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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Secondhand Cloak.

Dear Josie,

I'm still losing.

Last week I visited my (new) hairstylist.  She cut my hair and she made it darker, and she covered the gray spots in the front (seriously, why the front?), and she never asked about you because she doesn't know and because I never said.

Before you died I had a wonderful hairstylist.  I loved her.  Whenever I went in we would talk about our children, (she had two and I had one) and our jobs and our significant others.  She could always make me smile.  I loved the feel of the studio and the decorum and the pretty Christmas tree next to her chair in December, with the chic leopard print stockings and the glittery shoe ornaments.  I love the wonderful memory of taking my bridesmaids there the morning of our wedding, sipping mimosas and being pampered while listening to love songs.  I loved that I got to travel downtown once every eight weeks, to that sophisticated block with the very best little thrift shop right next door. 

After you died it became frightening.  The thought of pulling into that parallel spot and digging the quarters out of my purse.  Walking in and having her innocently ask about you, and having to say.  And although I haven't visited that thrift store since I was pregnant with you, perusing all the vintage tunics and mourning the size 6 jeans, something tells me that in there, now, it might be hard to breathe.

A secondary loss, so I'm told.  My affinity for cheesy baby shower games.  The taste of birthday cake.  My hairstylist. 

Some are more manageable than others.  And all feel minor, compared to you but none of them are easy.  None of them are fair.

It should be enough that my baby died.  I should get keep it all.  Everything else.  I should get to keep the casual morning conversations with the maintenance staff but I don't.  In its place, the memory of my first day back when one of them asked how the baby was and I had to say you died. I can still see the horror, sense the regret and the way they were so very apologetic and so very kind, but we haven't discussed the weather since.

There are the friends who were pregnant with me then, whose babies lived and whose birthday parties I've yet to attend.  Beautiful, perfect, growing little miracles I cannot see without feeling dizzy.  Strained relationships and awkward moments and empty spots on couches. There are the friends who stopped calling when I did. There are people who've said the wrong things and there are people who've said nothing, fearful of the invisible cloak I most certainly wear.  And every one is different now.  Less familiar than it once was and every one is a loss. 

And I grieve all of it.    Not all at once but definitely all of it.  At various times and observations I am forced to compare this life with the old one, and it mostly feels like a loss only sometimes it doesn't.

On the last day of school she approached me.  And she told me that she was sorry for my loss.  And she said that her baby brother died, some twenty years ago.  She told me they still talk about him and think about him, and then she hugged me, and then she cried.

As it turns out, her hugs trump any conversation we ever had before.  And as it turns out, they feel nothing like a loss. 

In fact, I'd consider them a gain.



  1. I had a hair appointment already pre-booked, about a month after Eliza died. I would have canceled it and counted my hairdresser among the things I lost with her, too. But I had one friend who asked what she could do, and I told her to call people--our Edward Jones girl, my hairdresser, a couple of others--and tell them what happened. And my hairdresser sent me a card with a letter, telling me about the sudden and violent death of her brother when he was in his early 20s. I'll never forget what she wrote: "If you need to talk, I'm not scared of grief."

    I still don't see her outside of hair appointments (although that's actually more frequently than I see a lot of my friends because seriously SO MUCH GRAY), but I do count her among my friends and I've had more open and honest conversations with her than I ever would have imagined. Which I love, because I am the WORST at small talk.

    So yes, so much is lost. But sometimes there are truly good things gained as well.

  2. I too cannot go to my hairstylist. It's the small talk. I can't take it. I better learn to cut my own hair. Yes, so much is lost. Everything is different. Any gains are meaningful and special. So thankful for you, my friend. xoxo

  3. I didn't think I could ever see my hair stylist again, either. The memories and certain triggers made me anxious just thinking about it. She was on my fb, and one of the first people that reached out when Larkin died. I visited the salon more times when I was pregnant then any other time before, including my EDD when we joked with each other how funny not funny it would be if my water broke right there in the chair. So finally after 2 months went by I made an appointment with someone new, at a salon on the other side of town for this past Wednesday. Over this last weekend I received a card from my old stylist saying again how sorry she was, that she has been reading my blog and instagram, and how brave and inspiring I am. She said to please not be shy and to come and visit, not to worry if I cried because she would cry with me. Inside the card was a gift certificate for a cut and color, whatever I wanted. I cried so hard, and then I cancelled my appt with the new stylist. I went in this past Wednesday and it was amazing. I spent 4 hours with her, we cried together, talked about Larkin, my plans for the future, my support groups and therapist, and all things in between. I have friends that I have known for over 10 years that I still haven't seen in person, but I spend 4 hours with my stylist that day and it turned out so special. I left with a dramatic new do, exhausted and emotional, but also with a sense of relief and gratitude (and a promise that we would do dinner soon). I have lost so much, but on Wednesday I gained something special and am so glad it turned out that way. Thinking of you and Josephine...

  4. This has got me thinking about secondary losses. Life has changed so much. I don't do baby showers (never will again); first birthday parties, baptisms, 'congratulations on your new baby' cards (we have an account with a baby hamper company so I've occasionally managed to do the few clicks - pink or blue - required on my phone for really close friends).

    I don't look at scan pics. I tell my pregnant friends that I probably won't see them for the duration of their pregnancy. I hide pretty much every female of childbearing age on Facebook. I can't watch some of my favourite TV shows. I stopped taking my living daughter to toddler group (those days are behind us, now she's at preschool).

    The two years since N has been gone have made these losses easier to accept. I even shock myself sometimes with how easily I've managed to discard things that hurt me. I've prioritised protecting myself above all else. I don't regret it.

    I can only now imagine a day in the future where I might be able to see some of the people I've cut out. And I feel like if it doesn't work out, then maybe I've learned something valuable about that friendship.