In the baby loss community, we point out the ignorance of those who don’t understand what we’re going through, who expect us to just pick up and dust off and move forward, who don’t stop and really try to imagine what it would be like to walk in our shoes. We do this to educate, in hopes that they will gain more empathy and understanding. But our families and friends aren’t the only ones who can benefit from being “de-ignorant-ized.”
Before the Mess
I used to be so good about keeping my life in order. Whether I was at work or at home, whether it was planning a project or putting together a vacation itinerary, organization and dependability are what I was known for. And I enjoyed this; I enjoyed the sense of accomplishment that came with order.
By the same token, I couldn’t comprehend how others could be so “messy” in their day-to-day living. I couldn’t make sense of why it was so hard for someone to fill-in and mail in an RSVP card when it was already stamped and addressed (especially for my wedding—didn’t they know I had better things to do than call or email or Facebook to confirm whether they could attend?). I also didn’t get why some people never paid their bills on time and then complained about the late fees when it was their own fault.
This was before I got pregnant with Calvin, before the amniotic bands, before the I’m sorry but the baby has passed away, before I was induced, before I got pregnant with Rainbow, before I started bleeding, before a year of trying to conceive and failing, before getting pregnant with Gaelen, before making the decision to have an MUA because I couldn’t wait for my body to let go of the pregnancy naturally.
Then the Grief Brain settled in
After things started going wrong with Calvin and continuing through after losing Rainbow and Gaelen, I started to lose it in other ares of my life, as well.
My sense of organization and order began to fall into disarray. From missing bill payments, to mixing up credit cards, to losing invitations and forgetting RSVPs, to mixing up appointment days and times, to missing the bus and then the bus stop, to forgetting birthdays (or never committing them to memory to begin with), to being nonexistent when it came to staying in touch and returning phone calls, texts, and emails. I’ve heard the term grief brain applied to this sense of disorganization (and, sometimes, disorientation). It’s like my brained had turned into a jumbled mess, like garbage that collects under and behind a couch that has been unmoved for years.
It wasn’t until I’d experienced this almost dizzying “side effect” of grieving that I began to realize and cringe at how my thinking reflected both ignorance and self-centeredness. I couldn’t believe the assumptions I used to make about what people should be able to do (when it’s really not difficult to forget a bill when you’re mind is racing and bogged down at the same time) or about the “courtesies” I expected them to have time to extend to me (when it’s so easy to lost sight of others’ expectations when you are busy just trying to keep yourself afloat).
This awareness (embarrassing as it is to admit how I used to think) has made me more sensitive and considerate. I have learned to stop when I find myself passing judgment and to become more respectful and aware of what another person could be going through. Although there is still more room for me to grow in this area, I am grateful for having gained this small bit of compassion.
Have you uncovered an ignorance of your own after a loss?
What did you learn? How did this knowledge change your perspective of others? How about of yourself?