“Hi, my name is Trudie and I’m part of the tragedy support group. I’m here to help you cope with my tragedy and to assist you in your dealings with me. Let me hold your hand as I walk you through it.”
There’s this stupid ad on TV where a guy wants to go on a boys’ weekend and his girlfriend won’t let him. So his mate comes into the house and holds her hand saying “Hi, I’m from Mitch’s network support group. Mitch loves you very much but he needs time out to reinvigorate his soul …” My sons think this is hilarious and often repeat it using different analogies.
When I started to think about this post, that ad is the first thing that came into mind. I should hold people’s hands, look into their eyes and say Hi, I’m Trudie etc etc.
That’s I feel most of the time; that I am responsible for making it easier for people to cope with the death of my daughter and to cope with my sadness. I know that when I want to tell people about Clea that I always find the right place and the right time so that they are comfortable and not too discomforted by my revelations. And I always try my best to tell Clea’s story in such a matter of fact way that they won’t feel the need to cry on my shoulder.
But wait a minute, aren’t they supposed to comfort me and let me cry on their shoulders? (Not that I like crying on other people’s shoulders).
My husband had an email not so long ago from an old ‘friend’ (I use the term very loosely these days). This person had emailed him just after Clea’s death along the lines of sympathy with a ‘hope you’re feeling well’ at the end – don’t you love that? I remember a text about a week after Clea’s funeral which read ‘hope all is well’. This person’s next email, coming two years later, simply asked “Is this still your email?” to which my husband replied “Yes”. And that was it.
I have since thought that maybe my husband’s reply should have been: Thank you for your email. I know that you are finding it difficult to reach out to me and I’d like to make it easier for you by pretending that my life has not changed and that the death of my beloved daughter has not made such a big impact on my life.
I wonder if that would have helped this person to send another email and even, dare I suggest it, pick up the telephone.
“I felt then that he knew I had recognised the death in his eyes, and was somehow apologising for not being able to hide it from me.” Two Pretty Men by Chuah Guat Eng.
This quote is from a story about a man who is dying and the response is from a lady who had just met the dying man.
That is how I feel – that I have to somehow apologise for not being able to hide my pain. That, in order, for people to feel comfortable with me, I have to pretend that I am ‘over’ the death of my daughter.
This morning, on my way to work, I stopped at my daughter’s grave and laid pink roses on top of her. I told her that today was my last day at the Department of Climate Change. I told her that last night I went out with two mothers of her friends and that one of these friends had finally shown me the mailbox she had created to remember Clea (maybe she expects ‘communication’ from Clea, hence the mailbox, I’m not sure). I shed my tears and I said ‘see ya’ like she always said to me.
That is my reality. Yes, it is uncomfortable but I can’t help you there.
And to complete my tirade, I will finish with a quote from Tom Perrottas book The Leftovers – “… (she was) the one who’d managed to impersonate a functional, relatively cheerful human being …”
Like Clea, I’m good at pretending. As she said almost every day, ‘let’s pretend we’re …’ yes; let’s all pretend.