Yesterday at lunchtime, reeling a bit from the feelings and memories generated by the writing retreat, I suddenly realized that it had not rained as forecast earlier, and that there was nothing I needed to accomplish in the afternoon that could not be finished later. To the marsh and the beach! ~ about an hour away. The added bonus turned out to be that my friend Chris, who lives there, was home. Although we live in such proximity, our schedules are such that we seldom get together.
You might think otherwise. She and I are part of a foursome of mothers who discovered one another through our blogs in the first couple of years after our children died. We have been writing to one another ever since, first in a semi-formal blog retreat as we waded through Joyce Rupp's book Open the Door, and then in frequent emails and posts.
Chris made two points yesterday which have already had quite the effect on me. I told her about my post earlier this week on Anger, and my . . . well, embarrassment, really, at having vented such a display of fury over ~ not much. Especially after Karen, another of our moms, whose daughter died of cancer, wrote in her, as always, kind and understanding manner, to reassure me that I was not out of line.
"What if Josh hadn't died?" Chris asked. "How would the breast cancer experience have been for you then?" I looked at her in surprise as I realized, "No big deal. It would have taken a lot of time and energy and I would still have complained about the physical pain. But I don't really care about the breast, I can do everything I used to do, and I have no reason to fear a recurrence. I would have taken it in stride."
I didn't add that my life's structure of loss was already so extensive that six months dedicated to breast cancer would not have been that difficult to endure. (And here I apologize to all the women I am no doubt offending. But in reading about breast cancer at that time, I realized that for many women in their fifties and sixties, breast cancer, either theirs or their mother's, is their first major experience of life-out-of-control and devastating loss. For me, even without Josh's death, it followed the deaths of mother, brother, and two step-mothers, infertility, and a previous cancer scare. One more thing.)
For me the trauma of breast cancer was losing a part of my body so intimately connected to the child previously lost.
"You have to remember," said Chris, "that all of your experiences now are through a Josh lens. Things which would not have caused you to stumble six years ago loom large and crushing now."
We also talked about our challenges as a group in getting together and in maintaining any consistent writing schedule. I commented that I think that we are each finally re-negotiating our lives and finding what they are supposed to be about. Chris reminded me that she had read an article, back at the beginning, that said it takes about six years post-child-loss to discover who you are and who you want to be. (Since, I might add, who you were is long gone.) Chris and Karen are now just past six years; the other Karen and I are just into the sixth year. We have all let go of much that once seemed critical to our well being, we are all focused in our distinct ways on making the world a more generous place for those who live, and we are all learning to navigate lives in which we are surrounded by people who experience virtually every moment differently than we do, so that authentic connections seem few and far between.
I can't say that I wrote much this week. But I do see more clearly why I so identify with and love Skyler White.