“How are you?”
A kind and seemingly innocuous question, asked multiple times a day. Sometimes by those with genuine interest in the answer, but also often as a customary greeting, the answer to which is essentially irrelevant. “Orange purple penguins” would most likely suffice, if shared with the right intonation. But ask a bereaved mother, and this deceptively simple question can cause an avalanche of feelings. Words tumble with panic and confusion. Or sometimes, there is nothing, blankness, all words evaporate. How am I?… Who am I?… How much should I share?
Today, my reply to a friend was, “I’m a bit tired”. A little while later, she asked again, “How are you, really?” I mumbled about good days and bad days and changed the subject, because in that moment, I just couldn’t find the right words. I have been thinking about it since then, rummaging in the depths of my heart and mind for a true and honest response, searching for the words to capture how I am. And then I realized that my first answer was right all along: I am tired.
I am so, so tired. I am tired from fighting to stay upright, battling to focus on the positives in my life. Tired from wanting so much to be a good person, a good friend, a good wife, a good mother.
I am tired because of the guilt, the responsibility I feel for letting my baby down, for not keeping her safe. I am tired from the weight of the sadness of missing her so deeply. I am tired from the worry that I carry with my every step. Horrific things happen to the best of people, how am I ever going to feel safe? I am tired from hoping for a future that will always remain uncertain.
I am tired from wearing a mask, from trying to appear brave and strong and dignified in my grief. I am tired from fighting for Maeve, so the world won’t forget that she existed, and that she made me who I am in the most wonderful, yet devastating way.
I am tired from feeling the physical pain of my grief. Like a deep, raw hole through my core. An emptiness where Maeve once was. And yet I need to feel it, because that pain means my baby was real. That I am still me.
I’m tired from being me. I am tired from surviving the pain of her loss.
But please still ask me how I am. Don’t be afraid that I might not have the words. Because when you ask, I feel less alone. The fear, the pain, the tiredness are all a part of me because Maeve is a part of me. And any question that brings that most precious part of me into the light, is a gift. If my response sounds like something to do with penguins, please just bear with me.
And maybe ask me again a little later.
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Jess McCormack became both a mother and a bereaved mother in April 2013, when her beautiful Maeve died during labor. Now she is so grateful to have Maeve’s little sister to hold in her arms, while both her daughters have a hold of their mom’s heart.
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If you have a piece you’d like to submit for consideration, please email Angela at abedformyheart@gmail(dot)com with the subject: Guest Submission. We are looking for creative non-fiction pieces that capture the rawness and realness of the reality of life after loss. Important: This is not a call for loss stories, but rather a call for stories that capture the minutes, hours, days, months, years of your life *after* the moment that changed everything. Not a story about how your loved one died, but rather a piece that captures how you get out of bed every morning to face the unthinkable. Pieces must be edited, free from all grammar errors and ready to post. If your piece is chosen you will receive an email response with the date your piece will be published.
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