A couple of days ago, I received an invite to my nephew’s first birthday party.
Initially, I was shocked. I could not wrap my head around the idea that he was already almost a year old! Originally, he and Brock were only supposed to be 10 weeks apart, but he decided to arrive early where Brock chose to arrive late, and a 10 week gap turned into a 16 week one. When I then realized that Brock would have celebrated 8 months of life yesterday (if he had survived, that is) and I did the math, I realized that, yes, it made sense.
Then dread and doubt crept in almost immediately. I have been highly conflicted for the last few days about what course of action I should take, trying to decide between doing the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ things. Most of me – the logical center – is telling me I need to go to this party. I haven’t seen my nephew in 4 months, and I am afraid that, in the future, I’m going to look back on his youth and feel guilty about everything I missed on account of my own emotional strife.
The other part of me is all but certain that, emotionally, I can’t handle it. As much as I would love to go to the party and be all smiles and cheer like everyone else, I know that it won’t happen. They’re just too close, and I see too much of Brock in my nephew. Every time I see him, I am reminded of how excited I was at the prospect that they would be able to grow up together – because, at the time, I was blissfully unaware that babies ever died. Since we lost Brock, I feel like there’s something missing from the picture every time I see my nephew. There’s supposed to be two babies, but instead, there’s only one.
Just how upset would I be? That I’m not sure of. I might be able to observe quietly without having any meltdowns, or I might completely lose my marbles and spend the whole party crying in the guest room upstairs. In either case, I am doubtful that they will understand. If I manage to keep my emotions in check, they won’t realize how hard even that is for me, and I’m going to be so busy trying not to have a meltdown that I’m not going to enjoy myself on any capacity. If I lose it, not only am I going to feel awful and embarrassed for taking away from their happy event, they’re still not likely to understand why I would have reacted in that way. I wouldn’t want them to understand, either, but in either case, I’d feel like a terrible person just for trying to deal with my own emotions.
I don’t think that my brother-in-law and his fiancee are cold people or anything, but I do find they are particularly emotionally distant when it comes to us losing Brock. I can’t judge because I’d probably be pretty detached too if the situations were reversed, and I am legitimately glad that they don’t understand what we are going through. At the same time, sometimes I really do wish that people understood when situations were exceptionally difficult for me so I wouldn’t feel quite so guilty when I don’t handle things the way that I am expected to.
With all that said, I’ve decided that I can’t attend the party. As much as I would love to pretend that I am a bigger, stronger person than I am, and give people the impression that I can handle tough stuff like it’s no big deal, I also realize that I need to worry about myself first, and, sadly, I’m just not able to handle this sort of thing – not yet. The possible outcomes I see all fall on a spectrum somewhere between ‘bad’ and ‘catastrophically awful’. I am afraid that they will be disappointed, and maybe even offended, that I’m not going to be there, but the sad truth of it is that I can’t explain why I can’t be there in a way that they will understand, nor can I begrudge them for not understanding. I can only hope that they are able to see the same logic – that just because I can’t explain it to them doesn’t make my feelings any less valid – and that they realize it’s nothing against them or their son. I might have tried to attend (even if only for a short while) if the event were held locally, but since they live a long way away from us, I can’t justify three hours of driving to pop in for half an hour before getting overwhelmed.
As if losing a child weren’t enough… I now need to proceed forward with the worry that every decision I make is potentially going to offend or anger people. I can’t handle more than I can handle, though. I hope they will understand. 😦