I’m Not Strong. (Trust Me.)


A number of people have responded to my post discussing the positive sides of this tragic experience by telling me I’m strong.

I wish it were true. I wish I was strong. But that’s totally not it.

I swear I’m not trying to be humble.

Here’s the thing: I have responded to each new piece of bad news by bawling, wanting to throw up, and/or wanting to run away. Often all three.

After the phone call confirming his diagnosis I actually crawled under the computer desk to hide, and then I called my Mom to take Lydia because I couldn’t handle taking care of her any more.

Since arriving at the hospital, there have been days I have literally cried from morning to evening.

You should have seen the tantrum I threw when they moved us to a smaller, crappier room with fewer windows and no phone or computer. (Actually, no. You shouldn’t have.)

And I can’t even handle other people’s happiness. I can’t go onto Instagram because I get so overwhelmed with envy towards everyone who’s at home with their healthy children. Some days, I hate everyone who’s at home doing cute crafts with their toddlers while we’re sitting in a sterile hospital room, two hours away from our little girl.

I’m a pretty silly, sad little girl most days.

* * *

But here’s how it goes.

After the initial shock, I quickly go numb. It’s a really handy mechanism, actually – the going numb thing. I think that’s what happens to any of us when we experience more grief and tragedy than we can bear. We stop being able to feel for a while. To protect us.
If you haven’t experienced it yet I bet you will at some point.

Then the feelings eventually start creeping back. The grief and despair. You start to understand what’s happening. But incrementally this time, so they don’t bowl you over this time. This is the stage where I cry and cry for a few hours.

And then finally, eventually, you have to do something. You can’t just stand there forever. You puke or you sob until you pass out . . . and then, there you are. Still existing. You have to do something.

So you go eat lunch. Or you make some phone calls. Or you go on Facebook. It’s not necessarily being strong . . . it’s just dealing with the fact that you’re still existing even though you’d really rather not.

And then you start to look for ways to make your continuing existence a little more bearable. Like going online and buying an expensive doll for your sick baby, or sending your husband to buy season 3 of Veronica Mars on DVD because you really want to know what’s going to happen between Veronica and Logan. And you notice how yummy the food is that the volunteers are serving at the Ronald McDonald House and you make a mental note to love them for the rest of your life.

And me? I make lists. I make lists of what’s still good in the world. And then I post them online, because that’s what you do with writing nowadays.

I’m just doing what I have to do to survive, since Quitting Existence whenever life threatens to crush me with grief unfortunately doesn’t seem to be an option. If I’ve got to keep existing, I have to look for reasons to do so. And I have to get through this if I ever want to be home with my family again.

I promise you, you would do it too.

* * *

*Postscript – For those who have been following our story and praying for us: it seems the paperwork has gone through for the next stage of his treatment, and we’re hoping to start on Tuesday. Praise God, and thanks for your prayers!

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  1. Yes, this. I once endured a really terrible year myself and people used to tell me to “stay strong”. What?? I was only alive because I happened to still breathe. My own strength had nothing to do with it.

    Praying for sunnier days ahead, Kathleen, and that your sweet boy gets to play with his doll soon.

  2. I know exactly what you mean. I’ve been going to through that for a few years now with infertility. It seeps in or it just hits me every now and then. I lose it in those moments, but to even try to deal with the whole weight of pain all at once, it’s just too much. We are praying for you and your family.
    Joslyn recently posted..One Woman, One Bag: Post #1My Profile

  3. Hallelujah for that last postscript! And continued grace and peace to sustain you all.

  4. Melissa Fulmer says:

    :( I get excruciating migraines that is the only thing that kept me from crying my eyes out most days in my experience with my preemie. And watching lots of Psych in any moment I had free when I was overwhelmed!

    • Oooh . . . I hadn’t heard of Psych before, but I just googled it and it sounds like everything I love in a TV show . . . I’m a big fan of both detective stories and comedy. And TV is the only thing that gets us through some days. :) THanks for understanding!

  5. I recommend Psych as well. . .

    I am so hopeful about the next phase of treatment for Felix. Praying, praying, praying.

  6. You don’t know me, but I’ve appreciated so many of your blog thoughts/suggestions over the last couple years. Don’t remember how I originally found your blog, but I stuck around because I agree with your thoughts on ECing (and had a similar experience with my own daughter, who is almost 3 now), appreciated your tips for going shampoo free, use your recipe for homemade deodorant and am challenged/stretched by your musings on religion, Jesus, creation care and parenting. Thank you for continuing to share your story, despite the overwhelming sadness. I will continue to pray. (And I’m praising God for the postscript!)

  7. I posted this comment on the wrong post. I meant it here.
    Felix is beautiful! You are amazing. We will keep praying for this new treatment. Xx becca
    Becca recently posted..anxiety, guilt and the holy work of playMy Profile

  8. “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” – Romans 8:26 (NRSV)

    I will continue to pray for you and your family.

  9. Kathleen, thank you for the most apt description of the grief experience that I have ever come across. It was a remote kind of catharsis for me to read, never having had the chance to belong to any support group after losing my first two pregnancies. Thanks for your honesty.

  10. I am praying my heart out for your little boy (and you).

  11. Hello again. I don’t want to say I know what it’s like, because I don’t. Although my now healthy 10 month old was hospitalized 4x before he was 4 months for surgeries and other treatments for a complex congenital heart defect. People told me I was stoic and strong because I’m not much of a crier, but I was a wreck in other ways, and definitely experiencing that periodic numbness that you talk about. I couldn’t handle the idea of having pictures of him being hooked up to all kinds of equipment so we don’t have any from that time. I kind of regret this now. But I’d like to thank you for sharing this much of your story because it has helped me. You have articulated things I have not been able to and have made me feel less alone. Continuing to pray for Felix and your family. He’s adorable and you can see in his face how much he knows he is loved.

    • Thanks so much for your words, Eileen. Even though their conditions are different, I’m sure our experiences are still very similar. It helps SO MUCH to feel you’re not alone. On another note, I’m so glad your baby is now doing well, and hospitalization is just a memory!

  12. Amanda Andersen says:

    I stumbled across your blog while looking for NoPoo stories and I just want to reach out and let you know I’m praying for you and your sweet family. I can’t begin to imagine how hard this for you and how wonderful you are to open up and share such a life altering experience with the world. So many prayers for such an honest mama.

  13. I’m so glad the paperwork went through! Continuously praying for you and thinking of you, Felix, and your family. Sending you love from Baltimore, MD

  14. Hello. I’ve been reading your blog since I became pregnant with my daughter last January, and I just want to say I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. I can’t imagine how hard this must be. My prayers are with you and your little boy.

  15. Brianna Hamilton says:

    I’m a friend of a friend….your words are possibly some of the most honest and gut-wrenching things I have read in a long time. Your ability to be this honest is the epitomy of strength, in my opinion. Prayers for you and your family.

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