A few people close to me know that I have been struggling lately with some bullshit life stuff. The kind of stuff where you ask yourself, “Why am I stressing out about something so stupid?” I often will go through this process and quickly discard whatever non-important issue is stressing me out. The death of a child gives you a different perspective on life, which makes it easy to prioritize what is “truly important” versus not important at all. Most stuff falls under the not important column.
However, for whatever reason I have been unable to discard this issue. I have been struggling with it since the release of my book back in June. I think a lot of it has to do with burnout. I spent the last 3 years writing the book, taking counseling classes, running the blog, working on Farley-Kluger legislation, obtaining my Recovery Coach designation, taking calls/emails from dads that need me and working a full time engineering job. I have been busy. After the book was released, I stopped writing, slowed down with my blog and dropped classes. I still take calls/email from the grieving dads that need me, that won’t change. But I made a conscious decision to take the summer off from almost everything except my job and enjoyed the free time. I bought a camera and took a couple of photography classes. I worked out a lot; it was a great summer to unwind a little.
The issue I have been struggling with is whether or not I should continue on with obtaining my Masters in Counseling. The reason for that is, (ok this is where the bullshit stuff comes in, don’t judge me) I have been thinking about taking a different job that pays about 30% more than I am making now. It’s not about the money; a lot of it has to do with respect from my current employer (too long of a story for details). Yeah, it will be more money but also more time away, more stress, more commute time and less freedom/flexibility than I have now. It’s not that I live a lifestyle that requires me to make more money, I learned from losing my children that money can’t bring you peace. I would have given everything I owned at the time to remove the pain and replace it with peace. I longed for a moment where the pain would let off of me. So why would I even stress about “should I take the job or should I not take the job”. I don’t even like the field I am in, I find it boring and very unfulfilling. I find no passion or meaning in it. It’s a paycheck, that’s it. What I do find passion in is helping grieving dads through this nightmare. I receive emails from dads all of the time that say things like “thank you for this book, it has helped me tremendously”. That’s rewarding.
As a grieving dad that has survived the most profound event one could ever fathom, a huge part of me feels I need to stay the course with the counseling to help others though this horrific pain. I know for a fact there are not many people (especially men) that are qualified to counsel on the subject, someone who has walked in the shoes of another bereaved parent. I know it’s needed.
I have started to come out of the burn out phase over the last month, so I started my speaking engagements on men’s grief again. Last weekend I was in Madison, WI speaking to a large group of bereaved parents and yesterday I spoke to a group of counseling students at Northern Illinois University (NIU). It has been a few months since I sat with a grieving parent and just talked about their story and pain. However, over the last week I had the opportunity to meet several of them. One of them was a dad that attended my presentation at NIU. I didn’t realize this, but about a week before I spoke at the University, they placed an ad in the local paper and invited the public to come to the event. I thought I was speaking to a group of counselors, faculty and professors, but about 40 minutes into my presentation on how to help these men, a guy stood up in the back of the room and blurts out, “I lost my son in 1997, I saw an ad in the paper and thought I would come check it out not knowing what to expect. It is too much for me right now and I need to leave.” He then looked at me and thanked me and then said to the room full of counselors, “listen to everything this guy is telling you” as he was pointing to me. I met him at the door and walked out into the hallway with him. It was obvious he was under serious distress, distress I have seen in my own eyes before. I could see the emotions rushing to the surface and not knowing how to deal with them, the feeling of panic. I offered to sit and talk with him, but he was on a mission to get the hell out of there. I handed him a copy of the book I grabbed on the way out of the room and told him to call me. I then proceeded back into the classroom. I walked into a silent room full of people and walked to the front of the classroom and asked the question, “Did anyone learn anything from what just happened? Did you see the pain this man was still carrying with him after 15 years?” They asked me why I thought he bailed so quickly and before it was over. I told them, “I don’t know the answer for sure, but I suspect that he has not heard much of what I was saying. And if he did hear it, it probably wasn’t coming from another dad who has walked in his shoes. He may have felt he had permission to grieve for the first time.” I haven’t heard from him yet, but I suspect I will at some point. I do believe a seed was planted with him.
This experience was a reminder of why I wrote the book and started the grieving dad’s blog. I do find passion in this work, I find meaning in it and I know I am making a difference in other people’s lives. I have been inspired to start working on an idea I have for my next book. I will continue speaking on the subject and continue reaching out to these men. I know I still have a lot of work to do with bringing awareness to men’s grief. I have made a decision to stay where I am at with my current job and have been reminded that no amount of money will bring as much fulfillment as the work I have been doing.
Thank you to all of the people who have encouraged me to stay the course and to the people who encourge me to take breaks when I need them.
I know it has to be hard to keep it up, so please pace yourself and take the necessary breaks.
Having said that, I can’t thank you enough for the site and the book. It has helped me out tremendously.
Thank you, Kelly. I appreciate everything you have done for us.
Kevin – Thank you for the note and kind words. You thanked me by saying how much it helped you. That alone gives me a sense of “doing something” with the pain that was dealt to me. Especially as a way to honor Katie and Noah.
I am happy it helped you in some small way.
I’m so glad you decided to stay the course and follow your heart. As has been previously mentioned, you have been a great help to so many, including myself, that it would be a shame if you gave it up.
This website and your subsequent book have helped me enormously, and I truly don’t know where I would be without either one. add to that all the time and effort you’ve put into your education thus far, and it would be a waste if you quit now.
I have two copies of your book, one of which I will keep myself and one I will give away when the opportunity presents itself. I believe that opportunity will come someday and I know that your book will help that grieving father as much as it did me.
You can put me down for a copy of your next book…count on it!
Thanks for all you do and for all you have done,
John – I can’t tell you what it means to me when I hear from dads like you that say how much the book helped you. i am sure some men will not be able to connect with it, but I know it also helps a lot of men. That alone makes the amount of time and effort worth it.
We are working on the next book already. 🙂
I too have been struggling with many things in life, but it is time to get back to helping others. Speaking to another SIDS dad this week helped me realize that Colin’s Corner still serves a purpose and may still hopefully help another Dad somewhere. For even if it helps one Dad, it is worth having all that stuff “out there” for the world to see.
Please re-add me to your blog roll.
Steven – Thank you for being that sign of hope to another grieving dads that walks in the same path you have walked and continue to walk.
I have added Colins Corner back to the blog roll.
i respect what you have said and the reasoning behind my family lack of support… i would love to say it was broken, before i lost Miah my family are very close and were very supportive of the pregnancy but to now be faced with cold sholder! and act like we dont exsit i findvery upsetting. i have not explaind my full story and detailed the unforgetable things members of mybown family has said and done you are right its not my fault but its them…. and its them who will have to live with their own actions … thank you for listerning
Clearly you’ve made the right decision, Kelly, and I wish you the very best. Follow your destiny, my friend, and do the work that makes your heart sing. ♥
Marty – Thank you for your support, you have been following me from the very beginning and ahve seen how this has grown into something pretty important.
Thanks for the encouragement.
What you’ve done and continue to do has helped more people than you probably even know. How you bring yourself to go to these deep pits of grief with other bereaved parents is beyond me. We’re lucky to have you help us through our losses and yours.
Bryan – Thanks for the kind words. i hope the book wasnt to hard on you brother. I know its a tough read, especially when you see your own story being told. Tough stuff. The tought that this grieving dads work helps others is what keeps me doing it. Going there with other dads as their telling their story is something that feels like a responsibility I have to do. I survived it, I just want to reach a hand back and pull as many other grieving dads along with me that I can. i know I wont be able to help them all, but feel like I at least have to try. Keep in mind, I was almost 4 years out from my loss when i started this project. There was healing for me as well. Sitting with others telling my story and allowing them to tell theirs.
Your family is BROKEN, jit. Sadly, it’s the way they were raised…to completely avoid death and all of the parameters that surround it. You are a reminder of that event, and thus, they back away from the pain you hold and reflect back at them when they are in your presence.
My family has done the same thing to me and I doubt, unfortunately, that we are alone in this abandonment.
Please don’t take it personally. It’s THEM, NOT YOU.
I know it’s hard to do….but it is the truth.
Kelly…. I applaud/salute/support your decision to continue onward in your quest to help other grieving parents. I know you didn’t volunteer for any of this, none of us did, but the call inside you is something that not all of us have..or if we do, don’t know how to channel into something effective and meaningful to help others.
I have worried about you, Kelly….even though we have never met. I can only imagine what a dichotomy you must feel @ times as you meet with others who are deep in grief and how hard it must be to stay far enough outside of your own experience to be able to fully hear their experience without reliving/being overcome by your own horrific experiences.
I spoke about this same thing to the lady who facilitates the Grief classes here locally that we attended and told her of my concern of her own psyche’ through the many classses she puts on per year. I think it touched her to know that someone was worried about her….but she assured me..pointing to the fact that we were sitting there talking openly about it (death)..that she felt the work was too important TO NOT DO IT.
Sounds familiar, huh?
Yer a class act, Kelly…and I know your children are so very, very proud to have you as their Father and representative, honoring them DAILY with your work, and touching all of us so very deeply with thier story…and by being the catalyst that opened the portal to “sanctuary” and a place where we can pour out the feelings trapped inside us that no one else seems to want to hear….or can fully absorb.
Pat – Thank you for the kind words. A lot of people ask me, “how do you listen to all of these heartbreaking stories, don’t they depress you?” My answer to that is no. I have become numb to it from the standpoint that I am not surprised by anything I hear. I experienced most of it, so nothing is a shock to me. I am not saying I dont care, I do. But it does’t weigh me down. I have friends that wont read my book because they say its too much for them. I respond with “you think its to much for you, try being the dad/mom that has to live it everyday”
Thank you for your support. Peace.
hi, i have read your book and it has helped me understand whats truly importaint since my daughter passed back in May 2012 my life has turned upside down, i work in social services so know all the stuggles life throws at you but i am baffled to understand why thw whole of my family have now disowned me? i come from a large indian family and now its been 5 months i am still to get a call anyway my point is that my partner and i are not just leaving our jobs but we are leaving our home and city to move away start fresh. . your an inspiration and are correct its nt about the money once i get my head together i plan to help and raise awareness for grieving dads here in the UK
Jit – I am happy to hear you read my book and it helped you whats really important in life. Sometimes I need a reminder.
I know it may feel like the disowned you because when you needed them most they ran. They may of ran because they dont know how to help, they are scared of what they see or they are also grieving. Could be all of the above. I am sure they still love and care for you, its just their own ignorance of not putting you first during this loss and supporting you, I had/have family that have done the same thing. All most all of my family has yet to read my book. The ones that hve i had to give them a copy and keep asking them “did you read it yet”. It hurts sometimes, I know that.
We all are that man in the back of the room. We all have walked the path he is on. It’s 506 AM here. I just woke up about an hour ago. I am now 17 months into my grieving. A friend of mine lost his 4 month old daughter to SIDS this past summer. He shot me an email asking if he would be out of line to contact me. He wanted to know if what he is feeling is normal. He wanted to know if he is weak for crying, or kidding himself for not. Like myself he is in Law Enforcement. We learn to push our emotions back when handeling a job involving death to get the job done – be arrest the bad guy, rescue the remains, protect the evidence to bring about justice.
As you know from my own blog, I really don’t write about work. It is part of me, but it was my son who denfined me. I haven’t written in about 3 months. I tolerate work. I loathe the time away from writing.
Still I believe that along this journey there are those of us who become beacons or sentinals who guide some us who become lost or stagnanted in our grief. But as I said that man in the back of the room is all of us. He was an actual person you met, but in all he is us.
Martin – You are correct, we have all been that man in the back of the room. The question of “is this normal” is one I use to ask my counselor all of the time. Looking back she probably wanted to say “stop asking that question, I’ve told you a thousand times, it NORMAL”.
I have been in work meetings when I have been the guy in the back of the room. The emotions welling up from days of surpressing them and then out of the blue they were rushing to the surface and I had to bail out of the room. Bad stuff man.
one must take the oxygen mask himself before he can give the oxygen to others.
I full empathise as i “go out my way too”
ps. my son liam is now feeling his sisters loss
I like that statement about the oxygen. I realize that I am no good to others if I am burned out. I generally do ok with it, but I have had a lot going on this year and my brain needs rest.
I am sorry you son is starting to deal with the grief of losing his sister. If you can find one near you, there are grief groups for children. If not, maybe a counselor or social worker can help you.
Goodness Kelly, thank you sir for this site.
I left my home at 5:30 am this morning,I left my phone charging at the house, got to work told my boss, he said go get it,I called my wife on lan line to meet,well we met at the buisness that my sons fiancee,that died in the same horrible accident ,Her Dad,s work, the man was walking in to work just like me , but so downtrodden, like you have been beat to much. Just like I feel.
I still find pennys from HEAVEN,people don,t understand me picking them up off of wherever, but I have a cup that is getting full ,everyone of them brings a little bit of joy, Delana is with me 24/7.
Dustin – You are welcome for the site. I know how much it means to all of the dads (and moms) out there that follow it. Hang on to those bits of joy. I still smile when I find one. I still have triggers when i drive by the hospital and Dr. offices we use to go to. They no longer make me cry, but they do make me sick to my stomach.
Kelly – Great to hear your decision. As I continue pursuit of a masters in counseling as well, my own counselor keeps challenging me with the need for self care. We will never be able to truly help the hurting if we are always on the verge of burnout. Good to see I’m not the only one 😉
Tim – No doubt self care is something we all need to be aware of before we hit a wall. Taking a break was goo for me and easing back into things will be critical. I have all of these ideas but I have to learn to balance a couple at a time.