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?
Excellent post and replies. I can’t seem to be able to muster an eloquent response so I’ll keep it simple – your post and all replies, especially from Pat hit home hard and I relate completely. It’s going on five years since Dylan left us and I’m still in the “rut”.
Glad you liked the post. I think in some ways we stay in the rut for the rest of our lives, the question becomes how deep in the rut. Like I have said before, we get through this, but we never get beyond it (and its impacts to us)
After my Dad passed away ,july5 1999, I had bad panic attacks,then they went away,then my mom passed away,april 16 2009,Then I lost my 18 year old daughter on september 24,2010, my Dads birhtday, my panic attacks try to creep up on me again, but I tell them no you can not have me.
PEACE TO US ALL.
I know the panic attacks of which you speak. I know them all to well. They come out of nowhere and sneak up on you when you least expect it. For me it was the constant depressive fog that hung over me for so long. I could not fight it, as hard as I tried, I could not change the feelings I was having. It took a lot of time before the fog started to lift. A long time.
Thanks for sharing.
When my son died, I had not worked for almost two years. I was starting to go back to work when he was 8 months old, but then he was diagnosied with STUPID cancer, and I had to put all my attention to his care.
He died 13 months later. About 4 months after that I did try to go back to work. I was fine there, but every time I left I felt like “what am I doing!? I just want to be home and back in bed”. I switched jobs (I am a nurse) after 2 months, but only lasted about 3. I am not sure if it was the job, a new pregnancy, or what, but I just couldn’t stay any more. I thought about going back again, but it was just all too hard! We have past the one year mark, and I am able to get through the day for the most part, but it is very hard sometimes still.
It is hard to go to work (or anything that requires focus) when you have something so heavy on your mind. It’s impossible to focus on your task. Things that use to take me an hour or so now take me a couple hours. No a days its because I am bored and do not see the reason for doing meaningless tasks, but early on I just could not concentrate.
Thank you for sharing your story.
Debra, I also feel compelled to write you. I am 22 years old, this past Feb..on the 19th my 4 year old daughter passed away. She too, was completely fine before her ‘death’ (I HATE that word still). She had epilepsy, but had been seizure free for 9 months. I had her at a very young age, so I feel as though I grew up into the adult I am today..as a mother to her. All I know is being a mother. I feel your pain, I really do. I know you feel like NO ONE understands, and a lot of them dont. I too feel sad and empty. I still have a hard time going into her room. I feel, and see my husband sinking into depression. I had to go back to work after a month off..he stays at home and I am always so so worried about him. He just sits at home and balls, and I cant take his pain away. I wish I could take yours away, and EVERYONE on this earth who has ever lost a child. It truly is a terrible feeling, there are no words to describe it. None that could truly tell anyone how bad it is. My heart is heavy for you, and you are now in my thoughts and prayers. I feel as though I am just venting, but I feel for you, and I am hurting with you. Please know that you are not alone. Look for the signs of your sweet Alicia, she surrounds you. I have started a blog, and also been writing in a journal, I have found it helps me get some of my thoughts out..the ones that make no sense, but if I dont get them out I will explode. Maybe that would help you as well. Thinking about you, and your family. <3
So many of the things that you mentioned in your post applied to my wife and I that I read your entry to her when she returned home from work. We experienced the isolationism as well. The self-inflicted kind you spoke to, but also the feeling after the huge rush of people who came just after Graham passed and the realizations of how alone in this we truly were when everyone left and the whole “we didn’t want to bother you” motif crept in weeks later.
My wife is fortunate that her employer of 26 years was very understanding and that she had been grooming a few key employees for promotion and to take on more duties before Graham passed..so timetables were escalated and this allowed my wife 4 months (vacation hours used) before she even had to think about finances/investments/etc. Because that isolation component kept kicking in, she worked from home for another 2-3 months when she had exhusted all of her sick time and vaca time and only a few months ago started to return to the office…first for meetings only and then on a 4 day a week schedule where she remains today.
As far as caring about any of it like she did before….yeah…that went out the window instantly. Also gone is the multi-tasking ability and any tolerance for the entire office Peyton Place/ladder-climbing/back-stabbing/gossip/entitlement thing that seems to go on constantly somewhere within the Co. at all times.
Beyond work we have found that most of what we thought we wanted before this event happened isn’t what we THINK we now want. However, with the cloud and the syrup all around us since Graham passed we are unsure exactly what we want and only seem to have a basic idea of what we would do if we could break free from all of the chains. “Retirement” might be possible if we lived really cheap because we have always saved and we have been fortunate to be in a job situation that has been stable and didn’t see much effect from the crash of the economy….but at the same time that familiar stability also holds us back.
I fear what I call ‘the rut”….where we simply fall back into the same old crap doing the same old thing and nothing..other than losing our child has changed.
This scares the shit out of me because I feel like EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED inside of me…yet nothing is changing on the outside and in all reality…no one truly cares that we are “wearing the mask” as long as we fall into line and play the game as directed. In short…It feels like time is just slipping away and we are waiting for some “golden Years” crapola to arrive when I wanna bag it all and see if I can find joy/happiness again in “merely existing”. SCREW all the responsibilities and the news/worries of the world…..
I dunno where we are going but I’ve been where i’m at too damn long. In the end I feel like i am not doing my son’s memory honor if i DON’T change/don’t find at least a semblance of ‘rearranged’ happiness at some point in time while I’m still healthy enough to enjoy it. Right now I/we are trying to make at least some forward progress each day to work towards this change but the feeling that we will never get there and the realization that Graham will never see any of it is about to kick my ass AGAIN…
Thanks for illuminating this and all other topics and for letting us vent here collectively, Kelly…and THANKS for shedding light on the lack of Family leave for grieving parents.
So many things you mentioned really hits home with me. But this one hits hard, even after several years:
…”I fear what I call ‘the rut”….where we simply fall back into the same old crap doing the same old thing and nothing..other than losing our child has changed.”
I often feel this way. There are days that I get pissed off at myself for not making bigger, more meaningful changes in my life. I refuse to allow myself to fall back into the same old grind, but there are moments where I do. Its a constant battle.
Thank you for sharing his perspective. I have found it hard to explain this feeling to my wife, but reading your comment to her help explain my internal unsettling feeling.
Hi, since losing our sweet girl, Alicia I bounce from anxiety to numbness and pray every night that I stop waking up in the morning.Life means nothing without our daughter, we are going into our sixth month with out her and I HATE this so much, I feel dead and walk about like a zombie. How can this be?
She was fine on Tuesday and in dire straits on Wednesday, our world changed in the blink of an eye. We miss her so much , we are all so sad and empty.
We fear our son is on the edge of a depression he always worried about his sister Alicia and now all his fears have come to be, we are all so afraid and fear another blow coming upon us.Death I do not fear, it is LIFE that scares the daylights out of me, WHAT NEXT?!!!!!!!!!!!!
Already have 4 precious children in Heaven, NO MORE CAN we TAKE!!!!!!
Empty Arms and Broken Hearts
Debra – I feel compelled to comment because many of your words resonate with me. But as I consider the loss of four children – knowing the struggle it is to embrace life after the loss of one – any words I might want to say seem to literally evaporate before my eyes. I am learning that there are times when “presence” is the only response. This is one of those times. Thank you for sharing about Alicia.
I completly get your comment “death I do not fear, it is life that scares the daylights out of me”. I think its hard for people that have not lost a child to understand a statement like that because they have no idea how deep this pain goes, I didn’t, until I found myself in the depths of it. I would say 99% of the dads I interviewed of the last 2.5 years have said the same/similar comment.
Wishing you peace.