The following article comes from a fellow grieving dad and guest blogger Thom Gonyeau.  He is kind enough to share his story and also discuss some of the challenges he faces as he moves forward through the aftermath of losing a child.  I can relate with many elements in this piece.  My wife and I also went through extensive IVF treatments and have given thoughts to future adoptions, but I deal with the fears of losing another child.  Anyone else deal with fears as they move forward?

Scared to Look Back – Afraid to Look Forward

Every grieving dad’s story is unique.  I know mine is.  Like many couples, my wife and I (who married late) struggled to get pregnant.  We used the wonders of modern science to work on our behalf and were successful.  Our first pregnancy with twins ended in a double miscarriage.  The next round of IVF again brought joy, but when our daughter, Catherine, was born prematurely at 21 weeks (two years ago today), we could only hold her a few minutes before she passed.  We experienced a new, deeper level of grief. But our story (nightmare) was far from over.

Forming an adoption plan has its own series of landmines, but loss of a child wasn’t one that concerned us.  We were focused on dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s and hoping the birth parents wouldn’t change their mind.  They didn’t and our son, Grant, was born last October.  We were instantly submerged in caring for our little guy, enjoying the sweetness, and craving sleep.  But all that changed on Thanksgiving Day when our infant son, safely nestled in his car seat, sleeping peacefully in our safety-conscious car … just stopped breathing.

What was to be a joyous introduction of our son to my wife’s family instead became a tragic day.  I can recall with no effort images of shock, emergency, trauma, hospital, and ultimately hopelessness.  No man should ever see the lifeless body of his son.  No man.

The last year has been sometimes a blur, sometimes a prison.  It’s unthinkable what message the universe might be sending our way.  The countless tears and ever-present anxiety are never far away.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the love, support, and care of friends were just as close.  Laughter and good days even found their way back to our doorstep, though the memories of six short weeks with Grant offer sobering contrast.

The call came not long ago.  There’s another little boy in our future.  My wife and I struggled (with the help of our grief counselor) on the timing and the circumstances.  Could we possibly open our hearts and home to another male infant born in October?  The similarities to our situation just a year ago are startling.  We did our version of contemplation and talking and find our way on the path to adoption.

He’ll arrive in just a few weeks, just a few days short of the anniversary of Grant’s birthday. Clearly, the universe has a cruel sense of humor or a mysterious way of helping us move forward.  Religious or not, it’s hard not to believe that our first son is shepherding to us our next son.  Perhaps his message is that he’s ok.  Perhaps his message is that we’re ok.  Either way, our hearts just keep growing bigger to make room.

Yes, looking back is scary.  These past two years have been filled with dark days.  And yet, it’s no easier to take that deep breath and move the body and mind into what will be.  But something tells me, we’ll find the courage to welcome a little boy with open arms and open hearts. Resiliency, grace and hope as our guide.

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  • John Wolfe

    To Kelly & Steve,

    Thanks foor your kind words. It’s always a comfort to me to be able to come here to vent when I need to without being judged.

    I am better now, as I’ve had time to process what I experienced. I have an excellent core of friends that I can rely on to talk to at any time of the day or night, and in the past week I’ve called and talked to each one. While none of them have lost a child, they have all lost a very close family member or two and understand the emotions that I’m experiencing. They’re smart enough to know when to listen to my rants and raves, but intuitive enough to know when to tell me I’m acting like a horses ass.

    But I think that what I’m learning is that with each successive beat-down, I somehow come away a little bit stronger, a little bit wiser. But the key to being able to get there is not only to be able to get back up, but to think about and process what just happened. With the help and support of this website, the friends I surround myself with and especially my wife, I have been able to do that.

    As with all of you, I think about Allison every single day, and I really do wish she was back. But in reality, I’m not sure she ever left. Sure, her body did, but through my memories of her, she hasn’t left at all. I still hear her ideas and thoughts, she’s still offering me her opinion, (sometimes when I don’t want it!), and I can still hear her laughter and feel her tears.

    There will be other beat-downs, of that I am assured. But it’s how I react from them, what I learn from them that ultimately honors Allison’s memory. So from this perspective, it’s not, “I want her back.”, but rather, “Welcome home, sweetheart!”.

  • Eric

    I’m so sorry about your losses, Thom. Your resilency is amazing and truly inspiring. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

    My wife and I lost our baby Bennett two months ago and we just passed his due date on Sept 21. He was stillborn at 33 weeks and we’re waiting to get the results of the autoposy to see if they can find anyhing. We’re thinking about our options and considering adoption. My wife had Cholestasis during the pregnancy which blocks the liver bile from releasing into the intestines, it can be harmful to baby and mom and they will induce the baby before 37 weeks. There is a 90% chance that the cholestasis will come back in later pregnancies. With everything that has happened, it’s hard to ignore the chances and think positive.

    We want to bring a baby into this world and grow our family, but I’m scared about having another miscarriage and having another stillbirth. Why is it so hard for us to have a baby? Do we need to move to the Jersey shore, become a guido, and take on a nickname like Snookie?

    There is the sadness, jealousy, and spitefulness; I get upset when I see others living that normal ordinary life. But I get that underdog mentality and think it will be us, one day. I hope and pray for that one day when I can hold my baby. A day doesn’t go by when I think of my son Bennett and remember holding him in my arms for one day.

    • Grieving Dads


      I was able to hold my son Noah for about 8 hours. Best and worst day of my life all rolled into one big mess. There is something wrong with shopping for baby outfits to dress you son in for his funeral. That was one of the toughest thing because as you know, you ahve to go to baby stores to do it and we all know there are a lot of other couples there celebrating with their new babies.

      I too am scared of losing another child. It stops me from trying again or adopting. i really dont know if I could survive another loss.



  • Pat

    It’s heartwarming to see your story unfold, Thom. You have a lot to cherish and a lot to look forward to. What a lucky boy to be wanted, loved, and needed ohhh so very much.

    We are having a hard time knowing what to do or how to go forward without our son. I cannot imagine being on the other side of the coin…wanting to have all of the experiences we had raising our son and not being able to experience them and I am thankful that we had those experiences….

    But on the flip side of all of that…after 21 years of having him with us and dreaming of what was to come we now find all of the plans we had made…both as a family…and as a couple…lost a lot of their meaning on the spot when he passed. All we’ve been left with are the memories and the path we were walking down that simply RAN OUT…..disappearing into the tall grass and leaving us standing alone in this huge feild… confused…dazed..and without any real idea where to go/what to do/if we are even sane enough to make ANY decisions anymore about our future.

    It’s also been a huge challenge to “get back into the grind” because we find we really don’t give a shit about the jobs and the materialistic crap anymore after 30 years of beating our heads against “The American Dream”….yet we also find just how bound we are too all of it when we examine just how hard it is to walk away from it all and do something different… especially after being programmed to work//raise kids/fall in line for so many years.

    Even still…i dream of just ridding myself of all of the trappings and heading out into this thing called “life”
    and maybe finding something that will make me smile again….or somthing that will make me feel like life is worth living again.

    The “same old, same old” sure isn’t doing it anymore… I know that for a fact.

    • Grieving Dads

      Pat –

      I can relate with your statement above

      “It’s also been a huge challenge to “get back into the grind” because we find we really don’t give a shit about the jobs and the materialistic crap anymore after 30 years of beating our heads against “The American Dream””

      This was a major issue with me, still is. I refuse to allow myself to get back into chasing the American Dream, although I was one of the best at it prior to the death of Katie and Noah. Now it really doesn’t matter. This change in thinking has be liberating for me. I realized it doesn’t matter in the big scheme of life. I do miss not “knowing about the bad shit that can happen in life”.



  • Steve Brackett


    I lost my 29 year old son Ben in March. He has lived and worked in the Squaw Valley area of CA for 5 years and really lived the life.. skied all winter, was a white water rafting guide in the summer. And in between he traveld all over with a group of great friends. But on March 1 he was in a skiing accident and didnt survive. I understand your pain; I want my son back too…

    I’ve had experiences like yours a few times since… finding photos or other reminders that I probably wasnt quite ready to find. But in each case, while I was knocked on my ass for a few days or even weeks, I found I was stronger after. Not much but some. Seems to me this is how it goes; we grieve, we heal. Hang in there.

    • Grieving Dads

      Steve – I use to get knocked on my ass all of the time. Most of it due to my own brain dwelling obsessively on what happened. It was like it was stuck in my head and I couldn’t break the cycle.



  • Timothy Nothum

    There is no greater joy than being a parent and it sounds as though you will be a great one! I am forced to look back as we move closer to the trial of the person who murdered my daughter in July. The only thing that keeps me going is that I am now raising her 14 month old son. There is no greater honor God can bestow on you than being a father or a grandfather.

  • John Wolfe

    I am amazed at the timing of this article, because just today I started looking back on my daughter’s life and it tore me apart. She was 24 when she passed in Dec. 2010, married and had just had a miscarriage….she just laid down one night and went to sleep permanently. That was almost two years ago.

    Recently, my wife and I were contacted by a couple that had lost their child the same way, through Hashimoto’s hyperthyroidism. This “forced” us to look back, and as unpleasant as it was, it was also reassuring to finally get to know some one else who had gone through a very similar experience.

    I’m going to be going through the process of hiring a company to convert all my father’s old 8mm films to digital format, so I needed to get some software that could handle some basic tasks. I downloaded a trial version of one program, but needed a movie/video clip I could try to manipulate. I chose a small 10 second clip of my daughter, which turned out to be a big mistake, at least I think so at this point. After playing that video clip over and over and over, I started feeling an overwhelming sense of loss and I felt totally drained of all energy.

    You see, I AM scared to look back. While there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about Allison, I have managed to suppress the feelings attached to her actual loss, and prefer instead to remember her life as she lived it. Her husband has since moved on and I wish him the best of luck. He is a terrific guy and was a wonderful husband to Allison.

    My step-mother passed away from Alzheimer’s in August 2011 and my father passed shortly after that in Feb 2012. I mention this only because these events all replayed themselves in my mind over and over today, which absolutely drained me of any energy I might have started the day with.

    I don’t like looking back, it does scare me. Perhaps of my own mortality, but more likely because it brings back feelings I’d rather not deal with, now or ever again. I want things to go back to being the way they were. I want my stability back.

    I want my daughter back…

    • Grieving Dads


      I know you want your beautiful daughter back. I don’t like looking back either, its to painful. It took me years not to dwell on what happened. Years. But I can say it doesn’t consume every thought like it use to early on.

      I am here John if you need me.



  • Just when I thought my story was sad, I read yours! I do understand your fear moving forward. My daughter was born just about 15 months after the death of my son Alexander, and 1 week before what would have been his 3rd birthday.
    But as you say, your hearts WILL keep growing bigger!

    Much love and prayers to you and your wife!

  • John

    It does take courage. No matter how hard you try, if you ever should attempt to do that, you will never forget your little guy. You might even find it hard to forget the trauma years from now. But the new child will grow, will have no experiences, and you’ll create new memories. That will bring new joy. But we all know your life will be bittersweet. I lost Nicholas while holding his hand crossing the street to go to school. He was just six, his brother 3. Now his older brother will be 12 this year, and I have a new little boy who will be 3 from a new marriage. Having a new baby is wonderful, and it’s an overwhelming amount of work! But there are constant reminders, and always triggers. You have to know that, and come to expect them. Nothing is wrong with you, nor are your fears surprising. Some supreme being is making your life harder. But you will continue to be there…be present and in the moment…for your new arrival. Now and forever moving forward. Because you have to. I didn’t think it was going to be this hard for me, but it is. But I also know I can make it through, for my two sons and my wife. It is manageable, and it is not overwhelming. It’s just a part of who you are.

    • Grieving Dads


      It is hard to move forward and your are correct, one can never comprehend how difficult it is not only go through the loss of a child, but also how difficult it is to move forward from the aftermath.

      Thank you for sharing.



  • Your story touches my heart, and my thoughts and prayers go out to you and your wife as you work so hard to fulfill your dream of raising a child. I simply cannot imagine the depth of your pain at the loss of your beloved twins, your precious Catherine and then your darling Grant. It is so totally unfair, so unjust, so beyond our comprehension and our understanding ~ but I respect and admire your decision to try again, and I wish you and your wife every happiness. Clearly you have several angels guiding both of you ♥

  • I remember a doctor asking us why we were so scared for our new baby’s health. This was after our daughter Hannah was born still. His lack of understanding astounded us. Thom we will be thinking of you and your wife in the coming weeks and months. Martine

    • Grieving Dads


      I am sorry for th lack of compassion you received from your doctor when you needed it most. I too experienced the same type of treatment. People have no idea unless they themselves have walked in our shoes.