This was a tough posting for me to write. Tough from the standpoint of wanting to write something that related to Thanksgiving but really not knowing where to start. I don’t want people to think that I am thankful for everything in my life, because I’m not. Let me rephrase that, I am thankful for everything in my life except for one thing: the death of my children. I am not thankful for that.
What I am thankful for are the people that helped me through some of the darkest and most difficult days/months/years of my life. I’ll start with Sarah. Sarah was the Chaplain that worked at the hospital where we lost Noah. She was truly sent to help us on our journey. Sarah is a compassionate and kind soul that spent hours upon hours with us praying and consoling my wife and me. Her kindness will never be forgotten.
The next person I am thankful for is Lynda. Lynda was a tough lady that called me on my bullshit. She wouldn’t take the surface answers of “I’m doing fine”. She challenged me to dig deeper and to grieve. Fully and completely grieve by allowing myself to feel the pain. I met Lynda a few years prior; she was a real estate law consultant that did some work for me in the past. We never took the time to get to know each other during that time. However, a few months after the death of my son Noah, I was off work and decided I was going to try to get some aspect of my life back so I called her to schedule a meeting to discuss some real estate issues I was having with setting up an entity. We arranged a meeting at her home office. When I arrived at her house to discuss “business” she directed me to her living room in her 1 bedroom apartment. She only had a couple of simple chairs and no television. It didn’t take long before I shared my story with her and while fighting back tears. She then started to tell me her story of her current battle with breast cancer. We spent the next several hours talking and crying about our pain. Lynda was in her mid 60’s at the time but was a courageous fighter. This was her second battle with breast cancer, but she was beating it. Our friendship grew out of that meeting. Two people having honest but difficult conversations about the struggles in their lives. She told me later that “someone brought us together that day”. Someone that knew we both needed a shoulder to cry on. Lynda lost her battle with a third bought with breast cancer in early December 2009. Lynda I want you to know that I am so very thankful for your friendship and the short time you spent in my life.
The next person that I am thankful for is Rich. Rich happened to be a Stephens Minister at the church I attended. I had told the support pastor that I needed to speak with someone about what I was dealing with. He told me he was going to have Rich give me a call. I was hoping Rich would have all of the answers for me. When Rich called, I told him my story over the phone and his response to me was a turning point in my grief. He said “that’s a heavy load brother.” To most, that wouldn’t trigger the tidal wave of emotions that I was holding back, but for me, it felt like for the first time another guy gave me permission to let it out no matter how ugly it looked. Trust me, it wasn’t pretty. I couldn’t even catch my breath for almost a minute because the release of pain was so great I felt like my body was convulsing. We spent one night per week for the next 4 months having dinner and talking about some of the things I was dealing with. He would pray with me and check in by phone call or email a couple of time a week. Rich, I give thanks to you for giving this “tough guy” permission to cry and show emotions without feeling uncomfortable.
I give thanks to Jamie. Jamie was someone I worked with. He worked as an engineer on several of my projects and I acted in a supervisory role with him. He was in his mid-20’s but he was much wiser than his age would suggest. Once I got back to work after being off for 3 months, I would come in and sit at my desk crying. This went on for almost 9 months, but Jamie would come in everyday and look around the corner at me to make sure I was doing ok. 90% of the time I was just sitting there with tears flowing and snot hanging out of my nose. He would sit down and listen to me tell my story over and over again. I would tell him “I don’t think I am going to survive this.” In response he would say, “Kelly, you will survive this, but you may have to make adjustments in your life. You have to take each day as it comes, the ebb and flow of your emotions.” I am sure it got to the point where he was thinking “dude, come on, you’ve been crying everyday for the last 9 months and we talk about the same shit every day.” If he was thinking it, he never said it. I am thankful for Jamie and all of the time he spent with me reassuring me that I was going to survive.
I give thanks to my wife for encouraging me to grieve in my own way and my own time. I give thanks for her strength. She would take my calls when she knew I would be bawling on the other line. She would allow me to stand in the doorway of the bathroom every morning crying while she was trying to get ready for work. I was a mess but she would do everything she could to help me while she too was grieving the loss of her babies. I give thanks to Christine for being an amazing wife and friend.
I give thanks to all of the people that would take my random calls and hear nothing but silence on the other line. I would just sit there trying to say something but I couldn’t speak without completely losing it but so desperately needing to tell someone how much pain I was in and how much I loved and missed my children. I give thanks to all you.
I want to give thanks for all of the people that follow and participate in this blog, all of the grieving dads (and moms) out there willing to put themselves out there so others can learn and realize they are not alone. You have no idea how much you are helping each other. All of the care providers that follow this blog for insight into what men deal with. All of you have inspired me to fight for this project and to create the Grieving Dads book that is needed as a resource. You have all taught me to become transparent with my thoughts and emotions. Your stories are all heartbreaking and I am sorry that we ever had to meet under these circumstances.
I am thankful for Barry Kluger (fellow grieving dad) and Jim Boyle for their endless support and working tirelessly to amend the FMLA so that bereaved parents have the option to take a 12 week leave without the fear of losing their jobs. We launched this amendment in January 2011 and it has evolved into a bill (Parental Bereavement Act of 2011) that was introduced by Senator Tester (MT) back in July. As of today, we are close to breaking 30,000 signatures. I give thanks for Barry, Jim, Senator Tester and all of the 30,000 people that signed this petition.
I am thankful for having to travel to the depths of despair; I just wish I didn’t have to stay there as long as I did. I know this sounds strange, being thankful for feeling the pain to the depths in which I traveled. I am thankful for this because without actually traveling to that “place” I dwelled for such a long time, allowed me to look at life from a whole different perspective. I am now ever so grateful when I can wake up and actually have a good day; a day without sadness, depression or pain. I can actually live my life again with smiles and laughter. Of course I see things through a completely different lens in which I did prior to Katie’s and Noah’s death. But it’s an honest lens that allows me to see others in need where I didn’t see it before. It gave me the courage to extend a hand to someone in need rather that saying, “someday I’ll get around to helping others.” I see can see hope again. Once you lose hope you realize how important it is to survival. I cherish hope.
I give thanks to my health and all of the other blessing in my life.
Of course I give thanks for the honor to be the father to two beautiful babies, Katie and Noah. I thank you for coming into my life. I wish it would have been for my life time. Both of you changed me as a person and I give thanks to you for that.
Care to share what you give thanks for?