Many of the posts I write are triggered by thoughts that come to me throughout the day or they are generated by conversations I have with many of the grieving dads I speak with. A few days ago I was having a conversation with a dad that lost his daughter to murder. We were discussing how going through the death of a child changes all aspects of who you once were and it changes many of your core beliefs, some for the better and some for the worse. There is a sense of naivety that you lose after the death of a child. The fact that bad things only happen to other people is one of the beliefs we tell ourselves before tragedy strikes. But we now know that bad things can happen to anyone at any given time and there is not much you can do about it because it comes out of nowhere.
We also discussed how not everything that changes after the death of a child is bad. One of those things is that we have experienced the worst day of our lives (I want to preface that comment with, “that is not an invitation for a test”. I made this statement after the death of my daughter Katie and then 12 months later my son Noah died. I learned not to say that out load without prefacing it first with I am not looking for another challenge to see if my worst day can be beaten by another bad day). After you go through something as profound as the death of a child, you start to not really give a shit what others think or say. There is not much anyone can do to you that is much worse than the death of a child.
I see people at work running around trying to hit deadlines and stressing out like it’s the worst possible things they have to deal with. I don’t let work get to me like I use to, I still do my job, but I don’t stress about letting my boss down or anything along those lines. What’s the worst thing that can happen, I get fired? Let’s see “getting fired or the death of a child?” I am going to go with death of a child for the worst possible thing that can happen.
I use to get pissed off when people would say, “I am having the worst day of my life; I got a flat tire on the way to work.” Or something along those lines. Now I just kind of laugh to myself and say, “you really have no idea what a bad day is.”
We were discussing how this way of thinking is liberating, because you are not out to impress anyone. When you don’t care, it removes the stress of trying to impress others. Actually, this new change in perspective (some would call it a bad attitude, it’s not, and it’s an adjustment in how I see things) has actually made me better at my job. It’s also made me a little more honest than I use to be. I have always spoken my mind, but I tend to do it more now. I see so many people around me afraid of confrontation or having a difficult conversation, but it doesn’t bother me, it’s almost like that filter has been removed. I don’t look for confrontational discussions, but I do prefer honest conversations. I call people on their bullshit (and expect others to do the same to me) or call them out if I don’t like something. I am not trying to be an ass to others, in fact I do it in a very calm and professional way, but I refuse to take shit from anyone else, regardless of who they are.
I hear this issue a lot from other grieving dads. Have you experienced anything similar?
I lost my son Brady to SIDS on December 15th. It has been just under two months and obviously my wife and I have been through the biggest emotional roller coaster of our lives. Earlier today (before I read this blog) I was thinking that it is crazy that at the age of 33 I’ve already lived the worst day of my life. What could happen in the future that could be worse than being called at work and be told that your son has stopped breathing and isn’t responding. Again I am not tempting the gods but there is NOTHING worse than getting that phone call then having to drive 60 miles to the hospital knowing that chances aren’t good that your 7.5 month old son was going to make it. For some reason knowing that I’ve lived my worst day brings me peace. On the other side of the equation I know what chaos life can bring and hope to never have another day like I had on December 15th, 2011.
I want to start by saying I am sorry for the loss of your son Brady. You are correct, there is nothing worse than the death of a child.
I can realte with you that there is a since of peace when you realize you have lived your worst day. A day we would all gladly give back for our children to be safe and sound with us.
Thank you for sharing. Adam I know there are several dads here that have lost a child to SIDS. I hope you can connect with them.
So many things here resonate with my own anguish. 1) it can happen to anyone, anytime. 2) Don’t sweat the small shit. 3) Honor through activism. 4) Mad days vs. sad days. 5) Being a breadwinner, when your skills are in your ability to think and when you thinking tends toward obsession over your loss. 6) Emptiness, loss, frustration, sadness, anger. – No more invitation to share a moment – no more “Hey, Dad!”, no more “Hey, Aaron.” 7) Willingness to trade places. 8 Crushing, deep darkness – living in a pit of grief and self-pity, making it my home, wanting nobody to come to the door.
Today must be one of my “sad days”… 35 months after my son was killed: no justice, no respite. I have some consolation in my remaining son, who has lost the brother who was planned to be his friend for life and in my wife, who suffers along side me in her own hell among well-meaning, but insensitive friends.
9) It sucks!
Thanks for giving me a place to say it and to feel like I am understood.
Two pictures from real life, expressing what we feel at times:
Photo 6 of 18 on http://www.life.com/gallery/45701/image/ugc1063731/the-photo-that-brought-aids-home#index/5
To my mind, the picture, not the caption, tells the story. Definitely a “bad day” for Bill Kirby, one of us.
Thank for your posting Steve. An thank you for those photos. The one with the dad knealing at the monument really captures the deep desire to feel and hold you child again. Trying to cling to something that relates to them.
I like your #9, “It sucks”. That pretty much sums it up.
It’s helpful to know that others feel the same way I do: If I seem to forget, for a moment, that Leslie isn’t here any more, I feel guilty. Yet, just like you two have said, if the situation were reversed, we wouldn’t want them to grieve and move on with their lives. I guess the hardest part is looking at her pictures and knowing that is all that I have left of her, and the memories. Because they will never be on this plane again. And that, I feel, is the most devastating of all. Yeah, I’m sad, but it’s far freakin’ worse for them — because their lives got cut short. I hate this shit and wish I was in some dumbass movie and could wake up and say, “Whew, just a bad dream.” To everyone here – thanks. For sharing. For your honesty. And for helping me.
I use to wish I would wake up from this nightmare as well, but you can’t. I remember early on I would start to wake up in the morning and for a split second realize I was just sleeping and it must of been a bad dream, so I felt relief for a moment before reality set back in.
Bad stuff John.
I’m sorry Matt. But what the fuck does that help from some stranger on some message board?
And where the hell is your final report?
And Bob, I’m so sorry you lost your daughter.
My son died of sepsis, which is blood poisoning, 17 months ago. He was dead as a doornail within hours of feeling ill. The doctors said it ‘could happen to any child’ but the irony was that my 4-year old lived his short life wracked with severe congenital defects. He survived two open heart surgeries just to….what? Yeah. Dead by some common bullshit.
They fucked up and didn’t even perform an autopsy. They knew it was a big mistake. I always wonder if his heart gave out in the last minutes, or if it truly was sepsis. I realized in the end it wouldn’t matter. He’s still dead.
Whatever the case, any ‘beauty of mystery’ language is severely overrated. I’d trade my life, or *nearly* anything else for him to be back again. I will leave the metaphysical bullshit at the door.
I remember when i first began to qualify the *nearly*. I thought: no, i wouldn’t give up my other son. Or my daughter. It’s a disgusting thought. But it’s true. But my own life? Hell yeah. I’d be Issac, any day of the week, if i need to be.
Peace to you both.
I’m sorry for the loss of your Michal. We seem to have similar circumstances. My Katie had a severe seizure disorder (which she died from), we both have more children and we are both grieving for about the same length of time. Has the grief become even worse for you? It has for me. I have three sons and I am trying to stay upbeat around them as much as possible. They have their whole lives in front of them…I want them to have hope for the future. For me…my heart has been torn from my chest and broken forever. I don’t know brother…it sucks.
Bob, it’s so sad. I find grief to be so unpredictable. I’m so sorry you lost your little girl. She was undoubtedly beautiful and sweet. I am so sorry she is gone. I am sorry you cannot pick her up and smell her hair or tickle her sides. I’m sure her absence crushes you, as the weight of my son’s absence crushes me — so unpredictable, some days i won’t feel much, other days it crashed down on my so hard. I cannot help but feel we are all wreckage, waking up every morning to the reality of these deaths.
My grief feels like it’s metastasized in my bones…it’s grown deeper, less fragile, more mature, rooted…like i can no longer make a distinction between it and my own self: i will always define myself as ‘one who lost a son’ and thereby, if at least a little, retain a little of Michal’s continuity.
i have two other children whom i love dearly…but i feel their presence has never diminished the weight i feel in his absence.
anyway. i write a lot about michal, so you’re welcome to read some of those thoughts if you’d like. michalcaleb.wordpress.com
thanks for being so open and kind.
Tim – Thank you for sharing your blog with us. The raw reality of your pain would be frightening if it were not so familiar. Others who have not witnessed the destruction of the hopes and dreams held for a child cannot begin to understand how dark and deep the valley of death can be for a parent.
Your more recent posts seem to be raising a question for me: “Does it dishonor my son if I allow the pain to subside, or must I find ways of resurrecting it in order to honor his memory?” My counselor challenged me to consider what I would want for my son if it were me who had died. I would not want him to torture himself. I would want him to thrive. Knowing how much my son and I loved one another, I expect he wants the same for me. The challenge is allowing myself to do it.
I believe you, Tim — I would want my remaining son to thrive as well in my absence. I love him far too much for him to spend his life hoping I’d come back to him…but those are only wishes, and he’s only 9 right now, so his take on death is still quite different than my own. Yet wanting this for him and having this happen in my own heart are vastly different things.
My counselor has pushed against my ‘idealization’ of michal…rightly so. I do idealize his presence. i tend towards an addiction of sadness. i feel fragmented when i do not grieve for my son, for all the other things i lost along with him.
I ask myself every day: if i am happy today, does he die more fully tomorrow?
i answer yes to that, many days. and yet i know i have to let the sadness go…but that’s synonymous with his blond hair and brown fingers, and how can i ever, ever let that go? if i’m not sad, i know he fades.
I can totaly relate with your statement:
“My grief feels like it’s metastasized in my bones…it’s grown deeper, less fragile, more mature, rooted…like i can no longer make a distinction between it and my own self: i will always define myself as ‘one who lost a son’ and thereby, if at least a little, retain a little of Michal’s continuity.”
I too find myself defining myself as a dad that has lost two children. Not that I am looking for pity, just for others to know that things are not always what they seem on the outside.
First off, I am so very sorry for your loss. I feel many of the things you do. I would like to read more of your thoughts, but it seems the wordpress address is set to private. If you are still inviting others to read, I would be very interested.
It’s been 9 months since I lost my boy Adam to I don’t know what!! The state coroner still gives me the same bullshit every week….. “We said it could take up to nine months for the final report” but its’ been 9months, which make most of my day’s ordinary… I need to get to that next point in the grieving process; I need an answer as to why my son was taken from me, at 22 you don’t expect your son not to wake up in the morning and not having the sounds of his laughter, his smile, smell and touch makes for an empty day……… loss, emptiness, anger, frustration and sadness they are the main ones and they are my companions on those ordinary days.
I’m so sorry for the loss of you son Adam. I feel your pain. I had to wait 3 months for the coronors office and that felt like an eternity. I wish I had something profound to say to you…but you know that’s not possible. It’s been 15 months without Katie and I wonder when the pain becomes manageable…probably never.
We are all here for you my friend…
May the peace of Christ be with you,
I lost my little 4 year old Michal almost 17 months ago and I will always ache in his absence. I loved reading through these comments and this post. A friend send me this link.
It’s nice to find a place where sentimental bullshit doesn’t blunt the unpredictable edge of grief, where some kind of agenda for ‘making things better’ is pushed.
Peace to all of you men, all you dads who are now without.
I know you ache in Michal’s absent. I am sorry for your loss and the new world you find yourself in.
I am glad you find some connection with the posts and comments you find here. I thank you for your coment about this blog. There are plenty of places trying to make “things better”, which have a place, but its hard to be better when there is a lot of unspoken pain that has to come out first. This blog was designed to help have these honest conversations.
I also every once in a while “erupt like a volcano”. Its part of the mess. I use to be easly irritated, that doesn’t change but how you respond does. Our underlying anger will show up from time to time.
Your welcome for the blog, vent here anytime.
When I look back now at what I used to think were “the worst day of my life” (it kept changing over the years), they all seem, and actually are, diddly. Not even anything to worry about. Because you can usually overcome an accident, a financial disaster, even a robbery or an unfaithful spouse, but when you lose your child, there is no chance for recovery. Your most treasured thing in life is gone forever, never to walk this earth again. THAT’S the bad day. I’m like others here, most of the time, I just don’t sweat the small shit, because like the guy said, “It’s all small shit.” But I do find, every once in a while, that the littlest things make me erupt like a volcano, completely out of proportion to what has happened. It’s scary, because I know it is all the anger and hatred I have at life, probably God too since it seems like all our prayers were unanswered. And while it’s only been six months since my daughter Leslie passed from colon cancer, I know this is, now, my life. Thanks for creating this space, Kelly, for letting us read and understand…and also vent.
John – I am so sorry to hear about your daughter Leslie. I think cancer has a horrible way of not only taking our children but also the the good memories we have of them. It took me months before I could really remember what my son was like before cancer treatments and hospital stays. Slowly, those memories are fading, but they added to my anger and sadness. As far as unanswered prayers… I am still working on redefining my understanding of how God answers prayers. He and I still have a lot to work through.
My first post here….though I have been reading along for 7 months since my son passed away…
Kelly….I wish with all of my being that you never had to create this site….but at the same time I wanted you to know that it has given me comfort and made me feel like I wasn’t going fookin’ totally crazy many, many times. Thank You.
I LOVE YOU GUYS.
Pat – I am happy to hear you find some comfort here at this site. You are not going crazy. I know what you are talking about when you say you feel like you’re going crazy, I felt the same way.
I think you bring up a great tooic for my next blog posting. The feelings of “Going Crazy” after the death of child. Very normal (sort of – normal giving the cirrcumstances).
It is rather poignant to me that you wrote about having a bad day yesterday, because it seemed I was having one of my worst days in months. Like so many times before, I was determined to push through another work day, but around 9:30, I finally came to my senses. It was easy. My boss was in a meeting, so I simply TOLD my coworkers I was leaving for the day. No one questioned it, and today my boss has already told me to go home if I need more time.
Like you, my filters have been removed. I have a new appreciation for honest communication – even if the conversation becomes more heated than normal in a professional environment. But as more time passes since my son’s death nearly eleven months ago, I find myself trying to put the filters on again – to be the “nice” guy (at least with my coworkers – I still bark at my wife more than I should). I am growing so tired of my grief, and I fear those around me are beginning to think, “Will he ever just get over this?” The truth is – they have never asked me to simply “get over” my son’s death. When I have expressed this fear, I am scolded for thinking this way. They walked with me for eleven months of cancer treatment and have continued to walk through another eleven months of my grief. What I am starting to recognize is how my grief journey is changing the way everyone communicates – not just with me but with each other.
How much money is spent (and wasted) on office communication seminars? I would have preferred if we could have learned how to have honest communication in a different way. The price of this one is too freakin’ high! (Maybe we should get paid for this…)
I am sorry you were ahving one of your worst days. I applaud you for having an honest conversation with your boss about what you are dealing with.
I made a deceison after the death of my son Noah (second loss) that I was going to sit down with my boss and his boss and tell them “guys I know I am not working at the same level I was before the death of my kids, but I will do my best during this time.” I then looked at both of them (both have kids) and said “could you imagine if you kids died and how hard it would be to quickly go back and act like nothing happened”. This helped me to remove the stress of “do they know I am not doing a good job right now?” I put it out on the table and they were understanding. Know you boos first and try to get a feel on how they will respond. I also asked to go part time for a few years. Which I did from 2006-2009. The only reason I went back to full time is my COBRA was up and I could not get health insurance do to a very minor pre-existing condition. Going part time was the best thing I could do. We have to make a living, but I now ask myself “how much is enough?”. I get a different answer than I usue to. I use to say “its never enough”, not I say “I have a warm house, food, health and free time with my wife – thats enough”
Kelly – It is interesting how a child’s death brings clarity to the priorities in life. I can relate to the “that’s enough” mindset.
I am very fortunate to have a boss who truly supports me in my grief. He and I have worked together for over 15 years, and he was walking through the loss of his mother at the time of my son’s death. On the morning my son died, he happened to come by the hospital on his way to church – not realizing my son’s down-turn during the night – and was in the waiting room when we said our final goodbye. I have never faced the question of whether he understood what I am going through since he was a front seat observer. In truth, I might have taken in for granted. It is one more way God has blessed me in the middle of this mess.
A “Bad Day” is a term that for me, really means a sad day or a mad day. I expected, and still expect to be sad as the normal manifestation of grief. “Mad days” is a different story. I had to express my anger in a physical way, like going to the batting cage, to release it. I also had to examine what I was mad at and even who I was mad at. That process was both enlightening and challenging for me.
Steve – Great point about “mad days.” Due to the environment in which I was raised, I have honestly never dealt well with my own anger. I think it is important to understand the difference between a sad day and a mad day, so I can deal with it accordingly. Thanks for the distinction.
Steve – I too deal with “Mad Days” by working out (running and biking). I try to manage my stress by setting work out goals and constantly trying to beat them by pushing myself.
This year my goal is to do a triathalon (short one, not an iron many type). Here is my problem, I really dont know how to swim very well but I will figure out. 🙂
Thanks for the comment.
It has been a little over 10 months since Colin died and his first birthday just past a few days ago, and guess what, that liberation of having to not worry about filtering your thoughts or words is quite amazing. I too come to my job because I have to work to pay the bills, but I do not let work stress me out any longer. I do not let people at my job (or elsewhere) stress me out any longer, and I do not stress myself out about what used to seem like very important things any longer because they really were not all that important to begin with.
Steven – It is amazing when you start to have this clarity. A huge stress relief, the down side is that we now have the stress of coping with the death of a child. I wish we could have all learned this lesson the easy way.
I would be interested in hearing from members about the differences in grief created by the differences in our childs death ie: sickness, accident murder or suicide. Because my son was murdered, I carry huge anger and revenge with me. I can’t seem to relate to those of us who experienced other causes of death, I can only imagine. They’re must be different directions of anger and sadness…
I can not relate to a child being murdered and the anger and desire for revenge that must come with that, but I can tell you that every death of a child seems to lend itself to the same question, and that is “why?” Why did this have to happen to my child? Why did this have to happen in my life? Why am I the “lucky” one to now be the statistic?
Unfortunately, the “whys?” never seem to have a full or even satisfactory answer. They just sit out there making us second guess everything we thought we knew about life and death. On this, I have a few pieces advice…do not let the “whys” destroy you because if they do, the person who murdered your child has won. Find a way to turn this around in whatever way you can in order to honor the memory of your child and help prevent other senseless murders if you can.
My last bit of advice is in regards to your anger, and it was given to me just a week after Colin died. It is ok to be angry and yell, even at God because you have every right to be angry at the world and at God for this senseless act that took the life of your child. If you do not feel like yelling at God or the world, feel free to yell in my direction if you need to. I know I have had other Dads allow me to do the same.
Scott- I lost my 13 year old son to sudden cardiac arrest 2 1/2 years ago. My wife and I talk about how parents must feel when they lose their kids to accidents, suicide or in your case a tragic crime. It’s kind of weird, thinking about the different circumstances surrounding the death of a child. Because we lost our son to a rare but recurring issue in our society, we were presented with an opportunity to educate, test and prevent sudden cardiac issues with kids in our community. Because of our circumstance, we’ve been able to move from tragedy to action. Unlike other causes of death, like an accident or violent crime, you may not have the same opportunity to help prevent or advocate change. We are blessed that we’ve been given the mission to channel the emotions of our loss into a positive and impactful footing by creating a foundation in our son’s name.
I cannot imagine the grief, anger and overwhelming desire to vindicate the murder of your child. It is however, comforting to have venues like Grieving Dad’s and other outlets to share our feelings.
I wish you peace in your day.
Scott – Since my son’s death, I have had several conversations with parents who lost children in a variety of ways. Although every grief situation is unique, I believe there are some common factors. In my opinion, the greatest common element is: it sucks regardless of the circumstance. Whether you see the train coming or not, the end result is still the same! There are times that I view the eleven months my son fought an aggressive cancer as a blessing (almost). It gave me the opportunity to at least consider the possibility that we could lose him – unlike you and those I know whose lives were forever changed by one phone call or knock at the door. Other times, I am haunted by memories of the pain he experienced, especially in the last two weeks when the complications were so great that we prayed for the time to pass until the next dose of pain medication could be administered. I have struggled with anger – mostly towards God because I have no one else to blame, and revenge is not a consideration. I can only imagine the rage that must burn within you at times. It may be different, but there are so many things to learn from each other. Thanks for raising this question.
Great discussion and points here. Scott, I would think the one thing that would really standout after the death of a child by murder is revenge. We all have anger, but your situation would be a different type of anger/rage. The desire for revenge I would imagine would be strong.
Steven – I am with you on trying to find answers the “why’s” can destroy you. I searched for a while until I realized there are no answers. Sometimes I wonder if I really want to hear the answers.
Tim – You are correct, “it sucks regardless of the circumstances”, its just a different kind of suck. Each of us have very different and very similar circumstances. The one common thread we all have is we have all experienced the death of a child. We continue to learn from and support our differences.
Thanks for all of the great discussion (and support)
Your question has been rolling around in my head for a few days now, scott. One of my son’s high school classmates was murdered 10 months prior to his own death on a college campus here in CO and we have thought about the “differences” in grief we feel compared to what we can only imagine his parents are feeling…
My son, 21, was longboarding and fell and hit his head. He suffered a massive brain trauma and, I’m told, “never knew what hit him”. There was an off-duty paramedic who was in his car and saw/stopped to help immediately and the hospital was 1/2 mile down the road…so the ambulance was there in mere minutes. Even so…there was no stopping the progression of the injury….and 6 hours later he passed from our world.
Anger is one emotion I have not felt. Am I >disappointedfarther away>very<>>thanks<<< for opening this topic up and allowing me to try to get all of this out of my head.
My message did not all come through…
Anger is one emotion I have not felt. My son made a series of choices that lead up to his death. To be angry with him about it after-the-fact does me absolutely no good and, IMO, takes me farther away from him and his memory.
The ‘circumstances’ surrounding the losses we are all feeling do not change the fact that we all feel the same loss in the end. However, just as you note the differences in emotion…there is also a difference in what must be dealt with/what was left behind when an adult child leaves this world vs. what must be dealt with when a young child passes. the LOSS is no different in the end…and none of it matters in the end…but there are differences just the same.
thanks for opening this up.
love and light to all
I have to completely agree with that. I lost my son, John, only two months ago, so the wound is still quite fresh. I’m in the military and I used to get so stressed out about getting yelled at or having to do stupid things if i get into trouble. But now the God’s honest truth is, i really dont care. I have, for the most part been left alone, and i have kind of isolated myself, but I don’t hesitate to be honest about how I’m feeling. It hasnt made me better at my job, mostly because i show up because i have to, and i just hang out. I will not let anyone regardless of rank bully me into doing a job that i dont want to do. My job entails working on equipment that needs careful attention, and a mistake can end someones life. i am not in the right mindset to do so, so i just dont. You’re right, it does remove that filter and fear.
Mason – I can honestly say it took me at least six months after my son’s death before I started to accomplish much of anything at work. At two months, I think you are doing pretty well to simply be present, and I applaud how you are declining some assignments, especially when lives are at stake. My guess is that getting yelled at in the military is still pretty standard – at least it was for me over twenty years ago. If you have not already, it is probably a good idea to spend some time talking with a chaplain. In my experience, a chaplain is one of the best advocates when a superior begins questioning why someone isn’t simply “back to normal” – whatever the hell that is.
I am sorry for the death of your son John. No words can ease your pain. I am glad you are here amongst others that understand what you are coping with.
I know what you mean by goignt to work and jsut kind of hanging out, I did that for almost a year because I could not focus. The only thing on my mind was my pain the death of my child.
We are here for you as you continue your journey on this difficult path.