Monday, February 6, 2012


Warning: This post contains references to rape and loss. If this is a trigger for you, PLEASE do not read any further. 

Over the weekend, I finally had the opportunity to watch "The Lovely Bones." I read Alice Sebold's novel in 2002 when it was circulating on the New York Time's Bestseller list and managed to devour the book within a week. The story is not an easy one, nor does it have a classic happy ending, but I found following the aftermath of the main character's death to be an interesting insight into how a family copes and grows.

The film is definitely not as good as the novel, but I found watching it brought back thoughts from when I was first reading the book, particularly what I was thinking about each of the characters. In general, I had no issues empathizing with all of them (minus the killer): I could connect with Susie while she remembered her life on Earth, her father Jack as he sought out him daughter's killer, her sister Lindsey and her little-brother Buckley as they dealt with growing up in the aftermath of this tragedy and even Susie's eccentric grandmother Lynn. But, no matter how hard I tried, I had trouble connecting with one of the characters: Susie's mother, Abby. From her initial criticism of her husband following Susie's disappearance, to the affair and finally her abandoning her children, I remember reading about Abby's actions with disgust. How could a mother be so selfish? How could she abandon here children, her family, in its time of need? I didn't understand her, her motivations or why she would be so destructive following the loss of her daughter.

10 years later, while watching the film, something clicked. I picked up the novel again, rereading the different portions that detailed Abby's actions and disgraces.  And for the first time, I understood.

Before I share with you my thoughts, I need to start by talking about how our culture deals with death and loss. Normally, we honor the dead publicly, holding a funeral where all who knew the person can pay their respects and say good-bye. But there are rules with this: loved ones are expected to grieve in a certain manner and only for a certain period of time. In general, these rules are not challenged, as most people have a way of finding closure with the loss and are able to move on.

But what happens when the loss is mingled with something horrifying? In Abby's case, her 14-yr-old daughter is raped, murdered and her body never found. Instead of being allowed to grieve this loss, she is dealing with another level wrapped in shame and guilt. Though she is in no way responsible for her daughter's death, she is wrapped in guilt. For the rest of her life, she must deal with the shoulda-coulda-wouldas.

In a way, Abby's loss is similar to the loss caused by infertility. With infertility, one day you decide to start a family assuming all while be well, while with Abby, one day she is simply making dinner and wondering why her teenage daughter is running late. Then something changes and our world is turned upside down. Like Abby, we are immediately thrown into a state of grief, shock and fear. We turn looking for help and answers, but we find that our support system is not as robust as we originally thought. Some are able to be our rocks, but many are lost as what to do and begin to pull away. As time goes on, people begin to hint that we need to move on because life is too short. But the thing is, how does one move on when the answers are not so simple? For Abby, having a memorial will not give her the closure she needs because of the nature of this loss. For IFers, resolving is not a simple decision, but usually a process that requires time, money and even counseling before we can move forward. In the end, it's not as easy as everyone would like us to believe.

Recent events from the last month have really pushed me to my limits emotionally and physically. And there were points where I literally wanted to pack a bag and walk away from it all. What's stopped me is the relationship I have with Grey and the love from good friends who have been an unending source of support. While rereading the passages about Abby, I realized that she didn't have any of this. Despite being surrounded by family, she was alone. And because of her grief, she lashed out by having an affair and then tried to escape from all of it. Don't get me wrong, her actions were selfish. But to villainize her because of these mistakes is wrong. It's wrong because her family failed her too.

The last month has been one that, if I could, I would want to forget for the most part. The bright spots have been the realization that my support network is strong and amazing. Without it, I'm sure I would have thrown in the towel long ago. Instead, I'm trudging along, holding onto hope. This network has been something I cherish and know first hand how hard it is to build. But in a way, I'm lucky. Because now I know who to turn to when my world comes crashing down. I know beter how to communicate with Grey so that instead of being a burden, I can also be a source of support when we get unhappy news.

In a weird way, I'm lucky.

Brief update: bloodwork revealed that I have not ovulated, so we are officially on hold until AF shows up. I'm thinking it will be in the next couple of weeks as my eye has a nice patch of eczema around it at the moment. But I don't have a crystal ball and, frankly, it's out of my hands.


  1. Saw the warning and I'm not going to read the post. Thought I'd just comment though that I've not yet read that book or seen the movie and I think I'll skip it because I am a survivor of rape.

    1. I'm so sorry to hear this. I know first hand how life-changing that act of violence is. So thank you for taking care of yourself.

    2. I too am sorry Rebecca. I hope you have made as much peace with it as you can. I can't imagine the kind of strength it takes to survive that.

  2. I never read the novel, but really ejoyed the movie. I think the thing I found most inspiring about it was the fact that Susie was able to see all the beautiful things in the world. Even after what happened to her. There never was justice for her in our world. Throughout everything she found her peace. Very emotional story.

  3. I loved the book, but I haven't seen the movie. I wonder if the IF connection you mentioned is one of the reasons I felt such a connection with the book. I even went back and re read it during my last cycle. Hmmm.... Not that I'm going to pack up and leave my family, but sometimes the idea of running when you're in pain is understandable. I always thought that Abby left because of a form of fight or flight reflex, and she chose flight. Those of us dealing with IF deal with loss all the time, loss of embryos, hope, our self esteem...all the time. It's a wonder we don't all run screaming.

    I can say, during the deepest darkest days of PPD after having my twins, there was one afternoon where I got out for an hr of r and r and for a moment I sat in the parking lot behind the wheel and thought "I'll just go...I'll just keep driving." It scared me beyond belief. How could I want to leave what I worked so hard to get?

  4. Wow girl. You always portray your thoughts so beautifully and tie everything together. I have not read the book or seen the movie but seeing the comparisons you've drawn between the losses is so true.

    This community is amamzing when it comes to really being there for someone. We're not afraid to ask hard questions or bring up something because we've already shared so much.

    IF can also make us more aware of the struggles of others around us. I know it has opened my eyes to the battles that others in my life are facing and in turn has helped me to become a better friend and support to those people.

    Glad you have a strong support system IRL too. xoxo

  5. This is a well thought out post and comparrison to the loss of a loved one and how people grieve. It's not for us to judge the actions of someone who has suffered something like that. I saw the movie and it was a hard watch. I agree with Still Hoping in that IF has caused us to better support and understand others facing hardships. As much as I wish I solely belonged to a Mommy Blogger community over IF, I am grateful for the things it has taught me.

  6. Cristy -

    So glad I was able to find your blog. I myself am struggling with infertility. My Dr. suggested I may start I diary to help expresses myself during this time, so I have started a blog. I am thrilled to find so many other strong women out there.

    I liked the movie Lovely Bones. I however was not able to read the book - I found it too disturbing. The movie gave me peace with Susie's character - that in the end she wasn't alone and somehow was always able to see beauty and peace. I also thought that Susie was so brave. (I also could relate to Susan Sarandon's character - with my grandmother) Currently I am reading "We need to talk about Kevin" - very interesting book on a mother's thoughts.

    1. Welcome Blythe! I'm so sorry that you are on this road (I wish none of us were), but I'm glad you were able to find this community. It's been a godsent for me.

      Thanks for the suggested book. I'll check it out!

  7. Your thoughts on this were really interesting. I love how you didn't like the mother at first and now have a different understanding of her. I couldn't make it past the first chapter of that book because it was such a difficult read. Have you read The Memory Keeper's Daughter? I stayed away from it for a while because of the subject matter, but ended up loving it. The author dealt with grief with respect and compassion.


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