Monday, April 12, 2010

Still More Things I Know

The Relationships You're Not Married To

I've said this before, and I'll likely say it again:  I'm lucky in my friends.  They've already been tried and have remained true for the most part.  Our family's journey, and the amount of energy it sucked out of every other aspect of our lives, proved long ago who could and who could not stomach the roller coaster ride being associated with us would take them on.  Not every one could handle it.  I lost a very close friend along the way.  He had lost his father to suicide when he was young, and he had little tolerance for anything that smacked of mental illness as a result.  He thought people who sought therapy were weak, and we were knee deep in therapy, therapists, self help books, therapy-friendly talk and so on and so forth.  Don't even get me started on medications.  So, he dropped out of my life as Kelsey began to spiral down.  I got it.  I can't say I wasn't hurt and maybe a little mystified in the beginning, but he had to do what he had to do.  I had to do what I had to do.  And that took us down different paths.

There were other disappearances and some gradual fades.  I've written before about another friend who felt I wasn't there for her when she needed me and told me she had had enough.  She was right.  I hadn't been.  I had reasons, but she was too hurt.   There was a mutual acceptance that our friendship was done.  Yet, for the most part, my other friends accepted the drama, the flakiness, the neglect, and stood by me.  These last few months, however, have tested and strained every remaining relationship we have.  This is a whole other level of hard, and we certainly hope our friends can't relate to us on the same level.  Yet, almost every one has stepped up and remained committed to supporting us, but friendships are like Play Doh, they can be molded and changed.  I believe a child's death is like taking that Play Doh and pounding it with a sledgehammer.  I can't imagine all relationships survive the pounding.

Friendships survive because there is a mutual give and take.  We find there are things we have in common with someone else.  We look at certain things the same way or have some of the same experiences, so we can enjoy one another's company.  But, the word "enjoy" comes at a premium immediately following a trauma like ours.  It's been hard to maintain our end of the bargain.   I love my friends and want to be there for them, but scrounging up the energy for it has sometimes been hard.

Kelsey died in June.  Wedding season.  I'm at the age where my friends have sons and daughters who are definitely ripe for tying the knot.  And, sure enough, within weeks of memorializing my daughter, three invitations hit our mailbox.  Over the next six months, we received at least one invitation a month, but sometimes two.  One woman oversaw the marriage of two of her children during those first months.  I was invited to the first child's reception.  I noticed I didn't receive an invitation for the next.  Wow, I must have been a complete buzzkill at the first.  I probably was, actually.  I generally would not stay long.  Greg would not go at all.  I finally could not bring myself to attend the last wedding, and I actually wanted to go.  I love the family.  I love the bride.  But, the pain of watching over and over again an event my daughter will never experience was too much in the end.  Should they not have invited me?  Of course they should have.  Should I have not gone all those times?  Maybe - hard to say.  Should people expect me to be there or want me?  I hope they are happy when I'm there, but understand if I'm not.  Chances are, some barely noticed my presence at all, actually.  I, as it should be, am not the show.  Well, obviously, the one woman must have noticed something.  I've never asked her about the lack of the second invitation when I was the only one in the group who didn't receive one.  I mean, how do you bring that up?  Bottom line is, I am sure everyone who dropped an invitation or announcement in the mail to us thought twice about it and wondered how it would strike us.  And I hate the fact of that.  I want to be out the other side of this to the point where people no longer worry about my fragile psyche.  But, I don't know, honestly, when that will be.  I don't know if I'll ever be able to walk into a wedding again and not feel some sort of twinge.  I'll never look at someone's grandchild and not feel some sort of something that resembles an ache.  What I want is to be able to do it with a balance of happiness for the family.  I think that will happen.  It's already there, but just not in the right mixture.  I don't know when it will be.  Whenever that is for me, it will be different for another mother who's lost a son or daughter.  There is not a blueprint for this.  We don't know what to expect and when to expect it from ourselves.  I could not have told you in my wildest dreams how my life would be.  So, friends and family, keep those cards and letters coming, but be patient if we send our best wishes from afar.

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