After a long winter here in Chicago I found myself trying to get motivated to “do something” but couldn’t seem to find the energy or desire. The bitter cold and constant gray put me on an emotional roller coaster that sucked away a lot of my energy. As part of that, I decided to get out of the house and join a men’s group. It was only scheduled for a few weeks which gave me time to see if I enjoyed the group or not.
The first meeting was discussion of a book that the group had been reading and the topic was life’s hurts. Of course I shared my story and received the usual “holy shit that’s bad” look from the group, many of which have healthy living children. At the end of the meeting one of the guys who seemed to be really struggling with some life issues looked at me and said “I am not sure how you ended up here this evening, but I think you were meant to be here to help me.” I do believe my new ability to be open and transparent with my story helps others realize you can survive some of life’s difficult times, but survival doesn’t mean you will go back to the person you were before.
The next meeting I decided to bring copies of my book to hand out to the group since the theme of the group was about restoring your life after going through a difficult time. This morning I received an email from the same guy I mentioned above. His short response said, “Thank you for the book. Very provocative. Real life for understanding brokenness at its worst place.” His words although short, really hit me. I always struggle to find words (because there are none) to explain to non-bereaved parents what it’s like to lose a child. However, the word brokenness really stood out to me. I decided to look the word up because I wasn’t sure if it was even a word. Here is the meaning I found:
“Violently separated into parts or pieces. Not working properly; damaged.”
As soon as I read this definition, it reminded me of what I have been through and the fact I am still standing, laughing, smiling, etc. But there is still parts of me that don’t work properly and are damaged. The last six months have been difficult for me because I had lost my “new way” of taking life in, not stressing about stupid stuff that doesn’t matter, etc. Looking back to when these feeling started I realized I was trying to get back to the person I was “before” the losses. The person caught up in the bullshit of making more money, demanding respect/appreciation and wanting more in my career as an engineer. Although successful at pleading my case and getting what I wanted, I still feel empty. Now I feel like I need to “perform” in order to prove that they didn’t make a mistake. Although they have never told me I need to prove myself, I feel the internal feeling of not letting them down, which has caused me to put greater pressure on myself.
Reading the definition of “brokenness” was a reality check for me. I have been violently separated into parts and pieces, millions of them. I need to realize I don’t work properly because as hard as I try to take those millions of pieces and put them back together again, I can’t get them to go together like they were prior to my children’s deaths. I have in fact been damaged and need to remind myself of that from time to time. Not as an excuse to give up, quite the opposite, I have found ways since their deaths to live a “rich” life, but need subtle reminders to realize that although damaged, I am not fully broken. Taking a step back and readjusting the direction you are going is just part of this journey.
I haven’t been checking in on the blog: too depressed to even care.
I did today and am glad.
The other fathers who describe “brokenness” are spot on.
We are broken, we are shattered.
And it’s good to know that there are others just like me – damaged beyond repair.
We can be mended, but we will never be the same.
Knowing that helps.
It won’t make the pain go away, but it will make it more bearable.
Hey John. It’s been awhile, I am glad you stop by. It does help know we are not alone, but your right, it doesn’t take away the pain. We will never be the same, in some ways that a good thing and others its terrible.
Wishing you peace.
Thank you for this. I am 4 years on but am still broken. My living daughter is a blessing of course, but being a twin means I always have a perfect gauge of how my other daughter would look. There is a physical and mental hole in the world, and always will be. Today is a bad day (hence searching out websites like yours) but on a good day i feel almost normal until all is too quiet or Ironically until I get too happy, then it hits me and the world turns back on itself and my smile stays in place only for the sake of my living daughter and son. I have no idea why but this idea of brokeness and these discussions do help. I am used to the idea that life will never be the same and I will never be the same, but sometimes that feels less of a problem. I lost a lot of good when I broke (far too much) but also lost greed and selfishness, and a dependency on stuff. I am in a much lower level job, with lower pay and could not care less. My time and life is now exclusively for my family and I feel at peace with this. I just wish i could have found this without losing my baby girl. Sorry, I know this is a rant. Just needed to get some stuff out today. please ignore, and Peace to you all, as much as you can get, every single day.
Andrew – I am so very sorry for the loss of your daughter. I just saw this your comment after posting an entry to my blog this morning and I must say, they are very similar in nature. We are broken and “messed up inside”, that’s just the facts. How could we not be, it just the way it is and it cant be changed. I believe we are both in the same place about life and have had to come to some of these conclusions by going through the death of a child.
You can rant here anytime my friend and peace to you as well.
All these words touch me. It has been 7 yes. Since my son died. My wife compared it to listening to a record and suddenly someone takes the stylus arm and scratches it across the whole record.. The music will still play but the scratch will always be heard. Over time it may not be as noticeable but never completely goes away.
Brokenness says it all. As grieving parents we are damaged for life. We manage to get our masks back in place but the pain remains. It is 16 months since my beautiful daughter died. My grief is less raw yet “deeper”. Only another grieving parent will understand what I am trying to say.
Reblogged this on The Infinite Fountain and commented:
Written by another grieving Dad. His story is at once heartbreaking and inspiring. He captures the essence of how the tragic deaths of our children leaves us. “Violently separated into parts or pieces. not working properly: damaged” Yes, we are all damaged to one extent or another. It is up to us to pick up the pieces and arrange them in whatever fashion we can, to get the machine going again. It will never function the same, but it is not yet ready for the scrap heap.
It’s similar to the “Brokenness”, my analogy to a car that I wrote about just a few days ago:
“I just can’t get out of this rut. I KNOW that I’ve got lots of things going for me. I’ve got a beautiful loving wife, 2 kids that mean the world to me, a great job, nice house and for the most part I’ve got a great life. But it’s incomplete. There is a huge part of my life that is missing. I was trying to explain this to someone the other day. It’s like having a brand new, one of a kind, sports car. I should be flying down the highway with the top down having the time of my life. But I can’t. Why? Because I’m missing a wheel. I can’t go anywhere. Everything on this car is immaculate. Perfect. But, missing a wheel makes this car useless. This wheel can’t be replaced. So, my car, my life, my family, sit on the side of the road with our hazard lights on. Battery is dying, the flashers are fading, it’s getting dark.”
Again, great analogy Kevin. It does get dark, but the thing you have to tell yourself that although the sun is setting, it does come back up. We have to find ways to recharge our batteries and eventually replace that will with the awkward spare that’s in the truck. It wont look right on the car, but it will move you forward.
Kelly- I wrote about what this “brokenness” feels like back in January, less than a month after my son’s death.
It’s like smashing a priceless china teacup to smithereens on a stone floor. Thousands of minuscule fragments lie scattered across the floor, some dust, some jagged shards with bits of colored glaze barely recognizable. Try to put it back together. An impossible task. Some of the pieces are missing, how do you glue dust back together? And even if you can get it reassembled into a semblance of a teacup, it will never hold tea again. There are holes where you couldn’t find the missing piece and the tea leaks out. The glue fails, and the cup falls apart again and again. But for whatever reason, you persist in putting it back together as best you can. This simplest of acts becomes a Herculean task. We must learn to drink whatever we can from this damaged cup. It will never be full, never be the same.
Yes, we are all broken, but as you observe we are indeed damaged, but not broken beyond repair. We just have to learn how to operate without those critical pieces. I am still new at this, but making tiny steps forward. Thanks for this blog and the opportunity to share.
Great analogy Ed! Thanks for sharing with all of us here.
I read the blog and thought it was good. Then, throughout the day I kept going back and thinking about it. Brokenness is exactly right. That’s what we are – broken, shattered. So we try and pick up the pieces and move on. It’s not easy and sometimes the cracks show where we’ve tried to repair ourselves. But this helps because it defines it more clearly. Of course I’m having troubles, I’m broken.
John – No matter how hard we try, pieces will always be out of place. The key is putting them back together the best way we can and accepting that going back is not an option, only moving forward as daunting as it can be at times.
Brokenness. Perfect word. Awful feeling. Thanks for today’s blog – it really hit home.
You are welcome Jon, glad you were able to connect with it.