I’m at a big blogging conference this weekend, something I’ve been excited about for some time because it is an opportunity to meet writers like me working to share their stories. Any event like this comes with its expectations, so as the conference neared, and I perused the schedule of speakers, breakout sessions, receptions, and parties, I found myself imagining what I would do. Because I was an honoree for the Voices of the Year, I particularly looked forward to the readings and following reception where all of the nominees would be honored. It was to be the highlight of the conference. The parties afterward would be a huge bonus where I could relax a little, meet some people, act like a normal person.

I just forgot one thing: I’m not a normal person anymore.

Cheryl Strayed describes this in her book Tiny Beautiful Things so aptly. She talks to a bereaved parent about why it’s so hard to function in the world after the loss of a child, that one grows to learn that everyone else lives on Planet Earth, while the bereaved parent lives on Planet My Baby Died. I can’t help but apply her analogy to my own situation. In fact, Jodi and I have come to use this regularly to describe a certain phenomenon we have from time to time.

The way I experience it is like this: I plan to attend an event—a concert, a wedding, a party, an amazing conference—and I go. I go feeling remotely human, even a little like I live on Planet Earth. I gear myself up for it, imagine myself talking to people, maybe having a glass of wine, enjoying some conversation. But then I get there, and reality hits. I disappear into dense atmosphere of my own lonely planet, and I float around observing the Earth dwellers, watching as they do normal Earthly things like laughing and relaxing and chatting. I watch, and as I do, my little planet drifts further and further into its own wonky orbit until I have no choice but to leave.

This has happened on so many occasions now that I should know to expect it, but I don’t, and this is inevitably the source of disappointment that I can’t engage in real world activities. But it has decreased in frequency in the last six months or so. I can often walk amongst the Earth dwellers and feel as though I’m assimilating, like I might even be one of them again. This makes it all the harder when it hits somewhere like this, when I’m in the middle of doing something I have been looking forward to for so long.

At this conference, it is common to introduce oneself to strangers, to ask what they blog about. Sometimes I go first; sometimes they do, but it’s almost certain that they will offer up a subject from Planet Earth, and then I offer up the soul-crushing fact that I write from another world, one they wouldn’t want to visit. The people I meet are so lovely, but that sense of feeling alien has not escaped me. If anything, it’s grown stronger.

Tonight, at the much-anticipated reception for the Voices of the Year, I entered the hall, ready to engage, or so I thought. And then I saw my nominated post printed on a giant board, and I saw people reading it. I grabbed a glass of champagne, tucked myself up on a set of stairs, and I watched from Planet I Miss My Son as people strolled by, stopped, read, dug around in their bags for tissues, and moved on. After watching for awhile, I tried to join in the festivities. I walked around myself a bit, reading other nominated blogs on similar giant boards. At one point, I stopped in front of one that had been honored in the Humor category, and as I read it, some women came up behind me to read it too, and they began laughing heartily at what was really a hilarious post. I was startled by their laughter. My response was tears. This was not an Earthly reaction.

I talked with myself for a bit, trying to shape up, trying to encourage myself to have a snack, check out some of these parties, chat with people, and ultimately get myself out of my funk, but that moment saw me drifting away on my little planet again, watching everyone through a saline fog, and I knew as I often do in these moments that I was done. I needed to go.

So I honored that. I won’t say I don’t regret leaving. I miss the festivities of the real world. I long for celebrations without grief riding shotgun. And I know in my heart that these will come one day, as will normal interactions with people and even expectations fulfilled, but not tonight. Tonight, I’m pulled back to this rocky orb with a wobbly orbit, salty seas, and big boy-shaped craters where I’ve made my home. It’s where I’ll be for now.

20 thoughts on “alien

  1. You are so brave for being there, for showing up, and for knowing when to retreat. The way you treat your grieving self is nothing short of beautiful. I love you hugely and wish I were there to give you many a hug.

  2. I admire your efforts and your bravery. My heart goes out to you and your wife as you are both daily in my prayers. We really cannot control our grief but must deal with it until the grief has been spent. Know that you are loved.

  3. My Dear T, your words resonate powerfully. I’m so sorry this happened at this time but then, we don’t get a choice with grief. Thank you for sharing these words. You’ve no idea how much your words help. As my health deteriorates I seem to be spending more time in my special world.
    Sending hugs across the oceans.
    Tricia xxx

  4. Dearest Timaree, you have a wonderful voice and it was my great pleasure to meet you at BlogHer. You represent all of the Moms that have indeed felt your pain and struggle with the balance of heartbreak and real world living. I stand with you in your advocacy for your son. Keep in touch with me…Jana ( BTW, your writing brought me to tears and we could have shared the silence of the stairs last night…

  5. You sat on the stairs, observing from your planet among the stars. Sad and stunning. Thank you for sharing.

  6. you are truely amazing and just you know your beautiful boy is fine in heaven happily playing with angles with no pain no medical interventions but in peace. So look after yourself and its okay to do everything in such a way that u feel comfortable. ur blog touches me a lot.

  7. We walked together to the Fairmont at some point during the conference (I knew a Timmarie) and I’ve been thinking about you ever since. It’s sometimes putting ourselves in situations like these that we learn so much about ourselves, what we are capable of and what’s best for our heart in the moment. Much love to you.


  8. This was just beautiful. And this gave me chills:

    “Tonight, I’m pulled back to this rocky orb with a wobbly orbit, salty seas, and big boy-shaped craters where I’ve made my home. It’s where I’ll be for now.”

    With heart,

  9. Thirteen years ago my daughter Posy Miller died. Yesterday was her birthday she would have been forty three, her baby, who died with her, thirteen. In the years after her death I wasn’t just an alien, I was a nonentity. I felt nothing. I looked through my eyes from somewhere deep inside me at a world I cared nothing about. It took time, a long, long time but eventually the greyness began to recede and the feeling came back. I am no longer numb, but I am afraid for I know how unpredictable and cruel this world can be. At the same time I know there is joy as well as suffering. All I can say to those of you who are newer to loss is that it does change, you do become more human, over time.

  10. You captured in words exactly the way it feels. After 20 years I still find myself visiting Planet I Miss My Son, but I dwell on earth now. We will always be alien, forever changed by those precious boys. You are a courageous writer and Mother. I am sending you much love.

  11. I had never read a word of yours before. Tonight I feel as if I have known you forever and your loss is also mine, I grieve for your son with you. You express so eloquently, so visually what you feel that you trully have a gift. Feel blessed that you have a way to comminicate with those you feel so far out of touch with. Your voice, your writing will work miracles toward helping others. I am just so sorry that the two of you had to experience such pain. Try to focus on the brief joys and start writing about those in detail, until the laughter there, becomes the laughter here. ❤

  12. I found you by accident? or was it serendipity? I guess it doesn’t really matter the hows the whys and the wherefores, but I was deeply touched by this post and it resonated so deep inside my heart and soul. I am so sorry for your loss. I know all too well what it’s like to live there on that planet of yours, I just never named mine. Take care good care of yourselves 😦

  13. I’m struggling to find the right words…. I’ve visited that alien planet…. when I lost my brother six years ago and, more recently, when my best friend lost her son last year. I often feel removed from the world, too – as you have so eloquently expressed here. Thank you for sharing something that expresses the rawness and isolation that many of us feel. I am so very sorry for the loss of your beautiful son.

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