At work events
For those of you that don’t know, I do PR and marketing for a living so that involves at times attending networking events, black tie dinners and entertaining clients. In the past I’ve always excelled at making small talk and creating conversation with new people. I used to find it easy to get a rapport quickly. However now I find myself dreading strangers asking me questions that are usually quite normal to ask when getting to know someone. Questions such as “do you have any children?” or “do you have a family”.
Honesty is the best policy
I then have a choice do I lie and say “oh no I don’t” then the conversation can continue to move along in a light hearted cheerful way? Or do I tell the truth that I have had two children but unfortunately both have died? This honest approach is the one I usually use, as I don’t believe in lying to people, especially when my job is formed on the strong foundations of trust and honesty. It’s all about building relationships.
The more I practice the easier it gets for me to deliver my “Yes I did have two children but unfortunately they died. I had a little girl who died a year last September at 15 months old and a little boy who only made it to 22 weeks of pregnancy. He died last September because of an incurable brain abnormality.” And “no we don’t know why my little girl died. The coroner opened an inquest into it and we finally have an inquest date of 17th May.” The first few times someone asked me I ended up in tears during the inevitable questioning that ensued afterwards and made my guests feel awkward that they had upset me. Now I have it down to a tee and can deliver explanations, answer questions in the same matter of fact way I tell people about where Randall & Aubin source their fish!
It’s almost becoming natural now for me to talk about it openly at work if I’m ever asked but I worry that people may think I’m cold or detached as I now rarely get upset at all in a work environment. I find myself able to talk about my children in almost a matter of fact clinical way.
Behind closed doors
Afterwards once I get home is a different story as I find I have to have a little cry to let the emotion I bottled up out and if I find myself having to tell lots of different people my sad news at a larger networking event or dinner then it can sometimes can drain me emotionally for days.
I seem strong
People assume because I can put on a brave face for work and social situations that deep inside I’m strong, tough and can cope with anything. Sometimes they then feel the need to share their problems, dilemmas and trials with me, thinking if I can handle losing my children then I can maybe help them too. They don’t realise the tidal wave style flood I’m often holding back under the surface. A volcano more often than not looks just like a still stationary mountain from the outside but inside there’s a great deal bubbling under the surface that no one sees until the big outpouring or eruption, That’s how I feel most days.
So yes I may seem strong, calm and together on the outside but you’ve no idea the effort that that can take in order for me to put my “game face” on (I mean that in the together psychological sense rather than a make up one!). Yes I do care about my friends and other people, so do feel you can speak to me but please remember there’s a limit sometimes to what extra stress I can take on board. This is especially the case if your stress in the grand scheme of things isn’t exactly that life threatening.
Please forgive me also if I make arrangements to see you and then cancel at the last minute sometimes I get so emotionally drained that I can’t face having to make conversation with anyone.
Thanks for reading,
Love Sarah x
Always Violet Skies
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Hi Sarah, I dread meeting new people for work too especially as working in the baby industry means so often the conversations are centred around babies and families so it’s inevitable. I’m not yet skilled at dealing with the questions and keep varying my responses to see how I can tell the truth without breaking down completely! Trying to get my ‘game face’ right. It’s all a learning curve isn’t it, and isn’t it crazy that we care about how other people will deal with us or view us? Sounds as though you manage it as well as anyone possibly could, good on you. But utterly draining too… Thank you for writing this. Much love, Martine
I’m sorry for your loss and so pleased it isn’t just me then that finds it awkward. Yes it is about practice eventually it will simply get easier for you to deliver the lines and less emotional for you. It sounds weird but if it helps I used to practice conversations beforehand in my head, the same way you’d do preparing for a job interview, as I found it easier then in real life. It is crazy I agree that, despite everything else we have to deal with, we still worry about what other people think! It is extremely draining so good luck with it all and I’m pleased I could help you to see you’re not alone. Lots of love Sarah xx