I often hear from grieving dads as it pertains to their career. Many grieving dads have found it difficult to stay focused, engaged or even interested in their careers after the death of a child. Even men that were on the fast track in their profession want to walk away to a simpler life. A life not filled with high pressure deadlines or work that in the grand scheme of it all, really doesn’t matter.
There was a time when impressing others in the work environment was important to me. Trying to climb the ladder quicker than others. I was the “go to” guy. I would get it done when no one else could. I fed on high pressure and the allure of making money. My wife was very much the same way except she fed on the recognition of being a successful professional woman.
I suspect a lot of our internal drive came from our background. Both of our parents were typical blue collar workers and they took their work seriously. We watched our parents struggle and knew we never wanted to have that type of stress of living paycheck to paycheck. So we both bought into the rat race mentality. Go to college, get a degree, get a job, buy a car, buy a house, etc., etc. Even though neither one of us liked the type of work we were doing, this approach worked great for us for a while. We looked at it as a means to an ends. We put our heads down and kept working and working and working.
The more we worked the more we realized it was not sustainable. The good thing is that we didn’t buy into “keeping up with the neighbors” like many people do. We always talked about leaving our corporate jobs as engineers and doing other work that was more in line with who we thought we were, but we never acted on it. I have learned that the dollar is an elusive thing and you can chase it your whole life and never have enough and never find happiness.
In November 2004, we lost my daughter Katie. Her death sent me in one direction and my wife in another. I took the “I need to work more” mentality as a way to cope with the pain I was experiencing and she took the “I can’t work because my heart is broken beyond repair” route. This worked for me for a while, but you can only run from your pain for a short period of time before it takes its toll on you. In June 2006 my son Noah died. His death rerouted me to the path my wife was on. I couldn’t work. I lost my confidence, ability to focus and desire. I didn’t care about much of anything other than the fact that my two babies were dead. I was off work for several months before I was forced to return.
I wasn’t ready to go back to the pressures of the rat race. However, I needed to earn a paycheck, so I went. I don’t really know what I did for the first year back, it’s a blur. I still struggle with “caring” about my job. I do it, because I am being paid to do so, but I could easily walk out the door and not look back. It’s not the company or the people I work with, they have been great. It’s the lack of interest in the work I am doing. It really doesn’t seem to make sense to me anymore. I find it boring and unsatisfying.
I find the work I am doing with this Grieving Dads Project much more gratifying. Maybe in some small way I can reach another dad that is feeling alone and isolated as they to sit there in their cubicle and try to cope with what has happened to them and their child. As they try to make sense of something that doesn’t make sense.
The loss of a child has truly made me question all aspects of my life and how I have been living it. What use to be tolerable is no longer. I challenge all grieving parents that read this posting to think about what their life has become and how much it has changed the way you see life, how you really want to live it moving forward and what changes in your life do you have to make in order to live it the way you want to.
Our nervous systems have been stressed to a point most people cannot understand. Keeping life simple after what we have all been though is almost mandatory in order to continue surviving. I just asked this question to a group of grieving dads last weekend. “Have any of you ever wanted to sell everything you have and move somewhere to a simpler way of life with a lot less stress?” I was a little surprised that almost all of them said “Yes, we think about it all of the time”. I have always been a bit of a dreamer so I thought I was the only one that “dreamed” of making those changes in my life.
How about any of you reading this posting, ever thought about just walking away from it all?