Thursday, July 3, 2008

Public Story/Private Grief

In the past four years, our story of our family has been fairly public. Allie's illness was well documented on the internet, both through my writing, the Dallas Morning News, and WFAA news stories. I've shared my thoughts on Allie's death and how we've moved forward with life without Allie. I shared our adventures of having Miss Maggie come into our life. But few people have seen me cry.

Let me be clear about this--I don't like to cry about Allie in front of people.

My tears are mine. Private. When I shed a tear for my girl, I prefer it in private. I have a few meltdowns a year where I really lose it. The rest is simply a tear shed when I see a child her age, stumble upon something of Allie's that I might have forgotten about, or when I hear her song while sitting in my office listening to the radio. If I need to cry, I call Debbie to let it all out. That's what best friends are for, right? She stood beside me the night Allie died, helped me picked out my outfit to where to my daughter's funeral, and held me many times when I cried. I'm comfortable shedding a tear in front of her.

At Camp Discovery every year, I choke up and let out a good cry. Tuesday during "Happy Nappy" is our yearly tradition of a Remembrance Ceremony. It's out at the lake. We read a list of names of those campers that past away since the last camp. There is a candle with each of those children's picture on it and a poem on the back. We are invited to write a note or jot down our thoughts privately. All of these are deposited into a container and then thrown into the fire to start our bonfire. It ends with a balloon release. This is the one time I allow myself to let go in front of others. I don't just silently cry. I tend to sob. I find a corner where I'm not in front of the children, sit back and have a good cry. The hard part is that I struggle to compose myself afterwards to prepare for our sessions the rest of the day. I'm strongly considering NOT going to the Remembrance Ceremony this year.

So you see, I don't like public tears. It bothers me, burns my face, and agitates me more. In four years, I've cried in front of my mother only once. It was the day before Mother's Day about a year ago, and I was extremely upset. Andrew finally got the phone and asked if I wanted him to phone Deb. Instead, I asked for my mom.

It was a different experience for me when I let loose on my tears at the lakehouse Monday night. I cried in front of everyone. And trust me, I didn't like it. Spurred on by alcohol, exhaustion, and watching all the children playing, I let myself get upset that Allie was not there with us. Maggie was the only one there without a sibling, and trust me, I noticed it all weekend. But then, I felt conflicted guilt about that sadness too. If it weren't for Allie's illness and death in the first place, I wouldn't be friends with those women. It would still be my group of two--me and Deb. Allie is what brought me together with Tracey, Amy, Jen, and Megan. And I'm incredibly grateful to her for that.

At first, I sat on the couch silently crying. Others were out at the pool and a few of us were waiting inside to get our little ones finally asleep. I sat crying for about ten minutes before Deb noticed. Andrew had walked in, everyone else had stepped out, and I started to cry harder in front of them. Before I could stop it, all the girls were around me. And I was bawling. And unfortunately, I didn't handle the situation well. Instead, I pushed past their well meaning hugs and looks of love, and told them I didn't want to talk about it. I hid in my room.

Like a good friend, Deb followed me in. She didn't push, but she gently told me that I was not handling myself well. I needed to return with my friends. I needed to let them see that I do in fact cry for Allie, and understand that they love me and support me. When I composed myself and went back outside, no one pushed. We didn't bring up the subject again, just me meekly apologizing to Amy the next morning for my actions.

I woke up the next morning embarassed by my meltdown. The girls, of course, were supportive and loving as all get out, but it was very difficult for me. I don't know that it would ever be easy for me to let my tears flow in front of others without feeling a burning anger and frustration and wanting it all to stop. I don't know that I will ever be able to truly tell my feelings to multiple people at once and feel comfortable with it .

But I'm working on it. And luckily, I have good people in my life to help me with the process.


Anonymous said...

I understand you. I understand the tears. I understand the fierce determination not to shed the tears.

I think the other girls do too.

I am forever indebted to Allie because I see her gift to me, even though I never met her in person, is you and your friendship. While I would trade our friendship in a heartbeat for you to have your girl back (and I know you would as well), she "gave" me the best friends I have ever had.

And I am grateful.

momto2boys said...

It sounds like you've got some really special friends. I've followed Allie's story and then your blog for awhile. What a special thing to have such caring friends.

Mary said...

Grieve how you need to grieve, for as long as you need to grieve. Your friends will both understand and support you.
Let them understand and support you. No doubt Allie sent them to you for that purpose.

Lisa said...

No wonder you guys are the Posse.

Sugar Photography said...

yep. What tracey said. I know we'd all walk away from what we have in a heartbeat if that would bring your girl back. In a heartbeat.
We love you, we understand you, and we hurt for you. You never have to apologize.

Now...can I offer you a paper towel? ;)

Love you

Franklin5 said...

After all of our giggly talk about who would sign the guestbook at the lakehouse when we left on Tuesday, the task ultimately fell to me by default.

I don't think anyone other than Trey could possibly decipher my illegible scrawl, but what I wrote was that we were six families united by twists of fate, both cruel and kind.

I don't know if that does justice to Allie's memory; I don't know what could. I do know that she is always, always with us. Even tonight, watching fireworks on the rooftop, Allie was there.

It's not the way it should be, of course, and we all know it. She should be playing with the Posslets, and it's not even close to fair that she can't.

And so of course we all understood that you felt out of control when, naturally, your grief bubbled up the other night.

But what I think, and what I hope we prove time and again, is that we provide a safe haven for each other. You don't need apologies or guilt or false bravado. You can just be you, and it's okay.

I fiercely adore our little group. And I'm eternally grateful for our past, our present and our future.

Lyndsay said...

Your friends are so awesome - you've all made me cry.
I love the previous comment about letting your friends support you because "No doubt Allie sent them to you for that purpose." How great is that?!

robinandamelia said...

Alcohol induced crying is good sometimes, allows us to release what we would normally not allow to be released!!

Big hugs.

Shannon said...

Ah Jenny,
I feel for you girl. You are in such a wonderful caring circle. Share their energy, they love you. I hope you will seek comfort in your posse. That is what you have all come together for. To make the world a better place through "twists of fate both cruel and kind".

I believe in what Tracey said, I would give back all I have gained from knowing and following your story.

But for the lessons I have learned from you and your posse.

I am truly grateful.

Jennifer said...

hey girl,

I just wanted to stop by and say hi. We had a butterfly land on our car today and the first thing Cade said was - oh mom look, baby Allie sent another butterfly. I started thinking that he will never know life without the Allie/ Butterfly correlation and now he has of course taught Callie the same.

So glad you're doing so well and Maggie is just a doll!

Love you and miss you!


Momto4 said...

*BigHugS* Allie life and death has touched so many. You are an amazing Mama sharing your heart and story here. As a Mom to an Angel I understand your pain. I am so Glad you have the love and support you need and deserve :o) Thank You for Your Awesome Blog!!

Kelly said...

Everyone deals with things in their own way. I'm private like you are. I am pretty sure that if I had to deal with the emotions that you do, as a parent who has lost a child, I'd do it in much the same way as you. You are so lucky to have such strong and loving friends. I think there is no right or wrong way to deal with your emotions. You just have to do it in whatever way feels right to you. No one is judging you...especially not those awesome friends of yours.

Laura said...

I am a stranger who has followed your story and your blog for a while now. It is so nice to know that you have such wonderful friends around you, there to catch you when you falter. If you didn't break now and then, you wouldn't be human. And you are one of the most amazing humans. Here's to the unbreakable bond of great friends.

Candes said...

Just wanted to send you a hug and share a tear. I hate crying in front of anyone, especially here, now, at work when I have a glass WALL and everyone can see me dab at my tears. Don't forget the tale tell (or is it tell tale?) signs like a red nose, glassy eyes and blotchy face.

I hate crying but it's good for the soul. I'd like to find a remote place where I can give a good primal scream to really let it all out. The kind that would cause people to reach for their phones & call the authorities...

I digress. Tons of Hugs

monicac2 said...

You've transcended to a different level with your new friends, and your relationship with them all is now only going to go deeper and deeper. It won't always be you; I'm sure that, as life goes, you'll be that strong shoulder to lean on for one of them one of these days. And know, too, that I and so many other strangers have shed tears for your precious Allie. We *all* support you!

Jacki said...

What honest and true feelings you've laid forth... It is refreshing to read and inspiring to hear of your wonderful tribe of friends.

Hugs to you and your tribe.

Beth at I Should Be Folding Laundry said...

I am so grateful that you have good people in your life. You are amazing and you deserve to be surrounded by amazing people.

I understand not wanting to cry in front of others, I totally & completely understand.