Alone For The Holidays
As I write this, we are just under two weeks out from Christmas. As much as I try to get excited about the holiday season, I often find it hard to get into the spirit of things. Last weekend we hosted our 6th annual get together with two other couples we met through a baby loss support group. It’s one of my favorite holiday traditions. I have found some peace in spending time with others that have lost a baby and understand the impacts it has.
One of my other favorite holiday traditions is to place lights on our 40’ White Fir that is in our backyard. After the loss of my daughter in 2004, I wrapped the tree in white lights; of course it was much smaller then and a lot easier to access. After the death of my son Noah 2006, I started to alternate the light strands between white lights and blue lights. Decorating this tree to honor them gives me great pleasure this time of year, but I also can’t help to think about the fact that my wife and I have no living children.
Every year it becomes more difficult to get excited about this time of year. There seems to be a constant reminder that no matter how much Christmas “spirit” we have, we will never get to see the excitement of our own child on Christmas morning. We feel alone during this time of year more so than others. We know in time, we will lose other family members such as our parents, which means the holidays will continue to become lonelier for us.
My wife and I went through extensive fertility treatments in order to be able to conceive Katie and Noah. Only later to realize we lost them due to severe fetal abnormalities. My wife and I are carriers of a rare genetic disorder called Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome. One in every 120 people carry the mutated gene, but it takes two people to come together in order for a child to become inflicted with it and even then it’s only a 1 in 4 chance. Having gone through the pain of losing two children and the risks of it happening again, we choose not to continue on with fertility treatments. We could continue to play the odds on conceiving a baby that is not inflicted with this syndrome, but we feel it would not be fair to the children that may be.
We have also looked at adoption, but with both of us in our early-mid 40’s, these options are also starting to become smaller. Not to mention I still carry the fear of losing another child. There were days I didn’t think I would survive the losses of Katie and Noah, so to put myself in a position of possibly losing another child scares me. Although adoption is something we still hold on to as a possibility, we also know that every year the door continues to close just a little bit more on that option. I fear the loss of another child more than I fear the possibility of being alone during these times of celebration.
As part of my healing after the death of Katie and Noah, I started the Grieving Dads blog and wrote my book Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back to help other men going through the most profound type of loss imaginable, the death of a child. I do take great pleasure in knowing my work in this area continues to offer support and hope to the many people that find themselves on this horrific journey.
Although many of us carry our own struggles during this time of year, I want all of you to know you are not alone. Although it may feel that way, there are many other parents struggling with the same pain and “what-ifs” that many of us are.
I know it’s difficult to find peace during the holiday season; I want to encourage all of you to continue seeking it. Continue to hang on to hope for internal peace.
Wow, I remember that last time Orlando and I bumped into you in Home Depot. We talked about our shared grief in this. You had said you wanted to write a book about this, and now you have. Congratulations! I am so proud of you! I know how hard the holidays can be. They more so than any other day of the year are more of a constant reminder of what we are missing out on. The world is geared towards families. It is all around us.And it seems to slap us in the face this time of year. But Kelly, you know our story. You know what we have been through as well. I want to say to you and Christine. Don’t give up!! We had door after door close on us, until we had only one door left open. It was as if God led us there and it was a hard door to open. That was three years ago and in September of this year, we were finally able to adopt the two children that were placed in our care. It’s been a very long hard road. I am 49 years old myself. I was really running out of time. But i got to the point that I realized, I wanted children in my life no matter how they came to me. Fostering and then Adopting these children didn’t diminish the love we had for the child we lost. Being pregnant sparked that feel of family in me.For us, the child we lost opened up our ability to love and want to love a child in our lives. I believe that was her gift to us. Our journey made us realize that children are a gift from God , but they are in actuality God’s children first. We are just here on earth to guide them, teach them and love them as God loves us. I am not saying you should choose the road that we traveled- foster care, but there is that possibility along with adoption. Don’t give up! I know you and Christine are Christians. Have faith, pray, and remember, ” nothing is impossible with God!”. I know that you and Christine have a lot of love to give.!!
My heart goes out to you all. My best friend and his wife lost a child due to miscarriage and I saw how it tore him up. As an outsider looking in, I could tell that it shook him to the core and he didn’t even try to put up a wall or a fight to be strong. My wife and I did all that we could to be there for them and comfort them, but we still weren’t sure if what we were doing was helping. We heard about a book that we got for them as a gift called “There Was Supposed To Be a Baby” by Catherine Keating, you can check her and the book on the website http://therewassupposedtobe.com/. After they read it they said what a wonderful book and comfort it was to them. Wishing you all the ability to find peace and I’m so sorry for the losses you’ve all endured.
As Andrea so aptly stated, “As usual, you spoke my heart.”.
The best thing about this site is that it makes me sit back and think hard about my life. Kelly’s posts and the posts of the guests and visitors always gets me thinking about my life and how I live it.
What I mean by that is that a lot of times I feel a terrible sense of loss through the passing of my mother in 1984, my brother in 1995, my grandfather in 1997, my father-in-law in 2009, my father in January 2012 and his sister through suicide 5 months after him. But it wasn’t until the passing of our only child, Allison, on Dec. 29th, 2010 that I really started thinking about that loss.
Me and my brother are all that remain of my immediate family! Oh, woe is me.
But is that really true? Well, strictly speaking, yes. But I still have my wife and her family. Then there are friends I have that are highly supportive, plus the on-line community here, so what’s my problem??
It’s the emotional side of my brain that sometimes pushes the logical side of my brain aside and takes over. When that happens I feel as if I’m so alone, that no one understands the loss of my child. I sometimes ask myself, “Why isn’t the world stopping to acknowledge the death of my Allison?!?! The world should stop to allow ME enough time to process this tragic thing! How much time? I don’t know! However long it takes!”
Incredibly selfish? You bet! But don’t even pretend those thoughts haven’t run through your mind also.
But then my logical brain takes over and says, “Get over it! She’s gone and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it!” Harsh? Yes, but a reality nonetheless.
There has to be a balance between the emotional and logical in order to survive any tragic event. Emotion will ALWAYS trump logic in any tragic event…it’s what makes us human. But at some point, logic has to take over in order to survive.
Websites like this one help to facilitate that process by allowing us to vent our frustrations. Kelly is helping all of us to achieve the balance between the emotional and logical in order to find some semblance of peace in our lives, and I, for one, am eternally grateful to him.
It’s taken me 3 hours to write this because I’ve been going back and forth between emotion and logic. Make no mistake, Allison will never, EVER, be forgotten in my mind. Having somewhere to express these thoughts is a gift.
Thank you, Kelly, and I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas!
As always, thank you for your post. You touch on a great point, there is a balance that each one of us have to find. The problem is it often changes and becomes unbalanced so we are always having to readjust.
I am happy to hear that this blog helps you and others in some way. Providing this blog allows me to find balance in a life that was way out of balance before losing Katie and Noah. I thought life was about working and “doing the deal”. Looking back at the old me I realized I was clueless and arogant. I wish I didn’t have to pay the high price I did to learn that, but I am certainly happy that I now LIVE my life in a way that I can be proud of. No I am still not perfect, but I try to catch myself when I am not living in a way I should be. i guess that too is apart of balancing.
Wish you too a very Merry and Peaceful Christmas.
Well said, John.
That balance between emotion and logic is a tricky one.
It was two years ago this Christmas that my daughter Leslie was still okay. She’d had a couple of operations and it seemed like we’d beaten back her colon cancer. Six months later on July 1, her poor body couldn’t fight it any longer. So these days are long ones for me.
And now with this tragedy in Connecticut, I am so terribly sad. Not for myself, but for those 20 new sets of parents who have now joined our group. I cannot think of anything more horrible than to have your tiny child murdered. I am devastated for those poor fathers and mothers.. and then their brothers, sisters, grandparents and every family member and friend whose lives will forever be changed.
Peace on earth. There’s never been a time when it was more called for.
I have been feeling the same way. Although heartbroken over the loss of these beautiful little angels, I am even more heartbroken for the parents that are left behind in this aftermath. Left to hear the words that no parent should ever hear “your child has died”. It sends you into the abiss for years and its with you for a life time. I watched one of the childrens dads speaking on CNN tonight and I could see the pain in his eyes. Pain that all of us know to well.
Wishing you peace John.
i am so glad you have pioneered a place for dads there is none in our culture and you have filled a whole in our comminty in a way ..there is none is our area . I too lost a daughter 3 years ago… lots of times i feel empty and sad but if it weren’t for the other mothers in my area i wound think i was the crazy one because my reg. friends all moved on and wanted me ,including family to be my “ol” self…which i am not, i wish i could shout it from the roof tops!
i have a daughter at home too that i have to recover and go thru all the steps helping her. I will not go into it..I want to say this because it won’t be last . that you hear from me.. but we are in our late 40’s and we do foster care it does something to my soul to have kids in my house and age is not factor so keep that idea open… they bless us and we bless them its whats important in the long run we know this will never replace our daughter but you know that your life ambitions change with tragedy
more later can’t thank you enough of what your doing for dads—
Thanks for the note. I am sorry for the loss of you daughter. I know what it feels like to feel empty. I also know what its like for others to want us to get back to the “old ” self. They have no idea that its not possible. We see life through a different lens now, one we do not wish on them.
I am interested in hearing mor about your experiences as a foster parent. My wife and I have often throught we could provide the support and love and direction that so many of these children need.
Our son, Rob, was killed 13 months ago on 11-11-11 at the age of 22. He, along with two of his friends, were passengers in a car being driven by a friend who said she was “OK to drive.” Only she survived, but now must learn to live with this tragedy too.
It was so close to the holidays, that we were too numb, dazed, confused, and in a fog through the holiday season to even acknowledge its existence. Like the other Bruce who just posted, we feel like this is the first holiday season without Rob here with us, and the brutal reality that both the holidays and his tragic, senseless death are real. It is an unimaginable conflict as we struggle to cope; but like so many of us, we continue to work hard to cope and survive. I hope Bruce’s earthly Katie and Noah can help their family find peace and a new form of happiness this season; and that Kelly’s heavenly Katie and Noah will continue to shine from above and bless their parents with love and hope for a better time.
We wish all bereaved parents a season of hope, healing, and in the future – PEACE.
Same as the Bruce above your posting, you two were living in a fog last year. Probably still are on some levels. All you can to is work hard to cope, but allow your self the time to feel it as well, as difficult as it is. As you know, every day is a battle, but I can assure you the battle becomes a heck of a lot easier in time. Spend some time on this blog during the season anytime you need to vent. There are a lot of us here to provide support.
Wish you peace.
Kelly – I’ll be thinking of you and your family, those physically here and those that have passed during the holidays. Josh’s funeral was the day before Thanksgiving last year (2011), so this really feels like the first holiday season we are going through without him here. I am Jewish and my wife and children are Catholic, we celebrate both sets of holidays (my kids have been pretty spoiled that way), so we’re already learning how to adapt to the holidays without Josh physically here. Last year we went to Disney during Christmas as we thought getting away was our best option, we had just been there the prior February, with Josh, it was really the last time he was healthy enough to enjoy a family trip. This year we’ll be home, one of the “new” traditions my wife and I have come up with is to go out for Chinese food on Christmas day, this is a Jewish tradition (often poked fun at) that will give us the opportunity to get out of the house in the late afternoon on Christmas Day which I’m sure will be a very difficult day for all of us.
As I mentioned to you before, my other two children are Noah (14) and Katie (12 on Sunday), watching them will be an easy reminder of you and your family.
I am sure it will be a difficult season for you. Like you said, last year you were still in shock and trying to comprehend what you went through with the loss of your son. Getting out of the house for Chinese food is a great idea to get out and spend time together as a family.
Wishing you and your family peace.
We lost our daughter during this season her middle name was Noel in honor of her arrival time. We too went through many years of fertility treatments and after 18 years of trying we believed we were blessed only to have that feeling replaced with unbelievable grief that our families refuse to understand. They insist on sending cards and gifts and we try to…I don’t know, pretend we are Jewish I don’t like to dwell and so I sort of stay in motion and let the silence echo off the emptiness avoiding calendars and ignoring all the beauty of the decorations, reminders of the beauty that will not grace our family. We have two grown children, our son who is ours biologically and 24 years old and our daughter who we adopted from Russia when she was 7 who is now 20. Both are attending university and we will be traveling to spend the holidays with them. Blythe Noel would be 6 January 4th. I hope we can enjoy this time of year as the 5 year point seemed to bring us to a new level of acceptance and healing that allowed us to watch television shows and movies with children in them without falling apart.
When we decided to adopt 13 years ago it was VERRY important to me that the social workers knew I was not trying to adopt a replacement child for the one we seemed unable to conceive. I wanted to give a child a chance to grow up in a loving family with opportunities every human being should have in life. I was adopted and it was not a good environment to grow up in. I didn’t want to adopt for many reasons, but eventually decided to concede to my husband’s desire to adopt. My only requirement was that he understand that the relationship we would have parenting an adopted child would be different, not less, but different and the needs of an adopted child are different. I did not want to adopt an infant, and older child would lessen the idea, even in my own mind, that this little person was a purchased replacement. You will never look into their face and see yourself or your spouse. I am delighted to say that you will over time hear your own words and teachings spouted back! They will not be an extension of you genetically and that can be painful, but they will be shining living extensions of what you offer in your actions and teachings. This made it easier for me and better for all of us! Adoption was a completely different thing to do, it was a good thing to do and a rewarding thing to do, but no person can replace your own children. Children disappoint their parents in many ways over the years it’s what we do as human beings, but an adopted child whom you cannot be proud or responsible for how attractive they are or their inherited strengths and talents constantly remind you of the more important role we play as parents and that is the example we set for them and the bond that can be even more enjoyable because it isn’t unconditional, it is fought for and earned. We had many years of trials, attachment disorder and special needs with no road map, but I do not regret deciding to offer a future to a child who needed parents and a family. It was something we decided to do separate from the infertility and the children that may never be.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with adoption. Everything you say makes perfect sense and some of your points I never thought of before.
As usual, you spoke my heart. Wishing you moments of peace, always <3
Thank you Andrea! I am happy that you connect with my work, always good to hear I am making a difference.