey, as any girl that grew up on a Bluegrass farm will tell you, life is NOT a Disney movie. At all. Ever. In any way.

    Mature passion-filled people have deep mature passionate responses to life. Don’t don’t don’t allow anyone to cheapen your experiences.

    And I’ll keep reading until your babies graduate, no matter what.

    Take care,
    Jae

    Regina September 29, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Like everyone else here, I just want to say that you have support. Thank you so much for sharing this. I have not lost a parent, but perhaps reading this now will help me when that time comes, and it has helped me to think of how people I love must be feeling (who have lost parents). Sharing honestly is never a bad thing. Some people are just not good at dealing with emotions. Even those of other people.
    .-= Regina´s last blog .. =-.

    Melly September 29, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Oh Catherine, I’m so sorry people are stupid and thoughtless and I’m sorry you’re going through this. I lost my mother 18 years ago. 18 years. I was 13 and it still hurts like hell. A couple of the commentator’s have said that wallowing in grief is bad and that tough love is a good thing – well you’re not wallowing in grief, far from it. And the comments weren’t tough love they were ignorant and selfish. It’s been weeks not years and even years from now there will be days. There will be days and you’ll just be a puddle.

    I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your blog right now and how much it has been helping me – and it’s been 18 freaking years! I’m about to have my first child so I really appreciate the perspective of a daughter and a mother dealing with her grief. You are modeling an openness that was lacking in my family. I think you’re brave and you’re working through this the only way you know how. That’s all any of us can do.

    Heather @ Domestic Extraordinaire September 29, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    I have no real words to say that haven’t been said before. I know that you never ‘just get over it’ the pain will be with you forever. Sure it lessens and sometimes for short moments I forget and want to share something with my dad, or I see a certain car, or when Malley’s has their Choc. Covered strawberries, I never buy them because he always bought me a dozen of them for Easter, but it does get easier. Your heart learns to cope, to take that grieving part and close it off from the rest of yourself.

    Catherine, take all the time you need. Much love. xoxo
    .-= Heather @ Domestic Extraordinaire´s last blog ..Happy Birthday Renee =-.

    Marion September 29, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Screw em’.. do what you gotta do, say what you gotta say, or not say. We’ll be here for you, when you’re ready

    Lauren @ MOMMY IS ROCK N ROLL September 29, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    You keep on writing and don’t let anyone try to stifle you. If blogging about it helps you get through this then do it. And I totally agree with what everyone else has said. Your posts are moving and I can imagine how helpful they must be someone going through any type of loss.
    .-= Lauren @ MOMMY IS ROCK N ROLL´s last blog ..A blog about blogging. And being crazy. =-.

    avonlea September 29, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Wow — I can’t believe those people had the audacity to write you and say to get over it. They are way out of line. You are right — you can’t compare grief. It is an individual thing.
    .-= avonlea´s last blog .. =-.

    Jenny September 29, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Grief is grief. It is unique to each who experience it. There are many kinds, and no one can quantify or critique. We should find comfort in the shared pain. My deepest sympathies and heartache.

    Rhonda September 29, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    Touche’!!! Who made “that person” the authority, and what makes him/her think that their grief trumps yours?? Maybe they should “get over it!”
    .-= Rhonda´s last blog ..Anyone need a maid??? =-.

    lianna September 29, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    hi – i have seen you around, at the local fair, and about town, and each time i want to say how sorry i am about your dad, but i’m a stranger and that just seems so out of bounds.
    you don’t seem a stranger to me though. i’ve read your innermost thoughts, and you must know you are read by so many and that you may be noticed out and about. right? but still, it felt weird to approach.
    just know that you are seen, and appreciated, and deserving of whatever time and space it is you need. you’re lovely, as are your children, and i hope your family heals quickly and well.
    peace
    lianna of bville
    .-= lianna´s last blog .. =-.

    Her Bad Mother September 30, 2009 at 8:01 am

    Oh – you must say hi sometime, Lianna. Being recognized doesn’t freak me out. And knowing that someone in the quote-unquote real world knows and cares… well, that’s just nice.

    Alison September 29, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    Saddened to read about your father’s death (and impressed by your bravery in laying it all out here for us all to read about). I suppose some “mommy-bloggers” choose only to write about that aspect of their lives online, but that always creeps me out a bit. One of the reasons I keep coming back to your blog, even though I’m not a parent and don’t want to be, is your ruthless honesty about all aspects of your life. I wish this hadn’t happened to you. But since it has, you have every right to blog about your feelings.
    .-= Alison´s last blog ..Re-Vamp =-.

    Cinthia September 30, 2009 at 4:14 am

    I’ve never been able to process the audacity of blog readers who chastise the owners/writers of the blogs they read and tell them what they can and cannot do, what they should or shouldn’t, need or don’t need to do.

    WTF?

    Since when is anyone else allowed to tell someone what they can and cannot do with their own blog? Are you kidding me?? And this whole time frame for grieving, this telling you to be grateful it wasn’t one of your kids that passed?

    I think, it is my opinion, that that other person needs to shut the hell up.

    Petite Mum September 30, 2009 at 6:50 am

    I am very sorry for your loss. The death of a loved is not something you ever ‘get over’. You will always miss them, whomever they are.

    We are all parents reading this I assume, or most of us are. One day we will die. One day it’ll be our kids mourning our departure. Now, how many of us would tell our kids, ‘stop talking about it, stop writing about it, some people are worse off, you know’? Of course we wouldn’t? We’d want to comfort them, if only we could!

    People need to remember you are someone’s child. And also they should close the window if there’s something they don’t like reading.
    .-= Petite Mum´s last blog ..Finding the time to do it all – time saving tips. =-.

    karina September 30, 2009 at 7:13 am

    I want to say I am so sorry for the loss of your dad.. but it doesnt really convey how much I wish that, just for a moment, the pain of your loss would be less just so you could breathe… thankyou for writing it down, you will someway somehow, help another to cope through such a tragic loss. which i know is not really even something you would be thinking about but dont stop just because stupid people want happy stories. This is changing who you are and by writing it down, we (as you avid fans) will see a change, bit by bit, as you work through all you need to to heal and continue your own story…
    I dont know you at all,( only in blogland) but my thoughts are with you and your family.

    Jennie September 30, 2009 at 8:07 am

    Very well said. I am so sorry for your loss. I think it’s wonderful that you have this gift with written words that helps you to work through it. It’s obvious that many people are honored and happy to continue reading and to be by your side on that journey.
    .-= Jennie´s last blog ..But, it was the shoes that really did it. =-.

    califmom September 30, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    The physical pain of grief–that’s the part that gets skipped in movies. Just when you think you’re able to walk upright for a few steps, it stabs you again, and you’re back in the fetal position. That crater of pain in your chest is unreal, like no other pain. You can’t rush its healing. If others don’t want to be present for the process, that’s their choice. This journey is yours. That you’ve allowed us to join you for a portion of it is an honor.
    .-= califmom´s last blog ..It’s Not Even A Real Sport =-.

    Amelia September 30, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    So well put.
    .-= Amelia´s last blog ..the view from my chair =-.

    Lance Boldt October 1, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Beautifully put.

    In the grief support group my family attends, there is almost always some time spent on the absolutly stupid things people say. Sometimes I get tired of us telling each other that they all mean well, they just don’t know what to say, they’re all just trying to not have to really think about it themselves.

    A close loss is a tough way to learn how to be more compassionate.
    .-= Lance Boldt´s last blog ..Can You Lose the Battle and Still Win the War =-.

    nikki October 1, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    I lost my beloved mother 5 months ago. Suddenly. Tragically. The one thing I’ve learned is that anyone who thinks they have the right to tell you how to grieve or how long to grieve can just shut the fuck up. You need to do what’s right for YOU. Sorry, I had to delurk for this.
    .-= nikki´s last blog ..And another thing checked off my list =-.

    Becca October 2, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    I only recently started reading you before the untimely death of your father. I first would like to say how terribly sorry I am for your loss. My father died after a struggle with cancer 12 years ago. It was sad but with illness you have time to adjust, say your goodbyes and try and make peace with it. 2 years ago my mother was hit by a semi while sitting in a traffic jam. I can honestly tell you there is a huge difference. Embrace your struggles. I am trying to, my faith was never in doubt. It still isn’t but I struggle now with organized religion and it’s purpose. It seems that my own tragedy has left me groundless, lost and extremely confused. I cling to my role as mother, question my role as wife and mourn the loss of role of daughter.

    There is nothing to do but try and go on and cope. I would guess the people who tell you to get over it have not experienced a tragedy to the degree of yours.

    Amy October 18, 2009 at 12:53 am

    No one can tell you how to grieve, and for others to try to do so is ignorant, disrespectful, and horribly unsympathetic. Grief is personal and the only time someone should step in is if harm will come from it. To those that criticize you, what gives them the right to? Even if they have lost a child, which is horrible, yes, how can they tell you to ‘get over it’ because it’s not as bad as ‘xyz’.

    Do what you have to do in order to put one foot in front of the other and take it one day at a time. Do what is best for you and your family and know that no one has the right to tell you how to feel or how to live your life. Continue to love your father and cherish his memory, he will never truly be gone if you keep him with you always.

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