An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

No, I wasn’t punched in the face, this is just what happens when I weep

The past three days have been a whirlwind of chaos, and this is honestly the first moment I’ve had since Monday to sit down and catch my breath. I had planned to sit down and write about this funny thing that happened at the grocery store the other night, but right now I’m just too sad to do it. And I’m sitting here trying not to cry because this afternoon I’m doing a taping with the local PBS station for a show that’s running tonight (see here), and when I cry my eyes swell and bloat to the size of a watermelon.

A couple of weeks ago my dear stepfather, the one who almost had me sentenced to death by firing squad for eating his last slice of bologna, was diagnosed with a lymphoma when they found a tumor the size of a football in his back. He started chemotherapy last week and has since been in and out of the emergency room for complications at least twice. I’m not quite sure how to explain my relationship with my stepfather, only that he is as important to me as my own father and has played such a significant role in Leta’s life. He is her Grandpa Rob, and she will carry with her the most amazing memories of sitting at his coffee table to put together puzzles. He has been the most indefatigable support for my mother throughout her busy career in Avon and has sacrificed many of his own ambitions so that she could be the success that she is. He is honest, stubborn, sometimes a total pain in the ass, but mostly he is the type of person who would throw his body in front of a bus if it meant helping you out in the tiniest possible way. He means everything to our family, and now we are all facing the unknown.

Suddenly I’m facing some very confusing feelings. I’m not going to get too much into that here, only to say that where once I had the Mormon religion to inform me, I’m here now without that safety net trying to piece some things together. Which I guess is a way of saying that I’m still trying to figure out what I believe. And I know that admitting that is going to open me up to all sorts of judgment, but I don’t think this makes me much different from a lot of people out there who are also trying to figure it all out. I don’t think I’m alone in saying, yeah, I don’t know, and I’m mostly okay with that. Sometimes, like right now, I’m not okay with that.

I do know that I love my stepfather deeply and want nothing more than for him to get better.

This week would also have been the 40th week of the pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage last October. Is it morbid that I remember the due date, will always remember the due date? Or that I am so incomprehensibly sad about it still? My life has changed so much since that horrible Wednesday afternoon, and Jon and I have had endless debates and conversations about our future and whether or not we should try for another baby knowing that I might have to go through that again. And if you want to know, we are still undecided. Every time I see someone who is pregnant I get a very weird feeling in my stomach, and I think it’s from a wild mixture of feelings, one of loss, one of hope, one of knowing that they are having a tremendously difficult time trying to roll over in bed at night and how exhausted they are in the morning, one of envy that they soon will meet that new little person in their life. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to see someone who is pregnant and not immediately feel my stomach turn a flip.

Right now I am just barely holding my shit together, and I know that I’ll be better to handle these feelings if I could just sleep through the night. I’ve had insomnia for three straight weeks, and my body is slowly collapsing. This may be one of those many instances when I head back to my therapist and say listen, I’m having a hard time, please help me climb this mountain.

  • Kate

    My heart goes out to you and your family. It is awful to watch someone you love struggle, but keep your head up and hope for the best. Having confused feelings about belief is very normal…at least, I hope it is since I’m a lapsed Catholic who prays when times get tough. And you are also not the only one who has that stomach-flip when you see the preggos. After years of infertility I get the same twinge. It’s not that you begruge them their joy, just that you are sad for your loss and hopeful for your future. Therapy, accupuncture, whatever you need to climb the mountain, do it…people who go up Everest have sherpas why shouldn’t you have help, too?

  • Sami

    Heather, I am so sorry. I hope that your friends and family (and internet fans) provide you with enough support to work your way through these sad times. Although I have never met you, from what I have read I can see that you are an amazing person who tries to deal with her issues, and that is a very commendable thing. I have no doubt that you will find your way. Lots of Love, Sami

  • Not to go all Obama on you, but: “Oh, sweetie.”

    You’ve taken a couple huge emotional hits and you’ve had such high-pressure travel and media exposure lately—why, you’re well within your rights to collapse into a quivering mass of Jell-o. Please do let your therapist help you cope with life’s latest curveballs, Heather.

    Like commenter #71 said, be kind to yourself.

  • Thinking of you all. My mother had a 3 year battle with fucking lymphoma. Do whatever you have to do. Take care of yourself.

  • I am really sorry to hear that – my best wishes to your stepfather.

    Where religion is concerned, please remember there is a big difference between being a Member of the Institution and embracing your own spiritual nature. You are right in that you aren’t alone in trying to figure it all out.

    Good Luck.

  • Erin

    I heart Dooce ~ hug ~

    It’s funny how things all seem to happen at once. Suddenly you’ve got media attention over blogging (my poor ancient word program doesn’t even recognize blogging as word, how’s that for a sing of the times?), a book published, a puppy growing (and chewing, annnd pooping everywhere), the miscarriage, and now this with your stepfather. I think you’re doing a fantastic job of holding it together as I’m not sure I personally would even be functioning enough to type a blog. I truly truly admire and appreciate your honesty. It’s takes a strong person to admit that you aren’t where you want/need to be and to ask for help. Much respect and hope for warmer happier times to you Heather!

  • I understand completely what you’re going through with your stepfather because two years ago, I was in the same situation. Suffice it to say, the coming weeks and months will make your head spin in many ways, but you will get through this.

    I don’t pray, but I am sending good thoughts your way and hope that will help in some way.

  • birdgal

    You are definitely NOT alone in trying to figure out just what you believe–ever since having my little girl I’ve been struggling with the same questions. Sending hope and strength your way…

  • Jeff

    What’d you name the baby?

    …I get that that may sound insensitive, but I’m really not trying to get on the seasonal hate mail list. I think it’s awesome and brave and spectacular of you to even try to have that child! And that child, for as long as he or she was in you, was nourished and lived because of you. And that child can be celebrated and identified because he or she was with you for as long as they were!

  • Wishing you peace. : )

  • Emily

    I have no advice or words of wisdom. Just sincere thoughts of hope for your and your family. I cannot imagine what a horrible week this has been for you. Please know that there are strangers out there thinking of you, praying for you and believe that it will all be OK.
    Go give that beautiful little girl of you the biggest squeeze and tell her how loved she is- she’s a lucky girl to have such a wonderful momma.

  • ChrissyFeen

    I was so sorry to read about this awful situation.
    I am a step-parent to two amazing kids and I like to think that if I ever get sick some day, they would look back at our relationship as just as important as the one that they share with their mothers. Right now the 16 year old probably wishes I would get sick but that’s another topic…

    I to don’t really know what I believe in, but I will be praying for your family – even if the prayers are directed at something I can’t define.

  • Lillie

    Heather– thanks for posting even though you’re going through such a difficult time. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in missing your daily updates! Please accept my virtual e-hugs (creepy? perhaps.) and know that there are a lot of people in the world (and, of course, strangers from the internet) who are wishing you well.

  • jason

    I too wish you and your family the best. Be strong and take on each day the best you can.

    Pregnancy can be scary, even for us men. My wife and I almost lost our son 3 times and are now on the 2nd pregnancy.

    Im NOT at all saying that I know how you feel with the loss. But I can slightly relate to the fear of the 2nd time around. Its scare the hell out of me at times to think that it could happen (or something worse) to us this 2nd pregnancy. I cant imagine how my wife truly feels at times either. But I stay strong and do what I can to stay positive…no matter what the odds are. All I can do is support my wife the best I can, Im sure your husband will do the same.

    BTW – Loved the interview on nightline. Congrats on your success!

  • I’m so sorry to read about your troubles.

    I’m thinking of you and your family.

    Take care of yourself.


  • Anonymous

    Dear Heather:

    I’m honored you shared that part of yourself with us. You’re going to be just fine. The fact that you shared speaks volumes. Chillax this weekend, k? Rock on, sister; rock on.

  • Tara

    I think you have a lot of company in the “still trying to figure out what I believe” camp. I know I’m there.

    My heart goes out to you & your family. I hope you get the help & comfort you need to get some sleep, to feel more control, to get through this. Peace to you.

  • Rachel

    Heather, I am wishing your step-father great healing. He is clearly facing this challenge amidst the embrace of a loving family. That is a blessing.

    We all have faith. Some may have faith in a particular organized religion or a particular construct of God. Some may have faith in randomness. Some people place their faith in capitalism. Having read your blog for a couple years now, I feel like I’ve seen your faith — in the power of love and humor and the act of writing out loud — keeping you grounded amidst great loss and upheaval. And when we lose touch with that faith, it’s the good people around us who help remind us of it until we can claim it again.

    Make an appointment with your therapist so you can create space in your week where you can just lose it, without anyone needing you to do something. And if you can, find some regular quiet time to take a walk alone. (I know, crazy thought with small child and work). To watch Spring coming. To feel yourself part of the larger world.

    The great Hildegard of Bingen wrote these words that have helped me through many challenges:

    All shall be well.
    And all shall be well.
    And all manner of thing shall be well.

    Thinking of you.

  • MaryMR

    One of my infrequent de-lurkings. What can I say that others haven’t? Probably nothing. But in my circle of friends, all of whom are recovering from various religions, ours is the tongue-in-cheek ‘I’m sending you the vibe’. We know it sounds cheesy and new-agey, but we also know what it means under the skin: I care about you, I know you are in pain and fear, and I will help you no matter what.

    Though I don’t know you personally, this blog means a lot to me Heather, so I say to you as much, as I can, that I care about you and yours. Remember that you have a lot of love around you–your own family and friends, and the wider community you’ve built here at your blog. I’m sending you the vibe.

  • maya

    it’s my belief that life doesn’t throw you things you can’t handle… that whatever torment is going on in life, it is so that you will understand and appreciate everything more when the pendulum is on the up-swing. Lessons learned in times of difficulty are hard, and it sucks going through them, but once you’re past all the turmoil, things will be different, but you may feel wiser, or happier, or whatever knowing you made it past yet another hurdle. I wish you a lot of luck, and will keep your family and step-dad in my thoughts. Thank you so much for sharing, as a lot of your writing has changed my life.

  • It’s been said enough above, but I wish you strength and support from and for your family during this trying time. Illness in any form is horrible to wrangle, and to have fatigue from other aspects of your life in addition to being reminded of your miscarriage is terribly sad. Thinking of you, the World’s Avon Sales Leader, and all of your family.

    And call your therapist!

  • because you wrote this on a bookmark for my friend, i’m sending the same good thoughts back to you:

    it’s going to be okay.

    i promise.


  • i feel your pain with the same experience and not even to the fullest. i also miscarried and all i could think about as the date was approaching on how sad i was and what went wrong and how my life would be without the baby. then i found out i was pregnant so that took away some of my pain. so please know that my thoughts are with you as your due date approaches and i hope for you that whatever you want (either another baby or not) that you get what you want.

  • Paul

    I’ve never lost a parent, so I don’t have any comparative experience that would help me tune in on where you are right now. I can however relate to ‘not knowing’, both in terms of your emotions and beliefs. One thing I’ve noticed about not having that ‘blind faith’ in times like these; you’re actually feeling. These feelings help corroborate the wonderful relationship you have with your step father. Many times with blindly believing or have a pillar to lean on, one misses out on the depths of these feelings.

    You and your family have left a wonderful impression on my life. I wish you sleep and thoughts of clarity.

  • Oh, Heather, I’m so sorry. About all of it. Call your therapist. We all need help with the climb sometimes.

  • I’m so sorry to hear about your step-father. I know that cancer, and even the threat of it and the unknown that it brings, can be completely debilitating for those that love someone deeply. There are times in life where you know that just over the bridge is growth and understanding but crossing, or even beginning to, is so incredibly confusing and painful that it is hard to know when you’ve made it until you can look back to the other side. Good luck. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  • I love you. I don’t know you, but I love you and I wish I could make you a cup of cocoa, cover you with a big soft blanket, rub your forehead and say “poor, poor bunny”.

  • Meg

    You’re not alone – I don’t think I’ll ever know what I believe. My mom was diagnosed with cancer and multiple sclerosis three years ago and it has been a definite struggle, but you have to remember you’re not alone even if you don’t have a religion behind you.

    I’ve never been pregnant, but I am scared to death of having a miscarriage. I watched my sister go through it and how hard it was for her and I don’t know that I’m strong enough to handle it. Plus it’s so common I know so many women who have gone through it I feel like I won’t be able to escape it somehow…

    Anyway, great post…

  • If you haven’t already read, Traveling Mercies, by Ann Lamott, I would highly reccomend it. Its so hard to come up with comforting words when you need them the most. I’m wishing you sweet comforts, kind words from friends and the understanding that good always comes at the end of the darkness.

  • Sandy

    I will keep you in my thoughts.

  • Keep your chin up, and my advice is to put that stomach-turning-flips feeling to good use- let it encourage you to do something (or to keep trying if that’s what you guys decide to do). For me, my first miscarriage (last summer) was heartbreaking and I let it mess with my sense of well-being, my self-esteem, etc. I hadn’t even really gotten around to trying again when I found out that we’d had another miscarriage- it’s been much easier the second time around ( a lot in part because I think I didn’t know about the pregnancy beforehand)… Regardless, this second one has motivated me to do a lot of exercising and eating better in hopes of being a better host environment 😉 And we’re not really trying-trying, but we’re still in the game, I guess. And I remember how terrible that first one was, and how awful I felt around the time it would have been due, and I know it sucks so bad. But I’m rooting for you, and I hope it can be a motivator for you, rather than just sucktastic.

  • heathabee

    I’m sending up prayers for your family’s cause! Best wishes as always, and hang in there. Lean on each other and rejoice in the wonderful family and life that you have.

  • JB

    Sleep is important. Make the call.

    As for your due date remembered, do not forget, plant some flowers today and honor the ache you feel. It helps, I know from experience. I have three special flowers/plants in my back yard.

  • Sending you healing thoughts. Know that you are not alone, in the faith questions, in the miscarriage, in the depression, in the worry about your stepdad. Don’t know if you’ve seen the Randy Pausch lecture or not, but something his wife, Jai, said in an interview they did was that they aren’t the first people to be going through what they’re dealing with, and she finds strength in knowing that others have gotten through it. I don’t know that knowing you’re not alone lessens the pain any, but perhaps it makes it easier to cope with…

  • Oh Heather – I’m sure the other bajillion comments covered this, but *giant squishy doses of good vibes and compassionate thoughts and understanding and hope*

  • I pray, without knowing exactly whom I am praying into, because I beleive giving voice to those concerns and fears DOES help-And so I pray for you.

    It is SO hard to see someone you care about sick-I hope he makes a full recovery.

    As for your miscarriage, you’ll never NOT get that weird feeling, even if you have another beautiful, healthy baby. I understand the fear of trying again though. The right choice will come to you.

  • Karen

    Prayers for all of y’all. They must do some good, right? Even if it’s just putting that postive energy out there.

  • M@

    the biggest problem is that where you once had this nice little cozy set of beliefs that allowed you to understand things (within a closeminded framework), now you’re kind of adrift without a net.

    Having someone who means this much to you have all of this happen is tough. I like to always say, things happen for a reason, but I’ll be damned if I can find a reason for this. I always like to believe that there’s a lesson in everything if we can detach ourselves enough to see it. Again, I’ll be damned if I can find a lesson in this one.

    The one thing it does do is give you a chance to step back and realize how much he means to you and what kind of person he is and let him know how much you love and appreciate him. Considering how much he’s done and sacrificed in his life for your mom’s career, maybe it’s time she sacrificed some time and effort on his part.

    I don’t know the situation enough, so please don’t feel like I’m judging your mom or anyone else. Just trying to offer some insight. I wish you a bit of peace, and go give the man a hug and tell him how you feel. I’m sure he can read it here, but it’ll mean a lot more coming from your lips.

  • Heather, so sorry you are dealing with so many sad things all at once. I totally understand the struggle to figure things out with regards to religion. On the one level, I’ve rejected a lot of the religious ideas I grew up with, yet on the other hand I still feel find myself murmuring thanks when something good happens, and asking for help during the bad times…to who, I don’t know. I guess in someways it’s just a habit I haven’t broken yet, though I’m sure my mother would say that it means I do still actually believe in something.

    And although I have never had a miscarriage, I feel quite sure that in such a circumstance I would also feel the loss when it got to the date when I should’ve been due. I don’t think it’s being morbid, it’s about being human and feeling the loss of what might have been.

  • Lisa

    My bosses wife died two weeks ago from a two year battle with leukemia. It was just awful for the family. It was hard to watch them go through all that pain, but it was great they had each other to go through it together. Some of us don’t have big families and the thought of being really sick scares me.

    Both of my parents are gone. For some strange reason I did pretty good when my parents passed away. I was in a good place with both of my parents and they were in their 70s and they didn’t take care of themselves so it was their time to go. I learned so much about myself and my parents when they passed away. I was sad for my kids because they were at the ages where they were just starting to interact with them. I have so many precious memories of my Grandparents.

    I was brought up Catholic, but now I am a spiritual person. I am not sure there is a “God like Person” per say, just a higher power. I believe there is a reason for everything. I don’t think that cancer happens to bad people, I do think it happens for a reason. Sometimes we don’t know the reason. It could be from environmental reasons, emotional reasons or unhealthy practices. I think the thing that wigged me out the most about losing my parents, is that it makes me at the top of the family totem pole. I am not sure that I am ready to be there. I have two kids that still need me so that is what keeps the sun shining on my day. I know they will be sad when I am gone and I am glad that I will be missed. I think it is real sad for the people who leave this earth that don’t have anyone to miss them.

    It is okay for you to be having all kinds of feelings. It is better to feel them then to fight them. Your uncomfortable feelings are your alert to take action. It sounds like that is what you are trying to do. You will learn a lot about yourself during this process.

    I miscarried after having a motorcycle accident in 1980. I still think a lot about what would have been. I have a lot of girlfriends that have had miscarriages. I have one that feels that our bodies are pretty smart and they let go of pregnancies of children that may not have lived quality lives. She works with disabled adults now because of that and sees first hand how hard it is to care for a child that needs care its entire life.

    So take good care of yourself (try melatonin and lots of walks), smell the roses, let the people in your life know how you feel and remember every day is precious.

  • chin up. deep breaths. i’m sorry you’re going through such a hard time.

    i’ll be praying for you and your family.

    sending big ol’ hugs your way.

  • I loved what commenter Barb said: “Mountains are not meant to be climbed alone”… there is or will be the right someone there to climb with you – Jon, another family member, your therapist – and while I understand that it might not be your belief (I don’t know and none of my business anyway!) – but my belief is that God puts the right person in the right place for us in our times of need.

    You have minions that hold you in esteem and in love – and while that will not take away the pain of seeing your beloved step-father deal with pain – it is sometimes all we each have.

    Best wishes on the show this afternoon!

  • Kelly

    I wish I had words of wisdom to share to help you deal with your sadness right now. All I can tell you is that sometimes dogs provide better hugs than humans and liquid Tylenol PM can work wonders.

  • What’s out there? Hope, Peace and the excitement of believing in the unknown. I believe there is a God and that we all go somewhere later in life where insomnia never happens, judgement is never given, laughter is law, and we don’t have to follow the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” policy because of a water shortage and environment issues. Actually the environment stuff is beside the point.

    I’m glad you’ve opened up comments for this because I have been wanting to write you for a while. Maybe your day will get a little better when I tell you how you have inspired me to open up. You’ve made me realize that laughing at yourself isn’t a big deal. You’ve pushed me to try harder at the things that I love but have been to lazy to do (i.e. blogging, photography, design.). Reading your blog is one of the things I look forward to everyday. I don’t feel alone, but being able to see that someone has the same sort of thoughts that I do is comforting.

    I hope that you find what you are looking for, that you get some sleep and that your stepfather beats the shit out of this cancer. You stepfather sounds like the same person as my mom. Being ready to throw herself in front of a bus is what you may call her occupation.

    So, in closing, my words of wisdom will have to, for the 80’s lover, come from Devo. So . . . ” When a problem comes along, you must whip it.”
    Get to whippin’ Heather!

  • Everything’s gonna be okay. Hugs.

  • Dear Heather,

    I have been reading your blog since I found it back in early 2005. I follow your life on an almost daily basis and get much hope from it.

    I am a single mom who moved from NYC to Queen Creek, AZ in late 2006. Funny thing..the weirdest thing happened..I converted TO the LDS church. Now…I was a liberal New Yorker who has done many things in my life that would be totally disapproved of by the LDS Church. However, it spoke to me at a time that I needed it and it is speaking to me now as I raise my now almost 4 year old daughter.

    I’m not suggesting that your return to the church…I’m just suggesting that “you take what you like about it and leave the rest”… can still pray to a heavenly father…even if you have chosen to leave the Mormon Church…you can still gain comfort and love from whatever higher power you may find as you search for what it is that is greater than yourself that gives you comfort.

    On another note…my Dad had lymphoma. He lived for nearly 14 years with it. He is now no longer here and I miss him greatly….and he lived for many years with it. I don’t know how advanced your step-father’s cancer is…and I imagine you are in a lot of pain whichever way this goes.

    You are in my thoughts and in my prayers (LDS and otherwise) and you will and all that is around you will be OK.

    With a lot of love (even though I don’t know you)


  • This whole entry makes me want to give you an awkward hug and bake you brownies. I’m so damn sorry you and your family are going through this.

    “… but I don’t think this makes me much different from a lot of people out there who are also trying to figure it all out.”

    Thank you for writing that paragraph.
    it describes what many of us out here are feeling.

  • all i can say is that there is so much love in your family, and that is the foundation for what you all believe. in the end, it will be enough.

    sending you so many thoughts of hope and strength and comfort. and to grandpa rob as well. the whole family, in fact.

  • chere


    I am so sorry for you and your family.
    We are all going down the same road regardless of our beliefs
    so whatever gets you down that road is okay.

    My thoughts are with you.

  • No, it’s not creepy that you are mindful of the due date; this was a child you lost, not some abstract idea. She was part of you and always will be with you. As to whether you should try again – isn’t there always the chance of loss? Nothing is for certain in this life, except for our determination not to give up.

    As for your stepfather, my thoughts are with you. Nothing is worse than the waiting and not knowing. But I’m sure he knows (and your mother, too) that you’re there for him.

    And faith? We’re all just finding our way. We all have questions and doubts; I think God makes Himself available to us in the way that we can best understand. And we don’t have to fit into rigid definitions of “Mormon” or “Catholic” or “Muslim” or whatever.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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