Death No Longer is the Master
There is great comfort in losing my fear of death. That is one of the blessings that many parents experience after the rawness of their grief ebbs. It is an empowering and freeing experience: it is a gift from your child. When my wife was diagnosed with a gall bladder that had to be removed, she told me that she did not care if she died during the surgery. Losing this fear does not mean that grieving parents have a death wish or are suicidal. It just means that death has become a part of life and there is no need to try to deny its existence or ignore its reality. Death no longer is the master.
This is one of my favorite truisms written by fellow grieving dad and friend Charlie Schmidtke; in fact it is one that I too experienced. I have spoken to a lot of grieving dads that feel the same way. It’s not that we want to die (there may be times early on that you want to because the pain is so intense); it’s that the fear of dying is gone. Actually, for me, the fears of a lot of things are gone.
I use to be afraid of flying and would have to medicate to stay calm when I did decide to fly. Now I fly all of the time without fear. I told my wife recently “what’s the worst thing that could happen”. Again, not that I want to die, it’s just like Charlie said, “death has become a part of life and there is no need to try to deny its existence or ignore its reality.” Not that I am trying to test the theory of “what’s the worst thing that happen”, I am flying next week and really don’t want to jinx myself, it’s just I don’t have the fear I use to have.
Another fear I use to have is public speaking, now I don’t even get nervous. I actually have gotten much better at public speaking for work, conducting my workshops and key note speaking. What’s the worst thing that can happen? I mix up a few words, forget a line or two? I have lost two children; these things do not even come close to comparing. When I speak to other grieving dads, I worry more about connecting with them and helping them, not so much about my performance as a speaker. I just want them to walk out of the room with a sense of peace and/or connection with another grieving dad.
I would be lying if I said I don’t still have some fears, because I do. One of the fears is being thrown back into that pit of despair and depression again at any given time. That scares the hell out of me. Also, I have fears of my wife dying before me. I don’t want to be the only one left by myself; however, I also don’t want her to have to deal with the loss of me by herself. I know one of these scenarios will happen, that’s just life.
How about you, have you lost or gained any fears since the death of your child? If so, what are they? Has your fear of dying changed?