Oct 28, 2010

The Year of Magical Thinking

I'm reading this book called The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.  In my humble opinion, I dare say it may trump A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis for honesty in detailing the process and effects of life after loss.  My favorite part about this book, for its many validations, is its title.  To me, it's validating just to have in the title that I get a whole year. 

The magical thinking comes from our feeling responsible for the event, that we had some control over it, albeit rationally we realize that we didn't.  Outsiders verbally relinquishing us of said responsibility is just infuriating.  I know I didn't allow her to die.  But, outsiders cannot reach my magical mind.  The thoughts there are untouched by rationale.  Other magical thoughts are sensations that we were left behind by our loved ones.  Grief, she writes, is something you don't recognize until you are there.

Didion talks about how after 8 or 9 months, she begins to feel fragile.  How at this point, we see our continued cognitive deficits, anxieties, whatever creeps in at this point, our sadness, as self-pity.  As "failure to manage the situation."  I have felt extremely pressured (by myself, by my assumptions of what others are thinking) to appear as though I'm "managing."  For some things I am.  Other things are worse than even those first weeks.  Other things are the same.  At times I even enjoy the intimacy and liberties of being part of the Damaged Goods Club.

9 months ago today, I was driving to my final midwife appointment, the one from which in many ways I've never returned.  On the drive, I played I'm Yours by Jason Mraz repeatedly, singing along for Brynn, who I assumed was still alive, and thought of another song, by Roger Whitaker, I'd like to sing to her.  I would sing it to her when I held her for the first time.  It would be my song for her:  "Hey.  Did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world?  She walked out on me.  Tell her I love her.  Tell her I need my baby now.... tell her I'm sorry."

The walking out on me part has indeed made this our song.

Today I took Shane to the doctor.  She noticed my belly and asked him if he was going to be a big brother.  I absolutely love how he answered these questions.

Nodded head yes and said, "This is another boy."  What are you going to name him?  "We ALREADY did name him Noah.  And Brynn died because she came too early."  (he has countless theories for why Brynn died, each as magical and possible as anyone else's guess.)

He doesn't hesitate to tell his story, our story.  He doesn't stop to consider how she will react, how the energy in the room will shift, what will be said next and by whom.  These thoughts, in so many daily situations, fill my head with pressure and anxiety.  I don't befriend any of the other moms waiting outside of Shane's story group, for fear of the dreaded question that I still can't answer honestly:  Is this your 2nd?


  1. So beautiful...thanks for sharing some of the less obvious details, the daily dialogues and monologues that are impossible for anyone outside your situation to imagine. I know that with time you are expected to be managing and rational, both of which are more complicated than they sound. You're doing a wonderful job, and your magical thinking is perfectly understandable. And the story about Shane made me think about how the lack of self-consiousness of children is always kind of wonderful and kind of uncomfortable at the same time. I find this when my daughter points out, "Mommy burped," whether or not anyone else is around. Keep writing!

  2. I don't have a clue what you are going through.
    My mom and dad lost a son when he was 3 years old.
    My mom always said when asked, we have three and one in heaven.
    He died when I was 18 months old from appendicitis.
    I know my mom carried her grief for the rest of her life. She wasn't outwardly sad, but every once in a while she would say something or do something that told me that Jeffrey was never from her thoughts.
    You and your family are in my nightly prayers.

  3. I can relate to the fear of the most basic questions. I have no idea how to answer questions like "is this your first?" and "when is your due date?" The 10 people who ask those questions every day have no idea that they are walking into a land mine.

    I hope that you are doing well! I keep the laminated card that you made for Brynn on my fridge--it's such a beautiful image.