“An event has happened, upon which it is difficult to speak, and
impossible to remain silent.”
-Edmund Burke

I recently came across this quote and found it very applicable to child loss.  I often refer to the death of a child as “unspeakable loss”.  The death of a child is so profound that for the first couple of years that follow the death of a child, it is difficult to even say the words “my child has died” without triggering tears.  If we don’t say it, it must not be true, right?  Saying those words seems to make it more of a reality and it’s hard to face the facts. 

However, it is impossible to remain silent.  I think it’s the body’s way of cleansing the pain that builds up inside of us.  Of course crying is a form of cleansing, but so is talking about the stuff that is weighing heavily on our mind.  For me I had to continuously process all of the thoughts and “what if’s” before ever hoping to accept what had happened to me.  I don’t mean I accept their death, I mean I accept the aftermath and fallout from their death as well as the long term impacts it has had on my life.  I don’t like it, but I accept the fact that it’s just the way it is and I can’t change it.  Which was a hard lesson for me since I had always felt in control of my life and everything in it.  I learned the hard way that there is no such thing as control of anyone’s life; it can change in the blink of an eye.

Part of acknowledging what has happened to us is the ability to talk about it.  As the quote says, “it’s impossible to remain silent” without causing some sort of physical and physiological damage.  The body is a well designed machine, but I don’t think it was designed to carry the heavy load and burden of burying a child.  It’s just too much for the body to take, so talking about it is almost a must in order to slowly release this pain.  I know some people who will read this are still trying to “keep it to themselves” because they don’t want to burden others.  I know that thought process, because that is exactly how I responded to the loss of my first child.  Having been through this twice and have gone two different routes, I know which one worked for me and that was the one that required me to let my guard down, become vulnerable and transparent.  Basically, it required me to show my cards.  It wasn’t easy and it took some time to get to that point.  When I did, it became a major turning point in my grief.  I don’t mean it changed overnight, but I did start to feel some level of hope again.  I still battle it from time to time, but I have become better at noticing when I am doing the “ignore it and hope it goes away approach”.

I know it’s difficult to speak, but it is also difficult not to speak.  What are your thoughts on this topic?

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User Comments ( 25 )

  • Clay eastland

    How I would love to say something profound, comforting, insightful and be able to ease the crushing pain that we all feel regardless of where we are in our journey.I guess I will just say that I find comfort in knowing that my son Shawn lived a profound life. He impacted and continues to impact others in a very powerful way.I know he lives on in a different way but oh God how I miss his huge bear hugs. Soldier on men.

  • Kelly,

    My grandmother, DeCinter Caraway Farley (you share a last name) used a word I hated for things she found “vile” which I’ll tell you in a minute. Oh, this is not a bad story about my grandmother btw. Just a story.

    I never found a good use for that word until my daughter Nicole died at the age of 34. I blog about her loss and the impact it has had on me incessantly. I’m sure some people wish I would shut up. Thanks for this. I won’t… shut up.

    Oh, the word I hated was “despise”. She used that word for everything possible- it had little impact on me because she overused the word.

    For the first time in my life I have used the word despise – I despise the fact my daughter died.

    • Grieving Dads


      Its not about what others want, its about what you need. So do what ever it is that gets you through the day.

      I think you found an appropriate use of the word “despise”.

      I like stories, thinks for sharing this one with me.



  • Pat Bultemeier

    Thanks for sharing, Kevin. I relate to much of what you say.

    We are both fortunate and unfortunate to live in a close-knit community. In 10+ months there has only been one instance locally where I had to break the news to someone who asked about Graham and had no idea what had happened. Like you, Kevin, I could see the pain instantly hit her face when I relayed the event to her.

    I can also relate to the avoidance of “friends” comment. This is something I’m grappling with and have struggle with. WHAT do you do? I just don’t feel like I have the space in my head anymore for those people who choose to avoid me/not call/not inquire….and I don’t know if what I am feeling is ‘right” or not…or worse…if I should even give a fuck. In the end, while speaking the words are vile and incredibly hard…NOT speaking of him is harder and cuts deeper into my being and I am having a hard time with the inactions I see from those around me that I >thought< were my friends.

    When folks ask me "How are you doing?" I always tell them that what they are asking is an incredibly LOADED question….and in all reality…that they really DON'T want to know "how" I am doing….'cus even I have no real clue most of the time…

    onward, through the fog…..

    • Grieving Dads

      Pat – “Onward through the fog” I like that. Its scary at times, but we must walk through it if we ever have hope to seing the sunshine again. It does, you just need to keep walking.



  • Kevin

    On April 3rd it will be 9 months since my 17 year old son Shanon passed away. I don’t use the phrase “Shanon died” I find that when I hear that phrase it cuts like knife through my heart and into my very soul. I recently went with my family and friends to a local restaurant where I ran into a former neighbor who happened to work last year the high school that Shanon attended. As he shook my hand and looked around he asked me “and how is Shanon”? Then for some crazy reason those ugly words came right out my mouth “Shanon died Torrin”, almost immediately I felt the pain and hurt. I noticed that Torrin was wincing and look of total disbelief on his face, like I was somehow joking about this. I explained in short what had happened, which he explained that he no longer worked at that school and had no idea. For myself I don’t want people who know me and knew Shanon to feel uncomfortable, I’ve already seen instances where some people who know me and knew my son avoid me and my family, some of them are people I’ve known a very long time and called them friends. Shanon was well liked and had many friends, I know he wouldn’t want to hurt any of his friends or people he knew. It’s strange that there are times that you get kind of caught off guard like what happened to me. It’s almost like I’m trying to keep it all together and have some kind of normalcy and then….BOOM! When something like that happens and you’re trying to maintain and hold it all together. I think when people are told about the situation they have an equally painful experience, unless they don’t have a soul. My wife and I limit our time away from our home because we don’t like the idea of getting caught off guard like that. I guess maybe some of that is our fault, but we are the ones who deal with this every day, not the world outside. I tell some who ask how are we doing, my reply is.. It’s not always pretty but we are as good as we can be considering all that we are going through.

    • Grieving Dads

      Kevin – Although you do not want them to feel uncomfortable, they will anyway. I rememeber when others would tell me if they lost a loved one (before my losses), I would just say I am sorry and eitehr move one or change the subject. I had no idea what to say or do for those people. Now I do, only because I have walked in those shoes. I wish I didnt have to, but I do and I try to help others understand now. Not an easy task, but one I feel is my responsibility.

      My wife an I still like to be at home together (its been 6 and 7 years for us) there is just a peace being together around our house. Its not like we are talking about it or even thinking about it, its just the way it is now. We hang with others that have also gone through it.

      Early in my grief, when others would pass me by on the street and ask me how i was doing (as a form of pleasentry, not know whta I had gone through, I would respond with “not good”. Kind of makes me laugh now to remember the looks on peoples faces when i would say that. But that was the truth, I wasnt doing good.

      Thanks for sharing Kevin.



  • John Geraci

    It’s always hard to talk about these things. A year ago today my daughter Leslie went into the hospital for emergency surgery (her 3rd operation) when that goddamn cancer blob attacked and took more real estate of her body. She went in and never made it out. She stayed there until July 1st when she left this world.

    I’m ambivalent about talking to too many people about this because while it’s significant to me, I can definitely feel others feeling squeamish about it. And while I don’t get any joy from their being uncomfortable — it makes me feel bad too — I still am going to say what I feel. (So I guess I agree, fuck ’em, this is my life).

    I don’t expect much understanding from people any more. Mostly because it’s too hard to comprehend until you’re one of our cursed group. I mean when my neighbor died (at 46 years) I felt bad for his father. But I really didn’t understand until Leslie died. You only think you feel the heat until you’re in Hell.

    Thanks again, Kelly, for this site. And to all you fathers who write and listen here.

    • Grieving Dads


      You are welcome for the site. It just as much thearpy for me as much as it helps others. I think some of the stuff we generally do not talk about needs to be spoken, so I try to provide that.

      I do agree with you, it is hard to understand our pain/despair until you yourself has lost a child. However, I try to paint pictures in their mind by saying things like “it si so hard to deal with this pain, can you imagine if your daughter dies how you would respond”. They usually flinch at that thought. Although they cannot still understand, but for a split second they feel it. They just have the luxery of going about their day afterwards, we do not.



  • Grieving Dads


    The fact that you are “still” in no man’s land does not surprise me. You are not even 1 year out from the death of Adam. Anniversaries are tough. Its easier to go to that dark space in our mind than talk about the pain and the loss, but you have to force yourself to do it. There were times where I would just blurt it out to strangers. I actually got to the point where I didn’t care if it made them uncomfortable, it made me feel better. I just wanted to yell “my babies have died” as a way to let people know that what you see is not what is going on inside my head.

    I am very happy that you find support in the words I write. Keep in mind, I am always here to email or call off the blog anytime buddy.



  • Matt

    The 1st anniversary of Adam’s death is on the 1st of April and I’m still in no man’s land, some days talking about the death of my son rips my heart from my chest and I turn into a blithering mess other days it’s just bearable and the tears only role down my cheeks. The people I talk to about my loss fumble with awkward responses because they are uncomfortable with the situation, no one really knows what to say but who does? There is no hand book for grief everybody copes with the situation in a different way but talking about it has help me move in the right direction away from the darkest mind space I have ever been in.
    Kelly your monthly updates have helped me survive.
    Regards Matt.

  • I lost my 12 year old daughter to cancer after a 2 year battle. She is my first born of 4 children. It’s been almost 6 years and the pain is as fresh as day one. I did learn to cope with my aching heart but I definately have those days of complete sorrow. I did the terrible thing of comparing my other children to Cassidy, which was extremely wrong because they are as wonderful as she was. Pretending like she didn’t exist is NOT my thing. I NEED to talk about to whoever will listen. She has given my more strength and inspiration than anyone I’ve ever met or known. I started a foundation in her memory that helps other families that were diagnosed with childhood cancer. Sometimes it gets overwhelming but I know what I am doing is making a difference The pain of losing a child never actually goes away – it mellows with time but there is always a longing for your child – no matter what.

    • Grieving Dads


      I am sorry for the loss of your daughter Cassidy. I applaud you for starting a foundation in honor of her. I know its overwhelming at times but the work you are doing keeps you going and provides a lot of help support to others from someone who has been there.

      Thanks for sharing Pam.



  • Kelly thanks for your post. It’s great that posters here are able to express their emotions and share.

    • Grieving Dads

      Andrew – You are welcome. I hope you can find some insight here.



  • Tim Hayes

    Kelly – It took me months to say, “My son has cancer,” but when he died, I never sugar-coated my words. My wife struggled with saying he had “died.” For months, she would soften it by saying he had “passed” or “left this earth” or the various things people say. From the moment he died, I could do nothing but speak the awful and vile truth (Steve – it IS a great word for this). I might describe my circumstance saying, “I lost my son,” but I cannot bring myself to soften his death. It was anything but soft. As time passes, I am seeking to find balance in what I say, but I cannot stay silent.

    Thom – you mentioned those awkward conversations… At first, I felt awful when telling others who did not know, but if I am totally honest, now I find myself getting a little, sadistic pleasure in watching someone squirm in discomfort. My thoughts typically are, “My son died more than a year ago. Where have you been?!” In actuality, I think there is part of me that finds comfort when someone else experiences this awkwardness, because I live with it everyday. I am so very sorry to hear of the deaths of your children. Your assessment is correct: the world doesn’t make much sense anymore. One of my coworkers unexpectedly lost her 25-year old son on Thanksgiving also (sadly – it was her birthday, too). There are so many unanswered questions. Sometimes all I can find is that tiny sliver of peace. Grace and peace to you and your family.

    Tim (Hayes)

    • Grieving Dads


      You are not alone in taking pleasure in watching someone squirm when you tell them you child has died. I feel the same way at times. I was uncomcortable for a long time. I want othes to feel this pain or discomfort just for a few moment so maybe they can get a glimpse at what we all deal with everyday.

      No need to sofen in order so others don’t feel uncomfortable.

      Thanks for the honest comments.


  • Allan C

    Of course you mention your children. Of course sometimes it’s not appropriate. We know those times. It explains who you are. You’ve had the joy of children and saddly the loss. Ya, I don’t cry each day but nothing is every really whole now. That I do not expect to change.

    • Grieving Dads


      No it doesn’t change. We all will always feel that part of us missing. It’s just how it is from this point forward. The key is finding a life that can work around the void. Not an easy task but one can survive it. Problem is no one can tell another how to do it.


  • Thom

    It is hard to speak of your child’s death, but I know no other path. My infant son died suddenly on Thanksgiving. A daughter who was born prematurely the previous year also died. As many of you fathers can attest, that is altogether too much pain for me, for my wife, for us. The grief bubbles inside continuously like a volcano waiting to spew its ash. So, when the time comes – an awkward conversation with a guy I haven’t seen in a few months, an exchange with my dentist who can’t imagine what has transpired since my last cleaning, just answering the often-asked question “do you have children” – when those times come, I have to speak my truth. “I’m sorry you didn’t hear, but my son died suddenly. And it’s been a brutal couple of months.” I absolutely detest that I have to speak such words. It is vile. But it is also the truth, a truth I have to walk with every day. To skirt the issue, for me, is to deny that these precious lives were reality. Maybe it gives folks insight, too, as to why I’m more easily short-fused or introspective. And I do believe it helps bring people on my journey… and I, for one, need all the support I can find. I know if I didn’t speak those truths, it would bubble up an even more vile sickness inside me. My hope is that by letting some of it release, I can find a tiny sliver of peace in a world that doesn’t make much sense anymore.

    – Thom

    • Grieving Dads


      I also hate the question of “do you have any kids?”. I use to say “no” so I didnt have to explain myself. Now I smiel and say “I have lost two children”. I still don’t have to explain myself, because most people don’t ask, they just say “I am sorry”.

      Letting go a little sliver at a time is really all one can expect. Letting go all at one time is overwheming. Not to mention, we are learning how to do this at the same time. This is new territory for most of us. Not use to being unable to control our emotions/situation.



  • Grieving Dads


    I am sorry for the loss of your sweet baby girl Lauren-Kay. As you know there are no words I can say that will erase the pain you carry inside. I hope you will find some comfort amongst the other grieving dads here.

    This journey never ends, it changes, takes on different shapes and comes in waves at times. But the waves can become smaller with time. We are here for you.

    The book is set for a late April release. It will ship as soon as I get them in my hands. Thank you for the order.



  • Ian

    Hi Kelly,

    Do you have a date of when the book will be published and ready for shipping? I just ordered one today. I lost my 18 y.o. daughter (Lauren-Kay) in Oct 2010. Yep, still struggling. Thanks, IAN

  • Steve Christen

    I remember like it was yesterday – 3 1/2 years ago now – the first time I said, “My daughter Rachel died” to someone who knew her but did not know she had died. My ears were so violated by what came out of my mouth, I felt it was the vilest thing I had ever said.

    • Grieving Dads

      Steve – Great word, vile. It is the most vile thing that can ever be spoken. I think you just gave me a new posting subject idea. The whole experience is vile…