Hanging On Too Tight?

“When are you gonna get rid of this thing?”

MJ was on the computer when she growled the previous sentence at me. I had no idea what she was talking about, but I assumed it was something of little consequence or just a mild annoyance that was eating at her. But when she turned the laptop toward me and pointed to what was bugging her, I was blown away.

With a scowl on her face and genuine pissiness in her voice, she pointed to this:

I was shocked.

I explained that a very thoughtful blogging friend made that specifically for us in remembrance of Alex. And from there, dozens of other bloggers put it on their sites in support of what we went through. But all of that aside, I told her I like it. Sure it makes me a little sad sometimes, but I told MJ I also think it’s important for us to always remember Alex. And this button helps with that.

She disagreed. Big time.

She wants it gone. In fact she wants all traces of that incident erased. She told me remembering it just makes things more difficult. She told me hanging on makes me unable to move on. And it didn’t stop with Alex. She also took the opportunity to tell me it’s ridiculous that I’m still upset about my friend’s suicide 10 years ago. Just for good measure, she said she thinks it’s stupid to visit graveyards at all.

OK. First of all, I will admit I do dwell in the past somewhat. I know I come across as an insensitive prick most of the time, but I’m actually very sentimental.  I have ticket stubs from meaningful sporting events littering the recesses of my house. The Patriots bottle opener on my keychain is 9 years old and I keep it because I found it on the ground after the St. Louis Rams game, after which the Patriots didn’t lose another game on their way to the Super Bowl. I even kept the shirt I was wearing the day I lost my virginity. So yeah, I get it. Sometimes I cling to things from the past.

But I will not take that badge down. Ever.

MJ has the uncanny ability to turn off all emotion and move on. Quickly. And good for her. Sometimes I wish I could be more like that. But what caused the real argument between is is that she’s mad at me for naming Alex. For turning her into a real person, because MJ doesn’t think she was one.  I disagree. I am moving on from what happened, but unlike my wife I don’t want to forget. In fact, I refuse to forget. That whole ordeal changed me, for better or worse, and to pretend it didn’t happen or that it wasn’t real is not a viable option for me.

I find the whole thing ironic because MJ is a history major. And from what I remember in those classes, future success hinges largely on recalling past events. As long as people don’t get so bogged down in ancient history that they can’t function in the present, I see nothing wrong with remembering something/someone worthy of being remembered.

I would never do anything to intentionally hurt my wife or cause her pain. But that badge is staying there. And I refuse to apologize or feel guilty about that.

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17 thoughts on “Hanging On Too Tight?

  1. Aaron,

    earlier today I came across your blog from a different site, http://abortionclinicdays.blogs.com/. I had been looking for more of a support site on abortion. So I spent the afternoon reading your posts about what you and your wife went through. I was in tears. I myself have gone through an abortion, completely different circumstances. The first few months after, I shut down completely and tried to move on. Now several years later, I am still trying to deal. I can understand your wife’s wanting to take that down. And I completely understand about you not wanting to. I was 15 weeks and 4 days when I had mine. And I never knew what sex mine was, although I did see the ultra sound. I refused to name mine and didn’t get a copy of the ultra sound, and I wish I had gotten it now. But the worse part was never acting on their advice to speak with other people who had gone through it.

    Please tell your wife that being able to read sites/posts like yours helps some of us cope. To know that there are people who have gone through something similar and willing to write about it and stand up to people like those protesters at the clinic, it helps tremendously!


  2. I just wonder if “forgetting” is more defense mechanism than a natural gift as you suggest, i.e. as Jane did, maybe MJ is just locking that grief, that loss, and maybe even some guilt.
    Have the two of you sought any post-surgical counselling or anything to help guide you through your grief?
    I think its right for you to remember. But I’m also sympathetic to how MJs feeling too. I guess you guys will have to find a way for your memories to coexist. Best wishes, Aaron-

  3. People grieve and eventually deal with pain in very different ways. Yours is to remember, MJ’s is to forget. I’m a lot like you in keeping the past alive via mementos and other reminders. I need those reminders to make me feel better and eventually move on. Eventually, I’m glad they are there. I can understand MJ’s wanting to forget, but sometimes that means burying things inside of you until one day they come back to haunt you. Either way, I hope you and MJ come to know healing and peace.

  4. My huband and I have been through a similar experience. We lost a baby girl at 24 weeks. We had a funeral for her and my husband made me a memory box for her. It has all of her hospital stuff, pictures, newspaper articles, etc. Its been 4 years and I have never opened that box and probably never will. I’m not trying to forget her, I think about her every single day. The box has been moved to the closet because I would catch a glimpse of it at the most inopportune times (playing with my daughter, laughing at a joke, getting ready to go out with my husband) and it would crush me. If my husband blogged, I would want to read his blog entries everyday but I would have a hard time enjoying what was written with that starring me in the face, bringing me back to that horrible day. For me, the memories of the physical pain are almost as bad as the emotional. The memories in my head, I can refer back to at my own discretion.

    I’m not saying that M.J. is right or wrong, but I understand and would feel the exact same way.

  5. MJ isn’t forgetting. She’s deferring the hurt to a later date because right now it’s too much for her. If she truly were over it, she wouldn’t be bothered by your remembrance. It’s especially telling that she was angry over your sadness at your friend’s suicide and claims that visiting graves is stupid.

    Right now, MJ is in too much pain to view Alex as a real person. “I lost a fetus” is much easier to deal with than, “I lost a real person just like my son.”

    I can’t tell you what to do with the picture, but I think you need to deeply consider your wife’s feelings right now and the fact that she is mourning, although differently from you.

    Give MJ a hug for me. She needs it.

  6. I don’t see how you could ever forget. Hopefully you can both be free to grieve as you need too. I know it’s beyond difficult.

    I thought I was sentimental. I keep all kinds of crap, but the shirt you lost your virginity in takes the cake. I love it. Since I got married I have thrown out a lot of my crap though. There just isn’t enough room sometimes.

  7. St. Louis Rams game

    You’ll appreciate that I can’t ever look at the Rams as the St. Louis Rams. As a little boy I used to drive by their corporate office in LA. Georgia killed her damn husband and took control of that team- turned a good team into bad. But that is a different story.

    Anyway, we grieve as we grieve and there is no one way to do it. You just have to do what is right for you and work it out with MJ as you go. She’ll do her thing and you’ll yours and you’ll meet somewhere in the middle.

  8. I think you just stepped into some deep shit by blogging about this at all
    Remind MJ you need your eyes (don’t punch ’em out)

  9. I don’t know what to say, yet I feel the need to let you know that your post made me feel…not yet sure what I feel…sad perhaps…but it made me feel…wish I could hug you both…better yet, wishing I could be there to play with your fabulous toddler so you 2 could go have a good chat/cry/hug together without the rest of us chiming in…!

  10. I absolutely sympathize with your wife.

    Ten years ago my first born child died shortly after I gave birth to her. I knew very early in my pregnancy that my daughter’s life expectancy was slim to none. I retreated from everyone. I’d lost my husband, her father, to a car accident just weeks before I found out I was pregnant. We’d been married almost 3 days, had known each other and were best friends since I was 4, for a total of just over 14 years. His death started my slow retreat, the knowledge that I was going to lose the only real legacy of him hastened my retreat…and I just didn’t retreat from those that knew about the pregnancy (I didn’t even tell my parents) I retreated from everyone, lashed out to those that tried to reach out, looking back now I was too absorbed in just not wanting to exist to care.

    It took me three years before I could talk to those that knew about it where my daughter was concerned. Five years after the fact before, in a rage of anger, I laid it out to my mother. Eight years before I felt comfortable even mentioning her to new doctors who didn’t have my old charts yet. Its been ten years and I’m still working on being comfortable with talking about it with new friends, especially when I find myself ‘letting it slip’ that I’ve been pregnant more times than I have children to show for it.

    It stings. Deeply. I feel like I failed my daughter, whose name is Alonna Emerald, by the way. I feel guilty when I see my other living children, the extent of my pregnancy issues with them just included lots of vomit and heartburn or ulcers. I feel overcome with so many conflicting emotions its hard to describe. I’m angry but at the same time I’m also happy…had it not been for that deep dark hole I sunk into I wouldn’t have the two beautiful children I enjoy daily now. It really, truly sucks to the deeps core of my being. Even now, ten years later, with all the coming out of that dark hole of denial, to put it simply, I find myself choking back the tears I want to shed for her. I think I, on some level, refuse to mourn her because if I mourn her then the nightmare was/is real.

    I did the same basic thing when 3 of my 4 grandparents died (within a 2 year stretch, just a year after I lost my husband and daughter) – I shut off the pain, the tears, all of it. If I don’t mourn them, it didn’t happen, if I wait long enough I’ll wake up, it’ll be early in 2000, I’m still an 18 year old Senior in high school, and my whole world hasn’t fallen completely apart yet.

    My dad’s death three years ago hit me quite hard and unexpectedly. He was 44 and I’m completely a daddy’s girl. A few weeks later I found out I was pregnant with my almost 3 year old daughter. A child that I was told was never going to be. My current husband is, according to doctors, sterile. I again didn’t take or have the time to grief my father’s death, I pushed it off again. In a way I can thank my husband for helping me break out of that shell. He pushed me from time to time. I’d be roaring angry with him, all while that nagging voice in the back of my head told me that he was right. I needed to cry for him, I needed to cry for all of them. After a while I started giving in just a little, the thing that hurt though, is the times I’d mustered up the courage to start to let go he’d interrupt with some (in my opinion) lame offer of sympathy or take it as some sort of attack against him if I was letting the anger over the situations come out.

    There is no perfect answer. In my head I just want my husband to sit there and listen to me, if I come across as complaining about the way he washes the dishes or doesn’t unroll his dirty socks when he takes them off, I just want him to sit there and take it while I just get it all unloaded. I have to start ‘small’ and build up my courage to really face the core issues.

    Now I haven’t read beyond this post, so I don’t know the entire story. By the date on the button it looks as if this is still a very fresh wound for her, but you are right in acknowledging that she needs to grieve. I can’t tell you how to handle the situation, each situation, no matter how similar, is different. For me personally, I wish I had met my current husband at least 9 years ago, instead of just 6. I wish he would of been there to lovingly push me to grieve, not as my husband, but as my friend. I wish he would of been there to encourage me – not hound me, encourage, encouragement can come across by actions, not just words – to speak to a professional, even if it meant he had to attend the support groups, family counselor, whatever, by himself for a few days/weeks/months. Most of all I just wish that once in a while he’d just let me use him as a sounding board to just unload it all on him, without interruption, until I cracked, the just wrap his arms around me and not say a word. Warm and loving silence speaks much louder than anything in the world.

    I’ll say a prayer for peace and healing for both of you.

    …((Sorry, really didn’t intend to make this comment what should be a blog post in itself.))…

  11. I can relate to MJ. I don’t want a constant reminder of people I have lost. My friend was murdered (shot) by her ex over a year ago and anytime I find myself thinking of her, I try to push it away before it overwhelms me. I know this won’t work forever and I feel it’s not honoring her memory but I can’t help it. It hurts too much. I’m sure at some point MJ will be able to think and talk about it but, clearly, right now is not the time for her.

  12. There is no right answer. My husband and I, were lucky enough to both feel the same way about this topic after Ariana passed away, we both craved seeing her things, her photos, to keep her as part of our family. (not that putting things away would ever remove her from the title of second child!)

    I do think however, that no person has the right to ask another to grieve differently. Even though she is your wife, and she is going through this as well. Even though technically, it happened “to” her. I think that in the way you respect and support her quiet disasociation, she should respect your need to remember.

    The fact that MJ bought up your sadness at an incident that happened over ten years makes me think perhaps she is feeling, and remembering more than she wants you to know, and sometime down the road, you might find she is not as emotially detached as you think she is.

    Be kind to each other. The loss of a child often breaks up even the strongest relationships. Your hearts are hurting, and will for some time to come. They just hurt in different ways.

  13. You each are grieving in your own way. You have a lot of good advice here. I’ve had 3 miscarriages… the last one was mid-pregnancy. I never named any of the three babies, but I do carry them in a corner of my heart. It took me a long time to deal with them… and I am still dealing with them. Not every day, but every so often the sadness pops up and I have to deal with it. It makes me hug my living children tighter. I want to memorize every nuance of their being so I can recall it forever. It probably won’t ever go away.

    Your friend’s suicide is similar. My dad committed suicide when my first baby was 6 months old. We never found out the true reasonings behind it; we stayed with my grandparents over the holidays while the services were planned. My grandmother passed away the morning of my dad’s funeral. Suddenly we had two deaths to deal with. She just couldn’t take it. We had to be strong in her place. Almost 20 years later, I am still dealing with the losses. I don’t think any of our losses ever go away. We just get more comfortable with them. My heartfelt condolences on what you’ve both gone through. Give each other the space to grieve in your own ways and keep loving each other. It’s the best anyone can hope for.

  14. I don’t believe you’re holding on too tight. You went through something heartbreaking. I believe that what’s important is that you recognize the way the other is dealing with their grief, and try to support each other when you can. We all grieve differently. I have an aunt and uncle who lost a child, and they were never able to reconcile their different ways of dealing with it – one talks about her all the time, the other not at all. They’re not together anymore, and it’s sad. I can’t imagine the pain you’ve both felt, and I hope you’re both able to find some kind of peace.

  15. I know. I didn’t want to but MJ was really upset. Even though I disagree wholeheartedly I don’t want to cause her pain. So its down. Boo.

  16. Badge or no badge… you will never forget.

    No matter the circumstances a lost child is never forgotten.

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