Wednesday, September 15, 2010

First Day

Speaking of veils, I kind of wish I had one. But not as much as I used to.
When I first started contemplating my return to work, to an office where I knew no one, I remember thinking that I wished I could wear some kind of cloak, or veil, or armband, or even just a damned button that says, “My child died. It’s OK to talk about her. I might cry and that’s OK, too.”

According to Wikipedia (the best source for information, of course), mourners in Victorian England, especially women, wore black clothing and heavy veils, often with a lock of hair of their loved one in a locket or brooch. Widows were to wear mourning for two to four years and siblings for six months. Parents, however, would wear mourning for a child for “as long as they feel so disposed.”

Hmm… well, I just might feel “so disposed” for a very long time. Why don’t we do this anymore? Even outside of the context of returning to work, I can see how such clothing rituals could be so helpful to mourners after a loss.

I wanted to “wear mourning” in order to tell everyone that I had suffered a terrible loss. I wanted to wear my necklace with Hudson’s name on it every day and have her pictures in my office, but not be forced to tell my story over and over again when people ask about her. I just wanted people to know ahead of time. Especially in a job like this one, where I will have to meet new people, lots of students, on a regular basis.

And I still feel that way. I still wish that there was an easy and painless way to broadcast my grief and my loss before people meet me. But after the first day, I feel a little bit less so. Amazingly, I find myself in an office of all women, where one colleague has a critically ill husband and another has a child with cystic fibrosis. Everyone seems kind and laid back. Granted, I only had to tell my story once today, and it was in a context where I didn’t have much opportunity (or need) to get dragged down into the sadness, but still. At least for today, I felt like I am going to be OK there, even if I do have to tell my story over and over. I imagine there is some healing, and obviously even some good (in sharing that Hudson joy), that can come of my doing so. This doesn’t make it much less scary—it just makes it seem not so insurmountable.

I did wear black today, although not on purpose. But I also wore my necklace with Hudson’s name on it. And my One Good Thing bracelet. And my Hudson-turtle ring. I braced myself to be asked about any of the three. Or to be asked whether I have children. I didn’t get any of those questions yet, but I feel like I’m dreading the possibility just a little bit less. I think I am going to be OK.

I want to thank everyone for your words of encouragement this week.  I continue to be humbled and grateful for all the support that keeps flowing our way.  We would not be making it through this without you.


  1. I'm so thrilled you were rewarded with a solid first day - and I love that you wore those symbols important to you. I guess your One day was One Good Thing! - Alex K

  2. Mandy, I'm glad to read that you got through your first day. You sound strong. Not that you could ever *not* take her with you, it sounds like you really did bring Hudson with you today.

  3. One step at a time - baby steps...and your courage and beautiful soul will shine thru. All of us honor and love you for your willingness to move forward however painful it is. Love to you, JoAnn

  4. I ran for a long time this morning, left before the sun came up, and carried you with me the whole time. I ran past people waking up in their homes, and driving to work, and I thought of you getting ready for work, for a new job. I thought of you putting one foot in front of the other, eating breakfast, walking to this new opportunity in your life that will hopefully provide some grace, peace, and healing.

    Love you friend.
    Kelley Barnhardt

  5. Peace, Mandy. The jewelry is a lovely tribute.

  6. Keeping you in our thoughts ...

  7. JoAnn said it beautifully, one baby step at a time. I am so proud of you for getting through your first day. Here's to many more "better days"...although they will be hard, you exude the grace, strength, and courage to climb this uphill battle. Much love to you.

  8. Mandy,
    We, who love you and Ed, would not make it through this without YOU!

  9. I am so glad to hear that it went better than expected. I had never thought about the concept of mourning as a clue to what someone might be feeling-- duh. It's too bad we don't have something like that in our world. Hang in there.

  10. You did it Mandy! Now the first day is behind you. Your courage and determination to stand in uncertainty and fear gives me tremendous hope in this difficult world. I love you...Renee