Survivor’s Guilt

by jth

They say coping with loss gets easier with time.

I think we just get better at hiding our feelings until most everyone else has forgotten what happened.

In the days and weeks after Matthew’s death, I was barreling through life like a man on a mission. There were things to do, arrangements to be made, matters to be settled, loose ends to tie up, mourners to comfort and… well, someone had to take charge of all of that. As I am peculiarly drawn to take charge of the uncomfortable things that others are reluctant to do, the situation was oddly comfortable to start. I set about accomplishing various tasks in a workmanlike manner, which afforded me the opportunity to separate (somewhat) my emotions from the larger situation. I wasn’t ignoring what had happened; I was just subconsciously distracting myself from the unpleasantness of it all.

In the last month or so, all that I had been distracted from has caught up with me, and not gradually. There are more mornings than not where I wake up with a desire to simply do nothing; to be ignored and left alone most of the day. I know myself well enough to know that feeling is not normal for me. Ok — it may be normal under the circumstances, but it’s not my usual posture toward the world.

Everything seems to be a trigger that reminds me what happened. At my age and station in life (and thanks in no small part to the magic of the Internet), it seems as if happy, healthy infant children — and their proud parents — are everywhere I turn. Even when I look for the words of others who have experienced a similar loss, it always seems as if they lost their second or third child, meaning they still at least have one or more living, breathing children. I get a bitter, resentful feeling when I read that bit of info. I am quietly outraged by the audacity of their greed, though I know greed has no part in their story or grief.

I have become well-acquainted with the knowledge that, less than 24 hours before he was declared dead, Matthew was alive and kicking inside his mother. He was nearly full-term and might have been safely delivered. If only I had known he was in distress; if only I had known the signs of distress — that decreased movement is in fact NOT normal late in the pregnancy term, something we were never told — I wonder if he might have been saved. Even if not, I wonder if I would have at least been able to see him move or take a breath. Just one movement that I could see with my own eyes.

Just one breath.

At some point during most days, I usually will ask myself “What’s the point of living?” Not because I have a desire to die, but because I am left to wonder what my purpose in continuing to exist is. Everything in the world seems to be in turmoil, and while much of it could be put right, it seems as if the majority of us lack the desire, will, understanding or empathy to do so.

Most days, I’m not really living anyway — I’m just surviving,

And I don’t understand why I’m doing even that.