I talk to a lot of grieving dads that experience severe psychological impacts after the loss of their child. I too experienced many of the same impacts after the death of my children and it scared the hell out of me.
Not long after the death of my son Noah I noticed that I had lost my drive, focus, confidence and hope. I also started to feel things that I had never experienced before, including despair, fear and depression. Things that use to be important in my life became not so important.
I use to love setting goals and achieving them. I did this to prove to myself and to others that nothing could get in my way. I measured my success by how many deals I put together and how high I could climb on the corporate ladder. How big my paychecks were compared to others around me, others that I considered my peers and my competition. Many of my friendships became superficial and were based on what can they do for me and I am sure what I could do for them. I never started out to be this person, but like many, I got caught up in the rat race of life.
The death of my children brought all of this insanity to a screeching halt. I fought it as hard as I could, but the reality was that both of my children had died and I was left standing with no one around me except for family, my wife and a few dear friends. I came to the realization, like many of the men I have met through this project, that my life has been changed forever. The old me died when my children died and the new me was going through some major growing pains.
The transition from the “old” me to the “new” me was tough to say the least. At some point in time I had to come to grips that the old me was gone, lost forever. I didn’t have the energy I once had; my nervous system can’t handle the stresses of life, like it once did. I learned to cut things out of your life that add no real meaning and I try not to stress about things I can’t control.
If you stop fighting it and learn to accept it, I believe the growing pains go way after a while and the new you will start to emerge. I am not saying that I don’t think about my kids and what I went through every single day, but I don’t let it take me to that deep depressed place I lived for a long time. I fought hard to get out of that place; I don’t want to go back.
My mission is to let other dads know they too can get out of it. It will be the toughest fight of their life and it’s scary. Scary from the stand point that you have to learn to reprogram the way you think and how you want others to perceive you. You have to let your defenses down and let yourself and others see you for who you really are. You have to learn to talk about what’s on your mind and what’s causing you to have a bad day. You have to realize that some days are going to be easier than others. But tomorrow is a new day. At the beginning and end of every day, you have to remind yourself that your child wants you to keep living. They want you to learn to smile, laugh and love again. They don’t want you to live in despair and depression. They want you to live a life full of passion.
This project is a result of my own realization that I must live a life of passion. My passion at this point in time of my life is to reach out to other grieving dads and help them back on their feet. Give them another grieving dad to talk to and relate with. Although our circumstance for our losses may be different, I understand the guilt and the “should haves” we place on ourselves.