Tuesday, February 2, 2016

My New Friend, Mad

by Megan Cocker

It has been seven months since we held a sweet baby in our arms as she died. 
We’re creeping up quickly on Diagnosis Day.
I had a miscarriage this month. 
Someone has stolen my daughter’s identity through her remembrance photographs. 
This week, I’m awaiting a call from yet another friend to drive to her and hold her hand as she says goodbye to a second child.

Yeah, January has been hell. I think everyone can agree with me on that.

But, for some reason, people expect me to be acting/feeling/thinking differently than just plain furious.

It didn’t take this long for outsiders to impose their expectations, but it’s just now starting to get on my nerves. Everything is starting to get on my nerves. Some accused me of being angry and bitter around the birth and death and burial of my daughter and then again just three months after when expressing disappointment in people who were supposed to be supportive… I’m glad those who thought I was angry then cannot see me now. 

Now, I do feel angry. I am experiencing a little bitterness.

I fought anger so much in the anticipatory grief and in the days when I had to bury my child and in the times when I felt I needed to serve others and when we packed up and moved again and when I had to watch another friend say goodbye to her baby too and when I didn’t get to dress Eden up for Halloween and when Thanksgiving should have been her five month birthday and when Christmas came and there were no baby presents beneath the tree. 

I fought it so hard. Actively rebuking anger, deciding I didn’t have time for anger,foolishly thinking that anger is wrong. 

What I didn’t know and what no one told me is that if you keep skipping the angry feelings, they will come back tenfold. And so now here I am with a year’s worth of anger piling on top of this month’s grief… and it’s a crime to choke the next person that looks at me funny.

Having a coffee date with a friend right before New Year’s Day when I found out I was pregnant again, I confessed to her that I felt resentment creeping in. You know what she told me?  She told me to LET IT.  Finally, someone said to me that not only is it OK to feel angry, but it’s necessary. She told me how important it is to feel what I need to feel, and allow myself to be vulnerable and honest about who I am, where I am, and what is going on in my heart.

And so when my husband took my hand in the emergency room bed and asked how I was feeling about losing our second child… for the first time since my daughter’s diagnosis, I told him I was mad. And he said, “me, too.”

After that, I have been able to say how mad I am at this whole past year. I have been honest with myself and anyone who would listen in this past month. 

When my blog about the woman who faked that the girl in Eden’s pictures was her own baby went viral, I let her know that I’m mad at her.

When I had so many people comment and tell me, “please don’t let anger consume you”, I got mad at them too. 

When friends have expressed how much they wish their babies would stop growing and “just stay little forever”, I got mad at them. (Listen, you DO NOT want your children to stop growing.)

When they complained about how hard life is with babies, I got mad at them.

When they said, “life was meaningless before these kids,” I got mad at them too. 

Obviously, parents of living children can’t win with me lately..

When it rained for five days straight I got mad.
When the sun came out I got mad.
When Ryan tried to read my mind I got mad.
When Ryan didn’t read my mind I got mad.
When the radio played happy songs I got mad.
When the radio played sad songs I got mad.

Oh, it has consumed me all right.

And all of it has prepared me to admit to God that I’m mad at him. For others, it may look like a curse and a scream and that’s okay. But for me, it has been a quiet admission, and that is okay too. I have been like a student emailing a ruthless professor about a problem- “Just checking in to let You know that I’m still mad. Is that okay?”

And every day, I feel the mercy and receive the email back, “That’s okay. Take your time”.

I have confidence in the stage of grief I’m finally experiencing, but for some reason I still feel the need to justify it to everyone else. It’s in my nature- “this is how I feel if you can accept that, if not I’ll be happy to change for you”.

I’ve noticed that bereaved parents are some of the biggest perpetrators of “You’re feeling sorry for yourself at this point” and “Don’t become THAT woman.”

Moms that that have “completed” the grief “cycle” a few times and find themselves not crying anymore believe that since they are 15 years out from their loss, *time must heal all wounds* and so people who lose their children should feel “better” over time… and if they don’t, they’re not working towards “healing” (ugh, why is grief treated like a sickness?). For me, I do believe in healing my heart. And I believe it requires taking my time to feel whatever I want or need to feel. If twenty years from now I’m still angry, I dare someone to try and check me on it. I can almost guarantee that there will be many times in my life that I go back to being angry.

Its bad enough to know that as I type this there will be outsiders who think “she’s being THAT person”, even worse when people who have some idea of how I’m feeling go on and think that too.

I’m just having these normal emotions and normal feelings and expressing them in normal ways but everyone only wants to hear the good, the joyous, and the peaceful.

I’ve gotten “don’t wear that anger label” a few times when expressing my grief in groups of other loss parents. So, I’ve decided that I will not put on a label or a hat of anger. I have never been one to allow myself to be defined by any bad feeling, anyway.

So instead, I’ll introduce my anger as my friend. I’ll call her “Mad”.

She is a redhead and she smokes a lot of cigarettes. She likes to cuss and flips the bird instead of waving. Mad is a little selfish, as she requires a lot of my focus.

I tried to push her away again this time, but like a pile of rocks, she won’t budge until I work through her many layers.

Don’t be confused… when Mad is around, I’m still genuinely happy. 

I’m not a huge complainer just because things suck and I’m still pouring praise out of my heart for 
all the blessings I have. 

I’ve also been choosing immediate and intentional forgiveness* inside my anger, and that is one reason I can embrace this stage of grief without letting it take me over. If you learn to accept apologies you won’t receive and not allow the incidents that injure you to dominate your heart, you are free to then find peace with your own Mad. “Just deal with Megan and her Mad today”, as I like to tell myself. She needs more attention than the things that make me mad.

* I wanted to elaborate. Many people believe that in order to forgive you must forget and say that everything is okay. And that just isn’t the truth. No definition of forgiveness requires us to forget that we are hurt and reconcile and drop our heartbreak forever. Forgiveness is for us, so that the “what” or “who” that hurt us and “why” does not consume our minds and then we can focus on just the truth that we are hurting. *

Contrary to popular belief, you can still be blessed when your Mad comes. You can still have a joyful heart. I know I do. Yes, I have been hanging out with Mad a lot lately. But she and I agree that life is still good. 

I was so upset when Mad finally arrived at my doorstep. 

I felt like I lost a fight with myself. I felt like I let my little innocent baby girl that never felt anger down. But that’s not true. 

There is ultimately balance. 

I finally allowed Mad to come inside and open a new door of honesty in my heart. 

I’m not done with Mad. I’ve got some confronting to do in time with myself, with God, with people who hurt me. Mad is important to this process. If Mad weren’t here, I would keep repressing and delaying all the pain I’ve been unknowingly drowning in that she came just to help me get out of. 

She’s only visiting. She isn’t going to live here, because sometimes she will become too much to handle. But she will be welcomed back in anytime in healthy doses.

Listen, take the time to be angry when you feel you need to.

Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks of your Mad (trust me, they almost ALWAYS think she’s ugly and full of hate and spite). Let me be the one to tell you if you don’t let her in when she knocks, she’ll bust the doorframe down later.  

And if anyone tries to check you on your Mad, if anyone even for a second implies that you aren’t entitled to have your Mad pay a visit… call me and mine- she can be real bitch if needed.

~ ~ ~

Megan Coker carried Eden Olivia to birth in June 2015 after receiving a diagnosis of a severe Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia in the Bilateral form. Eden lived for 40 minutes. Megan is Ryan’s wife and together they follow his Army career. She has found a way to honor Eden’s short life in capturing the beautiful moments of others through starting her photography business, Eden’s Garden Images. Each day has its new challenges for both Megan and Ryan but they are learning to lean on each other through it and work steadily on strengthening their marriage. Megan finds healing through writing about Eden and remembering their beautiful time togethe


Katrina said...

I'm three months past my son's death. Only 3 months into this grief-thing. So far I've been keeping my cool. I get sad mostly at night. I'm chill. But your friend Mad has been knocking at my door, too. Did you give her my address? What's the deal? I've been looking through the peephole at her, and so far have not let her in. She scares me. I know eventually I will have to open the door, smile, and welcome her inside. Or maybe I won't smile at her. Maybe I will just glare at her and hate her for coming.

Thank you for writing your truth. I hear you. I'm living it, too. My own version of course.

Unknown said...

It was six years yesterday. I don't think I have even opened the door yet...

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