The Absent-Minded Griever: Distracted After Loss

July 27, 2017

Before I lost my son, I was a fairly competent person.

I was organized, prepared, and always on time. I wouldn’t have won awards or anything, but I held my life together fairly well. I remembered what I needed from the grocery store, I only had to be told a name once, and I looked both ways before crossing the street. Ever since the stillbirth of my son in January, however, I have become increasingly absentminded. A miscarriage in May served only to exacerbate my inability to focus.

I have never met a person that has suffered through the grieving process and come out unchanged. Some grievers find themselves unable to listen to certain songs. Many grievers are forced to battle depression or PTSD. Some grievers cannot bear to be alone. And some grievers, like myself, find themselves completely distracted and unable to focus.

Over the past months, I have had conversations I don’t remember at all.

I have driven home and not remembered the drive. I have arrived at the store only to completely forget why I drove there in the first place. I have forgotten words, names, and dates. My sister said to me last night, “Hey. Listen to me! And really listen, not ‘Rachel’ listen.” I have forgotten appointments and plans. I have arrived late more times than I care to remember. In a moment of stress, I actually backed quite slowly into a car that I would swear hadn’t been there a moment before. Most recently, I stood in the store desperately wracking my brain in an attempt to remember what I needed for my sister’s bridal shower. It wasn’t just one thing I couldn’t remember. My mind was blank.

No amount of concentration or effort could bring my mental list back. I have become like some sort of strange cartoon character: wrapped up in my own thoughts and completely oblivious to the world around me. In a bit of a panic, I spoke to my doctor, convinced that I was developing some sort of memory loss. She assured me that distractedness is a frustrating, albeit trivial, side effect of bereavement.

Losing a pregnancy gives you so much to think about. And losing a second trimester pregnancy after years of infertility gives you some very serious and specific questions.

Should I try again? When should I try again? Did I do something to cause my child’s death? Is there something I can do to prevent it from happening again? Am I going to lose every child we conceive? Will I even be able to get pregnant again? Can I go on? How do I go on? Could I go through this again? Is there something fundamentally anti-mother about me? What does the future hold? Can I help the future along?

And most difficult to answer, of course, is “How do I live without my baby?” These questions swirl throughout my brain all day, every day. The questions have no real answers, and so they have no resolution. Who cares what that word is that I can’t remember or why I came to the grocery store? When my heart and mind are weighed down by grief and loss, and tough decisions, it’s awfully hard to focus on the mundane.

If you’ve ever seen the old black and white Disney movie The Absent-Minded Professor with Fred MacMurray, you’ll know exactly what my life has been like the past few months.

Since I lost my son, it feels like I’m just bumbling my way through life, trying not to bump into anyone. I’ve become the Absent-Minded Griever.

I am so fortunate that my friends and family have met my distractedness with only grace and understanding. When I cannot concentrate, they understand. When I forget we had plans, they forgive – or send a text to remind me the morning of. When I’m running late, they insist that it’s no big deal. When I leave their phone calls unanswered for weeks, they don’t even mention it. My husband, saint that he is, didn’t make a peep when I completely forgot to do anything for his birthday. At a time when there are plenty of reasons to find me frustrating, the people I love have only been encouraging and supportive. I can never thank them enough.

It seems to me that it would be easier if those of us who are grieving came with a warning label. “Hi! I’m Rachel. I’ve lost two babies in the last six months so I can’t even remember my middle name. My mind is a million miles away. Please be patient with me.”

What would yours say?

  • Rachel Weckbacher

    R.J. Weckbacher fought through four years of infertility, the stillbirth of her son Corban, and a miscarriage. Rachel and her husband are being licensed as foster parents in South Carolina. She blogs at Carrying Corban and is currently finishing her Bachelor of Arts in History.

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