The elephant in the room

I hit (and survived) a milestone yesterday.  I visited my school.

I’ve been surprised how much anxiety I’ve been having around this.  I left school in June, happy and pregnant, and I’m not supposed to go back like this.  It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  I’ve been afraid to see the halls that I walked as my belly grew, the classroom where I was standing when I got the call reporting my beta results, the washrooms where I ran to throw up every day for eight weeks.  The coworkers who don’t know what to say.

I lived.  I went after dismissal because I’m not ready to see my kids (and all of their questions).  I said hello to a bunch of people.  I chatted with my principal.  I saw my new classroom, set up in my absence.  I met the new teacher that I’ll be working with this year.  I got reports on my students.  It was fine.

But the silence…the silence is unnerving.  I haven’t heard from anyone at school, at all.  I asked the principal to make sure that everyone knew what had happened so that I wouldn’t have to explain it to anyone, and he did.  I didn’t have to explain.  But aside from people I know outside of school, there’s also this bizarre silence around what happened. People don’t know what to say, and I guess, neither do I.   Instead people say, “It’s good to see you,” and I say, “Thanks!” and we shift from foot to foot. I smile and nod while I wonder if it’s inappropriate to blurt out “my baby died.”  Which I know that they know.  We talk about other things, and I wonder if this urge to tell people my son’s name will pass.  I wonder if this will pass.

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About tamarainwriting

I'm a queer, married, child and youth counsellor, in Toronto, Ontario. My wife and I had a beautiful stillborn son and we have an amazing one-year-old daughter. It's a complex journey.
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9 Responses to The elephant in the room

  1. Ashleigh says:

    It is interesting how different people handle difficult situations. I’m sure most of them assume that you don’t want to talk about it or they might worry about asking the “wrong” question. I used to follow a woman’s blog whose baby was stillborn at about 24 weeks. I’ll never forget her saying that the person who handled it best asked her lots of questions about her son and even asked to see a picture of him. But, that was her — she wanted to talk about him. This friend’s questioning was comforting. How are you feeling? Would you prefer to talk about Ezra?

    • I think you’re right…I think it’s mainly about people being afraid of saying something terrible. I know I’ve been there. And everyone is different, and I myself feel differently from moment to moment. So it’s hard. But yes, I like the acknowledgement. I find it better to have difficult conversations than to feel like we’re all pretending that Ezra didn’t happen. I think I’m just going to need to get better at starting the conversations myself? Or let time pass. Or something.

  2. CGsaysstuff says:

    I know exactly how you feel, when I came back to school, after the principal gave the staff the news, my struggle wAsnt acknowledged. People avoided me and didn’t look me in the eye. It was a couple weeks before anyone pulled me aside and told me they’ve been here too. I wish it didn’t have to take so long.
    I think people are terrified well cry, and then they’ll feel responsible. As if such an insignificant think would really affect our grief. I told close friends, just because something you say triggers tears doesn’t really mean you made me cry.
    I know for me, even now, it feels like that silence is still lingering, but I think, maybe, it’s something that lives inside of me now, as the others have moved on.
    Best of luck, and good for you. Big step. Hugs.

    • It’s a good point, about the crying. I think people in general are really uncomfortable with grief, and don’t want to make things worse. Really, there is no worse. It just is, and the tears if they come are part of that. I wish we all talked about grief more, I think we’d be more comfortable witnessing it.

  3. Juliet says:

    Oh, I know this, I remember it. It’s so hard to face people again, in each stage. I have found it’s easier to relate or open up more to people who have experienced an out of the ordinary loss of their own, even if it’s not of a baby. I also was pleasantly surprised at who was willing to abide in my loss. I put up a wall at work with most people, and I often regret it, but feel unable to take it down. I do chip at it once in a while, alluding to something related to my baby’s death or my pregnancy. It is scary, but I’m proud of myself each time. It really sucks that your coworkers weren’t better, and haven’t sent carts. I’m so sorry about that.

    • Thank you for this…it’s good to hear that I’m not alone in feeling this way. I think you should feel proud when you break silence – it’s an act of bravery. I’m going to need to learn to navigate this. I’m very fortunate that I do have close friends around me who have been very open to whatever I need to say. It’s my wider world that I have to get back to, and that feels so huge.

  4. I think you’re right that people are very uncomfortable with grief, and somehow think that if they don’t mention your grief it won’t exist or you’ll forget about it. Of course that’s not true, and I hope that the wider world is able to find ways to talk with you about Ezra in a way that feels right.

    When you do return to work, I wonder about the conversations your students will have with you– more open ones, if nothing else?

    • It’s a good question, and one I’m wrestling with. I’m not certain how much the kids know – I was obviously pregnant in June but was avoiding discussing it with them before September. I know that a couple of them do know that I lost a baby, and I’m sure it will come up, but I’m not sure exactly how to manage those conversations. There’s some feeling among my coworkers that the parents will be upset if I’m truthful, and there’s probably a limit to how much detail I want them to have. At the same time I also can’t find it in me to lie. I think that they’re currently telling the kids that I’m sick. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been putting off seeing them – I’m just not sure what I’m going to say. And this is part of the problem, isn’t it? We don’t talk much about grief with kids and then we’re all uncomfortable with the topic.

  5. twoimmas says:

    Sending you continued love, support and light from over in my corner of Brooklyn.

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