They Walk Among Us
I had a unique experience last week while I was at work that took me a little off guard. To give you some background leading up to this experience, it started the Friday before New Year’s weekend and I was on the phone with someone (Mark) I had never spoken to before and we were talking about the possibility of his firm doing some sub-consultant work for a project I was managing.
I am the type of person that is genuinely interested in other people; I think everyone has a story to tell which I find intriguing. Therefore, as with most of my conversations, we started making small talk. The conversation turned to the subject how each of us was planning on spending the New Year’s weekend. Mark shared with me his plans and when it came time for what my plans were, I mentioned that I was writing a book and I was planning on spending most of the weekend putting the finishing touches on one of the last chapters. His question back to me was, “what type of book are you writing.” I then explained to him that I was writing a book for men that have experienced the death of a child. There was a few seconds delay and then he asked me why I was writing this book and if I had experience with the subject matter. I then gave him a brief overview of my losses and what prompted me to write such a book. He then said something that got my attention, he said, “I have experience with that, I lost a baby in the mid-80’s.”
This has happened to me on more than one occasion when a general conversation turns to someone sharing with me that they too have lost a child. Of course I hear from grieving dads daily through my Grieving Dads Project blog, but I am talking about the kind of people in your community that you speak with that you have no idea of what you have been through. I think this goes to show that there are millions of us out there. The problem is we often keep that “secret” to ourselves not really wanting to talk about it or burden others with our experiences. The reality is, if we do not talk about it, we don’t make the connections I made with Mark, who was a stranger before our phone conversation. There are many grieving dads (and moms) that we pass by daily. People that understand and can connect with what we have been through. They may not be people that are newly bereaved; they may be like Mark and be almost 25 years out from their loss, but these people still “get it.” They remember those deep dark early days (years) of grief and how debilitating they are. Not to mention the thoughts we all have about not being able to survive this blow.
I got sidetracked in my story, so let me bring the story back to last week, the firm that Mark is with had planned to come in and do an hour presentation some new technology they were using. I was really looking forward to meeting Mark since this was the first time meeting him face to face. He arrived with two other guys from his firm and I got them set up in a conference room. When I met him, I felt an instant connection with him, a strong connection. We didn’t speak about our losses, but there was an understanding, at least on my part, that this dude knows what I have been through because he has walked the walk.
I know this is going to sound weird, but during his presentation, my mind drifted off from the presentation and I found myself looking at him from a different perspective. Not from a business perspective, but I looked at him as a fellow survivor; a survivor that I know has been through hell, just like me and the many other grieving dads I have met. There was a point where I became emotional thinking about what he has been through and what I have been through. I know this is also going to sound a little weird, but I wanted to get up and walk over to him and put my arm around him. The thought of doing that brought even more emotion and a strong sense of compassion towards him.
This is a common response for me when I meet a fellow grieving dad, but this was the first experience I’ve had with a grieving dad in the business world. There is a brotherhood between all of us and we should try to use it to help each other along this journey.
I never said anything to Mark after his presentation about what I was thinking. I know he occasionally reads this blog so when he reads this story I am sure he is going to think “I thought that guy was looking at me a little weird”.