I have never felt more alone as I did after I lost my first child. Even among people whom I loved, whom I trusted, who knew me, I felt awkward, strange, disoriented. I would often find myself sitting in a group of friends or family as they laughed and shared stories. I could only be in that space for so long before I felt the world zooming away as I shrank further and further into myself. Eventually, I would become a dazed observer, watching from a shell within a shell within the shell of my body and wishing I was somewhere else. There was no connection. At all.
No man is an island, entire of itself,1 so says John Donne, but in the middle of grief, it sure effing feels like it. I felt lonely, unseen, and misunderstood. The more people’s good intentions failed to provide me with comfort and solace, the more isolated I became. And what Donne said about death diminishing him, I definitely felt that. As grief overwhelmed me, I embodied what it meant to be Other, especially to myself. I lost all sense of who I was or how I fit into this world even at the most basic level of recognizing my face in the mirror.
Losing Calvin alienated me in a way that was blindsiding, in a way that is impossible to understand unless you’ve been affected by losing a child. Even with knowing what it’s like to be marginalized because of my culture, because of my gender, because of my family’s income, even with knowing the grief of losing loved ones, this Other-ness was almost debilitating, and I was unable to find my footing until I found the baby loss community and realized that the effects of this grief were “normal.”
Have you experienced this sense of being Other?
How did it affect you? How did it affect your relationships? Do you still feel this way? What helped you find a sense of belonging again?
1John Donne, “Meditation XVII,” in Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions (1624), Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature, last modified November 4, 2010, accessed June 18, 2010, http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/donne/meditation17.php.