Wednesday, February 4, 2015
This weekend I hung out with my friends Melissa and Jason and watched the Superbowl with our kids. I am, admittedly, a rabid football fan, but I really had no vested interest in either team this year, so I really didn't care too much for the outcome. Like most Americans, I chose to enjoy the halftime shows and the commercials more than the actual game.
(Especially with that ending. I mean, c'mon. Who throws on second and goal when you have Marshawn Lynch? But that's a different discussion.)
I really enjoyed the halftime show, and even some of the commercials. But I somehow missed the one that had lots of people talking later in the week. The commercial that was dubbed "the worst commercial of the SuperBowl."
I'm talking about that Nationwide commercial. The one where the kid dies.
I'm not sure how I managed to miss this commercial, or maybe I just missed the actual ending of it, because I do remember seeing parts of it on the TV, but I suppose it happened to air at a moment that I was doing what I normally do with commercials---tuning them out. So I didn't quite "catch" it in the moment.
But my Facebook newsfeed told me all about it.
"Way to go, Nationwide, way to be the SuperBowl buzzkill."
"Did Nationwide intentionally want to bring everyone down during the Superbowl? Inappropriate!"
And even better...
"Just what I want to think about while I eat my nachos...dead kids. Thanks Nationwide!"
I totally get it. It seems "out of place." And I've since watched the commercial, purposefully. I saw it on one of those celebrity news shows that did a piece on the Best and Worst Superbowl commercials of 2015.
It was dubbed the worst.
The main reason why? Nobody wants to think about grief and loss.
Especially not during the SuperBowl.
In the days since the big game I've seen the topic pop up on lots of babyloss blogs and sites for grieving parents. Everyone has an opinion.
There are some that say, this is a necessary PSA. And if you're bothered by it, you are not living in reality. Well done to Nationwide for speaking up on an issue that is sometimes preventable.
There are others that say, why is this so strange? For many people grief and loss are a huge part of their day, a reality that can often feel isolating from the rest of the world. Kudos to Nationwide for bringing it to the forefront.
Some others felt it was a painful reminder. That there are so many people who have dealt with childloss or babyloss, why does it have to be thrown in their face and brought back up when they're merely trying to do something normal like watch the Superbowl, and "move on" in life, learning to live with their grief? Thanks to Nationwide, for pouring salt in their wound.
And then there is a larger majority, made up mostly it seems, by people who've never experienced childloss or babyloss, who think it was completely inappropriate and poorly placed. Not the time, not the place, and certainly not what people want to think about when they're watching a football game.
A Superbowl buzzkill.
There's no wrong reaction, I don't think. But I do find that people react very differently depending on whether or not they've experienced a loss like this.
Surprisingly I don't have much of an opinion. I'm sure the old me, who never thought that this kind of loss would happen to me, would've been very bothered by it. I probably would've been one of those people who thought it was poorly placed because it's depressing and sad, and didn't fit into my neat bubble of what's supposed to happen in life.
Especially not during a commercial for the SuperBowl.
But now I watch it and think, "hmm. That's interesting that they chose that angle."
I don't feel particularly affected by it, but I do think that is has it's place. Is it morbid? Yes. But so have been much of my thoughts since April 30th, 2014. I'm not bothered by that.
Or maybe I'm just desensitized.
I do feel a bit of a kinship, though, to it's new reputation. That of a buzzkill.
There used to be a time I didn't write about grief and babyloss. And sometimes I really hate that I write about it. Mostly I hate that grief has become such an active player in my life that I've had to learn to tackle it. It would be lovely to block it completely from my mind, throw a smile on my face and just resume my old life.
But that won't work.
Because I had a child, and I think about him and who he would've been every single day.
And I miss him.
Talking and/or writing about it has simply become my vehicle. And there's the other part of me that feels so much relief to be able to get the words out of my head and written down somewhere. There's the part of me that feels alive and understood again when I connect with someone who tells me that they have felt the exact same way and can relate.
I love that I found my voice. I hate that it needs to write about this.
I'm such a Gemini.
In the first few months after Reece died, I couldn't write about my grief, but I could talk about it. And even when I didn't talk about it, it was all over me. It was everywhere, it was all around me, and written all over my face. It hung over my like a black cloud.
In the past few months, as I've actively tried to become more vocal, I've started to feel glimpses of my old self coming back again. Seems ironic because now I'm actually WRITING about the things that plagued me over the past year, just as I feel like I'm making tiny improvements. I do believe that writing has helped me to work through some of the things that I just let fester inside of me after losing Reece. Now I can have a few "good days" in a row, instead of one bearable day sandwiched between a week's worth of awful ones.
But to say that I'm back to normal would be a lie. Because I'll never be the same girl I was before this happened.
Sometimes when I share my blog I want to give a little disclaimer. One that says, "Read with caution. This is heavy stuff. I've been known to write stuff that makes my friends cry. I'm not trying to, it's just my way of dealing."
"You really don't have to read this if you don't want to, I just needed to write it out. Sorry to be a downer."
Sorry to be a buzzkill.
It happens in real life too...co-worker or friend is talking about their pregnancy and then I walk in the room. They either awkwardly stop talking about it and quickly shift topics, or continue to talk about it and try their best to avoid eye contact with me. I can almost hear their thoughts, "oh please don't let her bring up her dead baby, please please please....I just wanted to talk about the new nursery furniture I picked out."
You guys, I get it. I'm not dumb. It's okay. I wasn't always on this side of the babyloss fence. I know it's tough to navigate how to "deal" with a bereaved mom. I know it's awkward to be my friend right now.
It's tough and awkward for me too.
Sometimes I want to say to my grief, "you know, I used to be a really funny person before you came along. I used to be the life of the party, and I had lots of friends who could be sarcastic and silly with me. They didn't need to handle me gently like they do now, or constantly worry that they might say the wrong thing. I didn't make people feel uncomfortable. I didn't always blog about sad and scary things."
I used to write about shoes (yay!), and camping (ugh), and trips in my city or visiting friends. Even my crush on Ryan Lochte during the Olympics. Sometimes I read my old posts and it's like I'm reading them with fresh eyes for the first time. Damn, I was funny!
But now I write about how going to Target terrified me last year. About how going to court to fulfill my civic duty filled me with dread. About how I've made some wonderful friendships in the worst of circumstances.
Sometimes I get really pissed off that this is now my thing to deal with.
I don't want to be known for babyloss. I don't want to be the one who has to explain how it feels from this side. I don't want to write things that make people cry.
I don't want to be the buzzkill.
Thanks, Nationwide commercial. We were just trying to enjoy the Superbowl.
Thanks, Nas. We were just trying to make small talk.
The reality is, for me, I feel kind of the same way about my effect on people as I do about the commercial's effect on people.
Mostly...I kinda don't care.
Sorry if it ruins your lunch. Sorry if putting yourself in my shoes for a moment ruined your day. Sorry if it made you sad for a few minutes. Sorry, not sorry.
But if for a moment you thought, wow, thank you for sharing that. Maybe you're thinking, "I have a friend who lost a baby and I don't know how to relate to her." Now I know what she might be thinking or feeling. Or maybe you thought, I've felt these feelings before, but I never spoke out about it, because maybe you lost your baby at 13 weeks, 10 weeks, or 8 weeks. And you didn't feel you had "the right" to grieve (you so do) because people didn't know yet, or you weren't that far along (doesn't matter, loss is loss). Or maybe you had a loss 30 years ago and buried it deep in your soul and put on that brave face and moved forward in your life...because you didn't want to be a buzzkill to those who around you who love you. You wanted to get better for them, even if you didn't feel better.
Sometimes life is really effing tough.
You can't always be the life of the SuperBowl party.
But you can always have hope that one day you will laugh with reckless abandon again. And it won't be a cover up to make people feel comfortable. It'll be genuine. And you'll smile not because you force it, but because it just happens somewhat involuntarily. I know because I'm getting there.
Slowly, but surely.