Two articles by Natalie Himmelrich on Still Standing resonated with me:
“How Do You Define Yourself After Loss?” and “Having Lost and Being Lost.” Go on, I’ll wait while you give them a read. They’re very short. Okay, you’re busy? Here’s what resonated with me from the second:
- I have lost trust in the world, as I knew it before I became acquainted with death.
- I have lost faith that good things will happen.
- I have lost the belief that things will turn out well in the end.
- I have lost motivation to persevere with certain things.
- I have lost the ability to live free of worries.
- I have lost the tenacity to follow through and be vigilant.
- I have lost the zest of life I used to experience.
- I have lost energy to socialize and to manage long conversations.
Yep. Amen, right? I have lost all of these things as well, except I am still vigilant. Hyper-vigilant, in some situations. More likely to obsess over controlling the things I can control (is the stove off? Is the door closed?) than I was even before.
But then Himmelrich said this: “I take responsibility for these experiences, believing they happened ‘for me’ as opposed to ‘to me’. I choose to be a creator and experiencer rather than a victim.”
I’m still not ready to see how losing Anderson was “for me.” But I do see how I’m mired in victimhood, and I hate being considered a victim – by others or myself. I am lost. I have lost. This happened to me. I guess, technically, I’m a victim of an unfortunate pregnancy complication, of circumstance. But what should I do? On one hand, I could resist the label of victim. But on the other, there is no inherent shame in victimhood, nor should there be. I do not think less of a rape victim, for example. Being a victim of such a crime does not mean one is weak, or helpless, or take away her agency. Yet we are quick to self-claim survivor status, for its superior connotations. But am I survivor? Can you really survive grief? I don’t think so. I think it becomes easier to bear, but as it never ends, there is no survival date, if that makes sense. You cannot ever say, “this is now over, and I have made it through to the other side.”
What other options are there besides victim or survivor?