The following was sent to me over the weekend from a fellow grieving dad. I think the topic is very appropriate and one I think we can all relate to in some way. I know I have had many of these surprises. What have been some of your surprises?
Where’d That Come From?
Tonight I was on a short flight from DC to Atlanta. As the title suggests, I had one of those “Where’d That Come From” experiences we all are familiar with.
I was writing an email to our nanny, who cares for our nearly two-year old son, Bradley, who will start Montessori school on Monday. Simple enough – it’s a transition for him and our family.
Before Bradley, we had adopted another son, Grant, who unexpectedly died at six weeks. And prior to that, we had given birth to a daughter, Catherine, who at 21 weeks who could not survive. There were miscarriages even earlier.
So, tonight, as I wrote my gratitude to our nanny, I was overcome with grief. In truth, I was a sobbing, snotty mess on a plane after they had already retrieved the napkins. Thankfully, it was dark, but that didn’t matter much.
I feel blessed – truly – for this milestone (albeit trite) for our son. It’s just pre-school or day care. But what struck me (hard) were the milestones we will never celebrate with our earlier sons and daughters.
I’m struck that grief is always close to the surface, if not directly in our face. It doesn’t take much to trigger it. While I don’t “welcome” the tears, I honor what they represent and accept the grief and loss for what it is. Really. Fucking. Hard. (And real.)
I am grateful for having a community of men who may be nodding as they read this. And I offer to those too raw, too angry, too ashamed to be that snotty mess on a plane, to know that there are so many of us who will hold your grief as/with our own.
Thank you for your virtual support.
I’m in the middle of a few weeks of what i think of as ‘down time’ (rather than the traditional definition my personal take on this is the times I feel generally rotten, Can’t stop constantly thinking of Kate, and I just don’t give a shit), and as I sometimes do when this starts getting to me, I came here to feel a bit of a connection with other dads. My twin daughter just started school, which I am very aware was my trigger since it was her twin sister that we lost. Seeing Sarah standing there and realising that Katherine never would, then the cascade of other ‘Katherine never will’ moments took it’s toll. Usually I can let myself have a moment, get angry with the universe, get sad (while making sure it’s not too long for my other kids) and then get over it (sort of), but this time I just can’t shake it off. I have not been hit this hard since we lost Katy and I know that this is partly because the hardest time of the year is coming up (The birth of our girls, the loss of kate a week later, followed by all that goes with this, then the birthday of our older son the following week – The classic shit sandwich with emotions all over the place). We have amazing kids who openly and heartbreakingly celebrate Kates Birthday with Sarahs every year regardless of if non family (and some family) don’t get it. Even with this trying to make the kids birthdays happy and include Kate without cracking up is nearly impossible for me. Anyway I just needed a rant, and a place to write it down. I’m hoping after all of this in a few weeks I can slowly build back to my present definition of normal. I just don’t get why this has been so much harder than anything else. We have had milestones before and gotten through them, and weirdly my wife, who usually gets more emotional than me, seems to be getting through a lot better this time. I think she is being the strong one for me this time and I have very mixed emotions about that too. I’m not mucho and am able to cry and be upset when I need to, but still have the drive to make sure she is not hurting and to take the brunt instead of her if I can. I know most of you can relate and am not seeking advice (although it’s welcome). I just needed somewhere to say this and you guys seem closer to me than most people in these matters. Our horrid shared experience makes me less worried about being judged or annalysed.
Peace to you all, as much as you can get.
“It” comes in from everywhere…even here.
My son was also named Graham and died in May 2011. He was a Geophysics major @ New Mexico Tech. Smart, witty, and well balanced. He was far from the smartest kid in class but he had the “woo” and could relate well to others whereas some of his peers who were much smarter could barely leave their dorm rooms because their social skills were severely lacking.
We also know a family locally whose son was killed in a police chase near Grand junction in 2008.
Like the rest of you, the triggers come when they choose to come. I’ve left entire carts of groceries in the store. Have sat mindlessly at stop lights. Have ended up on the school football field..sitting in the middle of it with no real recollection of how I made it there. You know the gig.
I have written about this very same thing on several occasions; those tiny, random details of life that have the power to incapacitate us. A bus schedule, a memory of cooking together, a photograph, a smell, a taste. There are innumerable seemingly random things that can bring me to my knees. It happens less frequently since Jake died 8 months ago, but they still strike without warning. We can try to guard against it, but it is precisely the depth of our love for our children that measures the depth of our grief, and there is no guarding against that.
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Jon, I’m not sure I’ve really dealt with the anger yet. In our effort to pursue justice we have filed a wrongful death lawsuit. We’ve been extremely angry at the person responsible for Graham’s death, and felt there was no choice except to file a lawsuit so that the individual involved would experience some consequences for their actions.
Other than that, I maintain my website for bereaved parents and siblings, http://www.scoop.it/t/grief-and-loss, and try to find ways each day to just cope and survive.
My husband and I did try seeing a therapist for a while, but that was not terribly helpful as she could not truly grasp the catastrophic earth-shattering devastation of our lives. Instead, we adopted a rescue dog and recently a puppy to provide full-time “therapy” and distraction. Even at 27 1/2 months, each day is still a struggle.
I found Graham’s obit. He was 23, like our Paul, and both died in the month May. I can only speak from our experience. The first several years were hell – with many emotional lows. The roller coaster has definitely gotten better over time. The lows are less severe and generally last a shorter time. That’s not to say that we’re back to normal, but rather we just are doing better living in and dealing with this new normal.
In addition to my ‘therapy’ described below, my wife does volunteer for the Dragonfly Project (http://www.dragonflyproject.org). That’s her way of supporting others who have lost a loved one.
We’ve always had animals (dogs and cats) and I must say they provide great comfort and are always willing to listen to me without judging <:). The dog also forces you to get out and about – also very healthy physically and emotionally.
Good luck with this journey.
Thank you for your encouraging words and thoughts.
I think those “Where that come from” moments always seem to hit harder than the milestone days that you have time to prepare for. Last year when I took my daughter to her first day of school, there was a little boy wearing almost the exact outfit that I laid my son to rest in. Luckily, it was a day I had off from work and could go sob in peace….sometimes grief is just so sickeningly unpredictable.
I think we can all definitely relate. I think my grief is just always “simmering” and sometimes with or without notice it can boil over and become overwhelming. Coming up on a milestone in a couple of weeks and my emotions are all over the place. The pain that will not heal and never seems to subside. I would not wish this on my worst enemy.
Thom, I know what you mean. It’ll be 6 years this December since we lost our son. He was 26 when he passed, and we later found out his girlfriend was pregnant at the time. Sadly she lost the baby. Thinking about what could have been can be almost disabling at times. The grief can come on at the strangest times anywhere. As you said, it’s just Really Fucking Hard. So sorry for your losses. I wish you peace.
It’s been over seven yard since my 23 year old son was senselessly killed – an innocent victim in a high speed police chase gone horribly wrong. Right after Paul’s death and for the first several years, the tears came daily. Generally triggered by my thinking of hi. After that the random meltdowns occurred weekly, again triggered by music, a photo or something generally tangible. But over the past few years I’d agree with you that I need to ask, “Where’d that come from?” It’s random. It hurts. It’s never going away. So I deal with it just as you do, Thom & Kelly & all the others out there. I learned very quickly to never be embarrassed about my emotions for my son – regardless of the what or when.
I was looking at photos of your handsome son and reading the story of his senseless death on your website. How do deal with the anger that you must feel about his tragic and unnecessary death?
I’m so very sorry about the death of your son Graham. Your question is thought provoking.
Although I’m sure I went through an anger phase, I don’t really remember it very well. I think the profound grief and my need to “do something” most likely tempered any anger and replaced it with function and focus. As a result of Paul’s death, the first thing I did was learn more about the cause (innocent deaths and injuries as a result of high speed police pursuits). I realized immediately that Paul’s death was not a one-off situation, but something that happens daily. As a result I fully engaged in the lifetime project to reduce police pursuits (PursuitSAFETY.org). Secondly, with encouragement from Paul’s friends I decided to create a memorial website where his music and photo memories can remain alive for friends and family. I believe the PaulFarris.org website and PursuitSAFETY are what’s allowed me to remain sane and continue with my own life – always with great sadness right below the surface – but not anger.
Hope this makes sense. And may I ask how you deal with Graham’s death and your anger?
thank you for keeping real as a father and putting your thoughts
down you are are inspirations to other men and women–n.