All of us that have lost a child can agree that when you lose a child, everything in your life becomes impacted in some way. After the death of my son Noah, and once I surrendered to the fight of emotional avoidance, I became someone who didn’t like to leave the house and became somewhat antisocial for the first time in my life. I felt a lot of comfort hanging out at home with my wife Christine. When she would leave the house and I was left by myself, I would get this uneasy feeling. I was almost afraid to be left alone by myself. Not sure why and even though we were both fighting a similar battle, just being with Christine kept me calm.
I didn’t even like to leave my house to go to work. Most of this was driven by fear of being out in public and not being able to control my emotions, but I also really didn’t see the point in working anymore. I started to question all of the things I use to just “do” as part of what is expected by society. Just like most people, I would get up, go to work, come home and spend an hour or two with my wife and do it all again the next day until I made it to the weekend. However, after the death of Katie and Noah, I really started to question the whole purpose of the life I was living and why many of us put so much emphasis on material things that do not matter. It’s the material things that keep us working at stressful careers/jobs that many of us don’t really like or do not find rewarding. I learned the hard way that these “things” only provide temporary happiness until we find something else that holds our attention.
This change in thinking along with the fact I didn’t want to leave my house motivated me to go part-time in my job for a couple of years. I was only 37 at the time and an associate in an engineering firm with a promising career on the corporate ladder. I knew going part time would impact all of what I worked for but it was the best decision I could have made for my own mental health, not to mention kissing ass to climb the corporate ladder was never part of who I am as a person. I have found that the death of a child has made the tolerable things in my life less tolerable. This way of thinking is very liberating once you find a way to let go and change the way your think and live your life.
Getting to this point took me a lot of time and a lot of processing. I found that reducing my hours and working 25-30 hours a week was still a difficult task for me. I would wake every morning with anxiety about getting up and going to work. The anxiety was triggered by the fact I knew I wasn’t performing at my job like I use to and I was worried they would find out and let me go. I really didn’t want to leave the house. I would get up after sleeping 10 hours, go to work, rush home, change into my running pants and tee shirt and sit in my chair and read books about grief. I was trying to understand what I was dealing with; I wanted to know my enemy and what I could expect. There were a lot of books that spoke of grief, but not many written by dads that discussed the really dark stuff that I was dealing with. I felt alone which made me want to stay isolated even more because I thought I was weak and I was afraid others would find out.
After a couple of years, the anxiety lifted and I have returned to work full time. I do not rush home like I use to during the dark days of grief, but one thing has stayed with me. It is no where as strong as it use to be, but I still have times where if I am away from home for more than a couple of days, I get a sense of sadness that comes over me. There is a sense of peace that I find when I am in my own home with Christine and my dog Buddy. This feeling of being home sick and wanting to be at home came over me last week while on vacation with Christine. We were in the beautiful islands of Turks and Caicos for our 15 year wedding anniversary celebration. Like I said earlier, the feeling isn’t as intense as it use to be and it doesn’t happen as often but I still get the home sick feeling from time to time. About 3 days into our 5 day vacation, out of the blue I started the get that feeling of wanting to be at home, which triggered a little anxiety. I just needed the comforts of home and I knew it wasn’t going to be feasible to just take off and head for home after three days.
All of us that have lost a child will always carry the pain of losing a child, but we also deal with the fallout of the emotional impacts we experienced. The trauma of losing a child does permanent damage to our nervous system and changes the way we see the world. Some of the changes are positive, but some are not. Each bereaved parent has a different experience and it takes time to fully comprehend the impact. As we try to pick up the pieces and put them back where they were, we realize these pieces have changed shapes or are still missing which makes it impossible to be “put back together” as the person we were before. We learn to adapt the best way we can and continue to learn about the new person we have become.
Has anyone experienced something similar?