December 28, 2009

Day 7 with 20? to go

There are a few classic blunders, cliches that are given to comfort the grieving. If someone has died, these include: "They're in a better place", "At least the suffering is over". The reality is, there is nothing that can be said to make it better. All one can say is, "I'm sorry for your loss" and then remain present for any stories the griever might want to tell.

For a miscarriage the classic blunders include: "There must have been something wrong with this one, the next one will be (better/healthy/etc)", "Next time, make sure you (keep your feet up/rest/don't walk too much/take vitamins/etc)", "At least you know you can get pregnant!"

The reality is that I've been looking on the bright side myself, but it's one thing if I'm giving myself a pep talk and another if someone else tries to do it. Again, a loss is a loss and nothing can be said to make that go away. You don't say to a widow, "At least you know you can deal with marriage, I'm sure the next one will be better!" Granted, 7 weeks of knowing a possibility is definitely NOT on the same scale as knowing a person for years, but I think you get the point.

Mom K made the classic blunders within the first 20 minutes of her visit. The next morning she started to give me advice about what to do the next time (see list above). I interrupted the litany and said, "Mom, I did all that". She tried to launch back into the list (the Korean method being to repeat until lecture subject yields), but I interrupted again (playing my 'white girl' rude card), saying even more firmly, "Mom! I did each one of those things. It didn't matter." Fortunately, I think that got it out of her system and she hasn't brought any of it up since.

Actually, the visit has gone very well. She's thoughtful, quiet, courteous, and does the dishes! Of course, she used the liquid dish soap in the dishwasher, but we brought our wet/dry vac with us from Baltimore, so I was able to clean up the soapy water that spouted all over the kitchen. Now she's convinced I'm just like Dad K: organized and mechanically inclined.

We took her out for a fancy dinner on their wedding anniversary. When I asked for stories about what she misses about Dad K, I got the weirdest repetition, she launched into this and repeated it word for word 5x in a row, "I was such a bad wife. I did so many things wrong. I told God if He gives me a next life, marry to Daddy, I will do it. I want to do everything right. I feel so bad. I was such a bad wife..." I tried a bunch of things to derail the perseveration: "Mom, there IS forgiveness for you. That's the whole reason Jesus died for you, so you don't have to carry guilt like this". She nodded, "I know. I feel so bad. I was such a bad wife..."

Then I tried to meet her where she was at, "Mom, I hear what you are saying. I know Dad was a very good man underneath everything, but he was also like a 7-year old boy. It felt like no matter how many gifts you give him for Christmas, he always wanted more. There was a need in him that couldn't be filled by one person. I don't know what you do when that happens, but when I run into that with someone, I put up walls to protect myself. I don't want to give and give and give until there's nothing left."

She agreed, "You right. That's why I feel so bad. I know Daddy mentally young, I try to make him older all the time. Next time, I will just love him. I was such a bad wife..."

After a while, I was able to ask her questions to get her talking more about specifics or actual memories rather than just repeating the litany. Jrex told me a while ago that his mom carries a pathological level of guilt. I believed him, but it made me so sad to see it in action.

It looks like she might be with us through most of January. She has to go back to NYC for a ceremony in early February and then she wants to stay out east through Lent and Easter.


mary said...

Words are overrated in grief situations.

Anyway, sounds like you're hanging in there. You're being a great DIL agreeing to her stay for so long. It might also be a "korean thing" to keep berating herself in front of you guys. The "good" wife is supposed to grieve the loss of the husband for a long time and not allowed to show any signs of being happy. Oh, and she's also not supposed to remarry but yearn for her husband day after day.

mary said...

korean culture is so twisted in some ways.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing all the plans that can be made in seven short weeks? I remember when I miscarried, all these women seemed to come out of the woodwork to share their miscarriage stories with me---which was both distressing and comforting at the same time!

One day at a time... MIME

Sam said...

I'm so sorry.

Mama Nabi said...

Ah. I do the same with my mom. I don't know if it's a generational thing or a Korean thing but they do seem to relentlessly make their point until you reluctantly acquiesce and nod and agree. According to my mom, when she sees me responding to these lectures honestly by saying, "I did do all the necessary steps so it was one of those beyond one's control things", I am actually supposed to nod and agree if I am to be allowed to move on.

Korean guilt is vast and infinite. On the other hand, it's sometimes a vehicle people use to be told that they were, in fact, not lacking but that they were fabulous. You know, uh, fishing for compliments, kind of thing? I know. It's hard to tell with Koreans, though. All I know is that you handle Koreans better than I usually can. :-P

A big virtual hug and continued thoughts/prayers sent your way...

Rachel said...

Big hugs to you.