Dark Days

I was driving in to work today and thinking how far I have come since the early days of my grief. I started thinking about how something as simple as a good song gets me singing (not pretty, but to me I sound good) along with the radio. I now have goals and dreams that I look forward to pursuing. I also started to think about some of the rough days I had early in my grief. The only goals I had on those days were to survive and to get out of bed to make it to work. There was no singing along to the radio on the way to the office, only tears. Every time I start to beat myself up for not being “further” along in life, I try to stop myself and remember some of those early days.

One particular day really stands out to me. It started out with the normal dread of waking up and getting out of bed. I had one of those moments of bliss between sleeping and reality. The moment that you thought you had the worst nightmare of your life and the reality that you were living that nightmare. The day progressed with the mental struggles I often fought. But this day I didn’t have the strength to fight it, so I surrendered to it. I was am on my hands and knees and had been gaging/throwing up from the stress every time I tried to eat. Throwing up from the stress! I didn’t even realize that was possible. I was crying but there were no tears, only convulsive type spasms that resemble bawling, but again there were no tears. Only extreme sadness, fear, despair, depression, emptiness, guilt, devastation and anger. I am sure I am missing a bunch of other emotions that I was feeling that day.

I remember that it was a wintery afternoon and there I was on my hands and knees not knowing if I was going to survive. “Survive” is a word I asked myself a lot during the early days of the journey. “Am I going to survive this?” The reason I asked it was because I could feel myself dying and I really wasn’t sure I was going to survive. I asked my counselor, wife, family and friends. I needed confirmation that I was going to survive. And even when they said yes, I returned with “Are you sure? Because it doesn’t feel like I am going to.” I think some people around me started to ask the same question.

One friend of mine responded to an email I sent him. “Hey buddy, I am getting worried about you. This is the first time I have had concerns, I don’t want you hurting yourself, and you need to go to the doctor for help.” I never got to the point of thinking about ending the pain, but I can see how people get to that point. My friend was right, I needed to see a counselor.

When I was sitting with my counselor telling my story, I was fine (ok not fine, but better because I had an opportunity to tell my story and cry), but when I was on my own it would start to build up until my next appointment. I needed her with me to help tame conversations I was having with myself regarding the survival of this nightmare. Unfortunately, my insurance only covered one visit per week.

As I mentioned earlier, I sometimes have a tendency to judge myself for not being the guy I was 10 years ago before the loss of my first child. However, when I look back at some of those dark days, I realize I have come a long way from those days and that it’s ok to have easy/relaxing/enjoyable days and that the most important thing is the fact I feel happiness and peace in my life. Those two things are not easy to come by and I need reminders of those days to realize that it’s ok to just sit back and enjoy the simple things in life.

I decided to share my thoughts and this story today because I want you to realize that no matter where you are in this journey, there is hope. There are brighter days ahead if you put in the hard work of allowing the grief process to run its course instead of fighting it. Learn to surrender and be vulnerable.

What are your thoughts on this subject?

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User Comments ( 16 )

  • Christian

    I hesitate to reply, because I don’t want to upset or alarm anyone who is newly bereaved. After my daughter died (she was 2 yrs, 8 months old, and killed by leukemia after a 4 month battle with it), I needed to keep hope that things would get better. And as Kelly says in his post here, they did. The grief has never entirely gone away, but it has softened and left space for more of the rest of life to come in. I have had happiness and peace in my life, and I have two sons now who I adore. But I wonder if anyone else has had dark days return later in their grieving. It has been almost 7 years since my daughter died and the past several months have been rough for me. I began having abdominal pains. I don’t know what caused them but they might have been due to heavier drinking. Reflecting on the past few years, I think I was so desperate to be “normal” again that I blocked out my grief, avoided it with alcohol, and isolated myself from others. My abdominal pain created immense anxiety about having cancer which led me to have what I recognize now as a panic attack (at the time I thought they physical symptoms were due to an underlying medical problem). I continued having physical anxiety symptoms (tightness in my chest, difficulty breathing, back pain) and I still have abdominal pains (I still don’t know if they were caused by grief/anxiety or by something else and then worsened by anxiety). I stopped drinking a month ago and have been taking steps to address my anxiety and depression. My days are still nothing like the early days of grief but I guess I expected things to continually “get better” rather than having “relapses.” It is such a difficult process and there are days I want so desperately to just feel healthy and happy again. I feel alone, like I’m not coping well, like something’s “wrong” with me. I guess I’m just wondering if anyone else has had any similar experiences?

    • Ray

      My 26-year-old son’s two-year anniversary is coming up next month and recently I’ve been experiencing every ache, pain and physical irregularity as a major health crisis. It’s definitely tied to my readiness and desire to “move on” at the two-year mark. Despite my best intentions, life has a habit of reminding me that I’ll never be the same. I find it helpful to read biographies of men who showed courage after losing a child — Bach, Lincoln, Shakespeare, and others. I’ve just been reading a bio of Che Guevara; his experiences traipsing through the Bolivian jungle on his way to meet his doom somehow make my troubles seem manageable, at least for today. Good luck, friend.

    • Christian – Thanks for posting this topic. Are there long term impacts/”aftershocks” that continue to occur even years later? Absolutely. Its just part of this terrible ride. However, it does continue to “easier” with time. To answer your question, yes the panic attacks and think that something is wrong with you from a health perspective is normal. At least I hope it is, because I still have the same problem with the “I think something is wrong with me”. If I have a headache my mind goes to ” I sure hope its not brain cancer” or something along those lines. The brain is a funny thing, its powerful and it can play tricks on you. Part of it is the fact we now know bad stuff can happen, because we lived it. When I start to have these “concerns”, I go my doctor right away and go in to have some blood tests and stuff done just to put my mind at ease. So yes, its a normal response to a not so normal situation.



      • Christian

        Thank you. I won’t say it’s good to hear you’ve had similar experiences but I feel better that I’m not alone.

  • Kristy

    It’s been 4 weeks and 12 hours since I lost my little boy. At the very end of first trimester. I was starting to feel “safe”. But it was not. Today is hard. And feels like I will never be happy again. I’m hoping that I survive the next few weeks, months and years. Thank you for posting this. It helps to know people can/do/will get through this. It gives me hope I will at least survive.. if not ever be the same person I was.

    • Kristy – I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet little boy. This is the most difficult thing anyone ever has to endure. You will have hard days and sometimes really hard days where you don’t feel like you can breath, but you will. Some how, some way we all do. Changed forever, but you will survive. You will smile and laugh again, but your little boy will never be to far away.

      Wishing you peace.


  • I still deal with the darkness and May 27th will be 3 years since I lost my daughter. You can see her story here: https://www.facebook.com/RememberingKaylaFerrante?ref=hl

    I suffer from ptsd where i wake up at night hearing gun shots that don’t exist even though i was not present when she was shot. Recently i had a particularly rough night and day and decided to go meet a friend at a bar and chat. She never showed so i drank with some other people that evening and ended up getting thrown in jail that night for a DUI. I had never been in trouble in my life. The ironic thing was this is the same jail the piece of shit that murdered my daughter had been until he was convicted. I stopped drinking that day (46 days ago) and haven’t even wanted to. The hardest thing now is all i do is work and go home and watch tv. I lost all my friends when i lost Kayla and now i’m afraid to go out and put myself in a situation were I may say the hell with it and drink again. I have nothing to lose. I have no other children, a wife or girlfriend so whats the point. I was a very social person before this and don’t understand were everyone has gone. They say let’s do this or that sometime but then I never hear from them. Birthday went by without one damn person calling me. It pisses me off so again I say what’s the point?

    • Paul, I am 212 days into my hell. I’ve come to the conclusion that there probably nothing after this life, God is a man made theory, and if God exists, then I hope when my days are up, I am proven wrong and my daughter will be there with open arms, yelling, “Dadda!”… as she did every time I came home from work. I believe in the good men can do for their fellow man. This should be always on top of everyone’s bucket list, always. Keep on doing good, just as Kayla wanted to help children for her future career. In the 38th year of my life, I would never have imagined what my life has become. We’ve learned the “hard way”. If this is the only life I get, I am going to make it worth while. On our road to death, we now have grief in the seat next to us, but I’ve been told, there are many stops on the way… and some of them may make me smile. Happiness is on my bucket list. It is a sad fact, but all of us probably can add that to our lists. Paul, thinking of Kayla and yourself today.

  • Only that I know exactly what you mean. It’s almost too tough to handle most days.

  • Don Begier

    First, thank you for sharing! I am early in the grief process and can relate to the feelings you were describing. It scares me to think of being ten years removed, I already miss him so much! I am trying to embrace the grief and not fight it. Again, thank you for sharing from your hope and pain!

  • Bruce F

    After three + years the hardest thing to reconcile is that feeling happiness often feels too much like letting go. I’m better than I was this time a year ago, but I still stop myself often with pangs of grief and sometimes some guilt that I feel myself moving on, but never really moving on. I don’t want to see myself ever fully letting go, nor do I think I can.

  • Ray

    I read somewhere that after grieving for a monumental loss most people eventually go back to being the person they were before the loss occurred, hopefully with more wisdom. It is two years since my son died and I can feel that happening to me. I think it is because post-loss I gave myself 100% permission to take two full years to feel as bad as I wanted, whenever I wanted, wherever I wanted, with no guilt or self-criticism. Now the “horribles” don’t sneak up on me like they did for most of those two years and I don’t feel like crap every singe time I wake up in the morning. I’m getting back to being my old self, humming a tune out loud now and then, like author Kelly.

  • Ted Spencer

    It’s been 10 yrs since we lost our daughter Taylor she was 17 and every thing you wrote I have been through I didn’t allow my self top be happy but with the help of my lovely wife of 30 I realized Taylor would want me to be happy there isn’t minute that goes by I don’t think of here but know the memoirs are happy one

  • Sean Olson

    Thank you for your words today. They are exactly what I needed. Some times the darkness is not from what has happened to us but from our own making. This is a daily battle. Your words came at the right time.

    • I agree with Sean. Needed to hear / read this today. It is a daily struggle to survive. I keep telling myself other parents have survived this… and so can I. Thank you, Kelly.