How do you go on?

Today was a particular tough day. I had to go to the school I’ve worked in for the past year to quit ’cause I got a better job. I had scheduled today to be the day and only in the morning found out my boss is away on some unplanned holiday. I didn’t want to go to HR before talking to her so I called her first. She was upset, but she kindly agreed I was getting a good deal so she didn’t push and only asked me to check if there was anyone I could reference back to her.

Then I took baby Hemingway to the vet to have him tested for leukemia and vaccinated if negative, (which he was yay!!!) I had another baby cat die from leukemia before, it was hard so now I tell everyone to have their cats tested. After leaving baby kitty back home, I hanged there for a while until it was time for my first therapy session ever since Mr. Shrinky took a newborn leave.

After much deliberation I had bought a present for the baby, so I wrapped it up all nice and headed for his office. I was excited for him and happy to finally be able to congratulate him, so before even saying hello I handed him the gift with a big smile. I was actually about to hug him when I noticed something odd, so I only said “don’t you dare refuse my gift Mr. Shrinky!”, for I thought that was the reason for his funny expression. He said “ok, ok!”, and then we sat down.  He opened the present, a cute yellow onesie with a sunglassed Yoda saying “Judge me by my size, do you?” (I know he’s a Yoda fan) and then looked at me before getting up and putting the gift on his desk.

When he sat back down it was in a very different way than the usual one. His back wasn’t resting on the back of the sofa and his legs weren’t crossed. He made a gesture as if approaching me, sitting on the edge of the sofa, putting his elbows on his legs and kneading his fingers while showing me his palms. Then he said it, “the baby died.” I think my first reaction was to open my mouth and then cover it with my hand.

He had called me three weeks earlier saying “This is it, we’re about to head to the hospital so I won’t be seeing you in three weeks as we have discussed.” It never crossed my mind that something bad would happen so even before the grief, I felt the shock. I think he read all the questions my face was asking because he gave me a quick, not-too-detailed-but-not-too-general explanation about what happened: after some breathing problems that couldn’t have been detected before birth and different kinds of medical interventions, each one more invasive than the last, their baby died on his second day of life.

I was on the verge of crying, but it just didn’t feel right when he was pulling himself together while telling me all this. First I only managed some unconnected words: I’m…so…sorry. Then I felt like the biggest idiot on earth and went on to apologize for the gift, had I only known… He said I had nothing to be ashamed of, that he loved the gift and would save it for the baby’s future sibling.

We stayed quiet for some time. I was thinking of how hard this three weeks must’ve been for him and his wife. How, both being shrinks, are gonna have to explain time and time again what happened to the baby until the last patient has asked. I know I’d be absolutely devastated, three weeks would not be nearly enough time to get back to work….(though maybe she’s not working yet -their appointments are usually scheduled so their patients don’t meet on the stairs and so when I’m inside I can hear steps outside-), and I said so. I also said any person would need therapy, he said they’re doing it. I said I just saw a movie where this happened to a couple and it crushed and broke them because she couldn’t get over it… then I thought it was the stupidest comment to make at the time, he didn’t say anything.

More silence. I made a quick, half-hearted relation of what happened with me in the weeks we didn’t meet. He made some follow-up questions and comments, I know he was paying attention to me, but both our hearts were somewhere else. I remembered I had another gift for him. I know he collects rocks from around the world, so I brought him a little one from Cabo’s beach. I was glad I had a souvenir that had nothing to do with the baby. He actually smiled, said he’d add it to the collection.

I knew time was up but he wasn’t kicking me out, he hadn’t looked once at his clock either; he usually starts doing this about 15 min before session’s over. I don’t know if it’s his subtle way of letting himself and the patient know how much time there’s left, or if it’s more of an unconscious thing. In any case, he wasn’t doing it. It’s not like I was eager to get the hell out or anything, but it was weird. Then the buzzer went off. Next patient was there. I stood up immediately while I reminded him I still owed him a week, he said he was aware.  And that was that.

Tim Green aka atoach on Flicker

Tim Green aka atoach on Flicker

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8 thoughts on “How do you go on?

  1. oh thats a terrible thing to have happen! i don’t even know mr. shrinky, but i feel so terribly sorry for him and mrs. shrinky. and it sounds like you’re reaction was completely normal–first off, how could you have known, and plus everything you said after was showing concern and that you thought the news was awful and devastating.
    I don’t think you should worry about anything you said.

    i hope he is in a good enough place to be able to see patients, tho. this kind of trauma he might need more time off for. or maybe seeing patients is therapeutic? i hope you can get thru this time too, when he may or may not be as available as he normally is. strange how when our caregivers need care, they can’t care, and if affects us.

  2. “but both our hearts were somewhere else.” — well said.

    I’ve had similar things happen which is why I always “forget” to buy a baby’s gift until I am looking at the child, or even the time after… so much can happen. It’s like your experience with kitty leukemia… once it’s in your head as a possibility, it’s hard to shake. Life is so fragile!

  3. How very very sad. There wouldn’t be much you could do or say in a situation like that… Sorry I haven’t been here in a while…life and stuff. But good to hear you got a better job and I hope things are okay for you, otherwise.

  4. This is a very sad story…but I agree with Alarna, there is nothing that can really be said in these situations to lessen the person’s pain. It was thoughtful of you take a gift for the baby; you did nothing wrong! And it sounds like the he was touched by the little “gift” that you brought for his collection. Congratulations on the new job!! Kim

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