I have always considered myself a restless soul. Always looking for something more exciting or interesting to immerse myself into. I love to experience new things and try to take life in on many levels. If I find myself in a situation where I feel like my life is stagnate, I get very uncomfortable and pissed off at myself for allowing it to happen. I don’t want to waste a minute on this earth primarily because I know my time is limited, I just don’t know how limited. There are times when I wake up in the middle of the night and realize, I will die someday. This realization causes a sense of panic, but not for the reasons most would think. The panic doesn’t occur because I am afraid of dying (I used to be, but not after losing Katie and Noah), I am actually afraid of not living my life to the fullest and the fear of wasting my time.
Here in the United States, we’ve been sold the “American Dream.” We are supposed to graduate high school, go to college and get into the workforce. Once we are in the workforce, it’s all about producing, out maneuvering your co-workers by working harder (60+ hour a weeks) so we can climb the ladder. We do this so we can achieve more titles and collect more stuff. I believe our forefathers and founders were brilliant in developing the “system” that keeps many of us here in the US trying to chase that dream. I believe this work ethic (spun to be a great thing) we have in the US is what keeps the United States one of the wealthiest and strongest in history. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change the system for anything, I love the US and freedom and security it has provided. However, I would like to change the way I personally approach the system. If others want to chase the “American Dream”, go for it.
I chased the dream for years (and still do on some levels) but after the death of Katie and Noah, I realized it’s not the most important thing in life. So, why do so many people do this? So we can pat ourselves on the back and tell each other how great we are because we have arrived in a new car, live in a 3000 sq. ft. house and take the best vacation one can afford. Or in most cases, can’t afford, but we’ll put it on the credit card and work harder over the next 25 years to pay down the house (or buy a bigger house in a better subdivision) and buy a nicer car. We have all been guilty of it, some worse than others.
I read a sign the other day that said, “don’t grow up…..it’s a trap.” I caught myself saying out loud, “Isn’t that the truth.” I often reflect on the days when I had no responsibilities, when “ignorance was bliss”. When I would have the summer days to myself to explore and spend time with my friends. Lately, I have been asking myself the question “Why can’t we still live a life like that?”
I have a neighbor down the street that I see in his yard with his dogs every morning when I go to work. He is out there playing in the dirt hanging out with his dogs and creating a beautiful landscaped yard with flowers everywhere. I stopped to chat with him the other day and the subject turned to “living life” and traveling. He told me he made a decision when he approached 40 to walk away from the corporate world because he was experiencing stress and anxiety. He is now 48 and works a part time job at the local Home Depot and makes enough to allow him to live a life he wants. I am jealous of his ability to make that decision and follow through with it. In all fairness, he has his house paid off and chooses not to live in debt with a lot of “stuff.”
I know I have been rambling on for a while, but let me bring it back to my “restlessness” (did I also mention I am self-diagnosed with ADD). Over the last couple of years, I have started down my own path of “taking in” life. I’ve written a book, taken photography classes, taken cooking classes, started biking and running more, jumped off the side of a mountain to paraglide, landscaping, garden and many other things. Although I enjoy doing all of this stuff, I still feel like I need to do more.
Lately, I’ve been day dreaming of extreme experiences like taking off a year from work to bike across the US, hike the Pacific Crest Trail, traveling the world or moving to Tulum, Mexico for a year and live in a beach town. I’ve been reading a lot of blogs of people that just go and do it. They inspire me.
I think losing Katie and Noah left a void inside of me that I am trying to fill. As I stated earlier, I’ve always been a restless soul, but it has been amplified since losing them.
Has your outlook on/approach to life changed or has your restlessness gotten worse since the loss of your child? Tell us about it.
Kelly, I have read most of your articles on here and can relate to most of them. I lost my 20 year old son August 24th 2013, I am in pain everyday. I feel a sickness in the pit of my stomach that I cant explain. I have felt alone since he has been gone even though I have 3 other children. Everyday I try to convince myself that everything will be alright I am strong and I will make it. I have questioned my faith, my purpose and even if any of this life matters.
I’ve always been a motivated person. I served over 13 years in the military and in combat. After the military I became a police officer. I have always felt a need to serve our country and its citizens and this was the obvious path. Now I find myself confused. I have no idea what I am supposed to do, I feel empty and restless.
Everyone tells me to remember all the good times with my son. All I can think about are the text messages we exchanged moments before he was killed. I find myself thinking of how he suffered and was in pain and how I couldn’t be there to protect him as I have so many others. These are my daily thoughts no matter how hard I try and just think of the “good times”.
I go to work everyday and put on a fake smile like I am doing fine. My coworkers never ask me how I am coping and I don’t blame them. My payroll officer lost her son several years ago and told me that the pain will never go away but it would become easier to manage as time passes. I cant accept those terms, the only thing that will make this right is having my son next to me. Accepting that this will never happen has been the hardest obstacle I have ever faced.
Confused and in pain. That’s how I am going to describe my current status in this grieving process. I try and remember that I am not the only person dealing with the loss of a child but its tremendously difficult to not feel alone in all of this.
Chris – I am sorry for the loss of your son. I wish you didn’t have to live this nightmare…I wish none of us had to live it. But its the cards we’ve been dealt and we have to play them the best we can. The early days you just feel like folding and cashing out.
“Early days” means something different for each person. But I can say from what I’ve learned from my own journey and from speaking with others, 2 years is very early in the process. None of us want to hear that, but that’s the reality. It been 10 years and although the path has gotten much much better for me, I still have days where I feel like I want to go back to bed and wake up tomorrow. Those days are much further apart than they were 5-10 years ago, but they still appear every once in a while.
I used to get really upset with myself because I wasn’t feeling better in the time frame I thought I should be doing better in. I then had a conversation with a very wise person. They told me that although you feel like shit and the pain is unbearable at times, you still must try to be patient with yourself to heal from this trauma and pain.
I think remembering all the good time and bad times are a part of this. Its his story, its your story.
You are right, you certainly are not alone, there are thousands of us fighting everyday. If you haven’t yet, start spending some time thinking about things you can do to remember/honor your son. It’s hard at first and can be overwhelming, but for me it helped me to start seeing some hope knowing Katie and Noah’s existence caused me to do something to honor them and to carry on their legacy. Not sure it will help, but it has helped me tremendously as well as a others I have met along the way.
Wishing you peace Chris.
Chris, I am sorry for your loss. I lost my 22 year old son in July of 2012, so I guess I’m one year ahead of you in the ‘club’ that no one wants to be a part of.
Your moods and thoughts you describe sound very familiar to me as I have experienced them also. For me the second year seemed harder than the first year, not sure why.
Everyone grieves in there own way, so no one should be telling you how to do it, including me. For me, even when things look better I still have those thoughts and feelings of wanting my son here with me.
As Kelly indicated in his Fathers day post, the best we can hope for is peace, I hope that you find it in something.
Kelly — I recently volunteered to facilitate a new group for men who have experienced the loss of a child, a spinoff from the “co-ed” parents’ grief group I have attended since my son died two years ago. I was motivated to do it by many of the comments I have read on this site, so your work is having a ripple effect. I can understand the feeling of having “taken it to the limit” with the book and blog, and you can rest assured that if you step back from this work others will carry it on. Such work is not a lifelong commitment and, unfortunately, there will always be a “market” for the type of support only we grieving Dads can provide for each other. Thanks.
Ray – Great news! I am happy to hear you are doing great work to help others along this path. I love to hear the work I have done has a “ripple effect”, that was my goal all along, to get others talking about what men deal with so we don’t have to feel alone.
Seeing the work that others like yourself are doing, brings me great pride in knowing that my work has had direct and indirect impact. It’s great to see that men are starting to be brought into the conversation of grief by other men and not just women. Sometimes you just need another guy to talk to about the things us guys deal with.
Thanks for making my day!
Gkiger – You are correct, its not easy. Just when I think I am finally at peace, I hit a rut that lasts a couple of weeks and I feel lost again. Great thing is they don’t last long, but I hate the feeling of it. I am generally tired, stressed out etc when it a occurs, but when it goes away, I get energized again and am able to keep moving. I am starting to realize that I need to be doing something big that makes a difference in other peoples lives. Writing the book and having a blog was a big thing for me, but I feel like my mission of providing a resource has somewhat come to and end. I put so much thought and emotion into the book that I feel like I have said everything there is to say. My next challenge is to find the next chapter, something to sink my passion and time into while also helping others along the way.
Thanks for sharing on this topic.
I’m happy for you Kelly that you have reached that point for that next chapter in your life. It gives me hope to see that in others who hit the bottom from the death of a child and made it through the other side. I wonder how many never do or who have a hard time through the rest of their life coping. I get that one as I’m stuck right now fighting how to find “joy” in our life again……kelly, pitch a HBO documentry on the loss of a child….maybe more on coping, people’s lives, the downs, the challenges, the successes and failures……we no not everyone makes it….I can understand how it would be easy to stay frozen in time….by that I mean not moving forward locked in the past on what was and what should have been…….
Thanks for your triumphs as it helps people talk about their loved ones, experiences and pain….it can help bring a person out of their shell or possibly depths of depression to know others are suffering the same way you are as a parent…
Wish you the best in your life’s journey….
I am the same in much of this. I no longer fear death at all, no longer care about material things and have also taken a much lower paying, but way less stressful, job (and moved near the ocean). My issue is that I am completely torn, even 5 1/2 years on, in how to manage the time I have. Work was always going to be the lowest priority with a new 9 day fortnight and clear 8-5 days and nearly no overtime, no conferences or business trips that got sorted about a year after losing my darling Katie sorted that out. Family is clearly my first priority. We have a great time together doing so much. Movie nights at home with a picnic in the lounge every Friday, I help out in their school on my fortnightly day off (which is also where my wife teaches), we do art and craft projects constantly and explore the world together doing things like geocaching, bush walking and camping as much as we can. My wonderful family even gave me the chance to go diving with sharks for my Birthday a few years ago and put up with my insistence that I needed to try bungy jumping. Through all of this, I am hopefully teaching my kids not to fear life, or the end of it, but to embrace it and enjoy all it can offer (my 5 year old darling daughter, twin to our precious Katie, has a personal motto of “I like High and I like fast”). Where I have trouble is that part of me yearns to be by myself sometimes too.To go caving, hiking, camping, fishing etc by myself or with a mate, as I did when I was younger. Every time I contemplate this though the other part of me sees this as time wasted, since it’s not spent with my wife and kids. I don’t care much when I die (not suicidal just not worried about it) but if I lost another child or Bec I don’t think I’d forgive myself if I spent any more time away from them than I have to. I have always put family first because I think that’s right and it was easy because I wanted to anyway, but before we lost Katie I think I was a bit more balanced about it, or maybe time alone didn’t bother me as much because I didn’t feel the need for quite contemplation so much. I think this will resolve itself as the kids get older and they no longer want to spend so much time with their dad, and believe it or not I’m not clingy at all with them, but while they want to spend most of their time with me, I want to spend most of my time with them.
Anyway, rant over. Just like to throw in my 2c every now and again.
Peace to you all, as much as you can get.
Andrew – Rant here anytime. I for one connect with what you are saying and so do the many others that will read it.
I too like to spend time “playing” more that I use to. I think as we get older we forget to “take life in” and get sidetracked with all of the BS that we allow into our lives. We forget to enjoy our free time and life. I too have been making it a point to hang out more with friends. Making time for down time is something I constantly have to remind myself to do in order to achieve the peace of mind in which I seek. Being a Type A personality, I feel like I have to be moving and achieving all of the time, which causes me stress from time to time. It is a true art form to be able to find that balance in which I seek.
Andrew, I have done exactly as you. I moved to a rural area in the Rockies from the “Bgi City” and lead a much simpler life. I no longer fear death and try and do my best to enjoy the moments I have with my family. There are also times when I want to escape into the mountains to just walk and think. And the same as you I feel guilty for not being with the family
Chris – I cant tell you how often I think about leaving the big city of Chicago and move to the Rockies. Something about being in an area that allows me live an active life is appealing. I find a lot of healing just being outside hiking, biking etc. Keeping my mind occupied. I often think about my kids and my life while I am out doing these things.
Helps a little.
Thanks Chris, it does feel like we are alone sometimes and hearing that you feel the same helps. I hope the fact that we both feel like this helps you realize you are not alone as well. All of us here know that we will never be the same, but as someone a little further along the path than yourself I can say that for me, after over 5 years, there are times when it’s not as hard, and those times have gotten longer over time and I feel like I can be truly there for my other kids. I imagine I will also always have the other times too, where the world is crushing me and it just seems so stupid and unfair and pointless.
I hope you can find some peace soon.
Found this site not too long ago. Been a year and a half since the murder of my only son, Brooks. I am hoping that this site and those who truly understand might start my healing. Wrote a poem on my son’s birthday from a few weeks ago. Funny how this journey changes you in ways that would have been so foreign before. Never wrote a poem in my life, except maybe in school. Now, that seems to be my way of coping. My son wrote hundreds of songs…raps…and recorded them and words came so easily to him. They seem to be my lifeline now. He gave me a gift to treasure without him, and maybe now I am channeling my inner Brooksy. Peace and hope to all of you navigating this same long road…Wade
The rhythm of the rain
In sync with my heart
Falling slowly against the pane
Tells a story of so many days apart
I feel them on my face
Slowly and softly they flow
A warm bittersweet embrace
One not felt since long ago
Replenishing life on earth
Scouring away the pain
Bringing about new birth
Each one a memory to remain
Of life and a bond of love
Laughter from days long gone
Now falling silently from above
Something I always depended on
Angels crying in their ethereal plane?
No, these tears are my own
Falling slowly with the rain
Two were one and now one is alone
Kelly, your thoughts and feelings really resonate with me. Since the passing of my son McCallan 7 month ago I have thought about quitting every day. I am not even sure its because I hate my corporate job, but because i keep thinking there must be more to life than this now. What is the point in getting stressed out at work most days when you do realize, very starkly, after losing your child that life really is too short, and can be even shorter for some tragically. That nothing material really matters at all, its all BS.
Like you, my mind often drifts back to times when I had no responsibilities except for myself, I call them the “Simpler Times”, unaffected by those thousands of people around me living the suburban American life but looking stressed and not very content. “That’ll never be me” I used to tell myself.
Now it feels like my life cannot be any more real, stressful and discontented. I too think about how i can change it every day, but have yet to do something about it, which adds to the stress. I often ask myself will I ever feel truly happy again, if I quite and travel will that change things…..it doesn’t seem achievable to be honest, not without my son
Mick – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic. I think about quitting my job everyday and dream about what my life would look like if I just walked away and left Chicago. I’ve been here for about 21 years and have no family here other than my wife. We only live here for the jobs and that’s it. My dream is to live somewhere where I can wake up to sunshine everyday and enjoy life by making a difference (something more than just billing time for a corporation) and being outside hiking, biking, etc. The weather here plays a big part with me struggling. I’ve been fighting a rut lately and not really sure how to get out of it.
“That will never be me” is something I use to think as well. Now I am just “give me a couple of more years so I can put a little more money away, and then I’ll go live my life”. Problem is that fact I am not living while I am waiting. At least to the level I want to be living my life.
I used to think like you do, I can’t live it without my children, but to be honest that changed for me and I use their loss as a way to try to live my life in a way the would make them proud. Its not easy, but that is what motivates me.
Thanks for sharing.
Hi Kelly – we’re approaching four years since losing Josh. You and I spoke about a year ago as I was contemplating leaving my corporate job that paid very well, yet I wasn’t happy. I did accept a position at a non profit, large University near where Josh recieved much of his medical treatment throughout his seventeen year life and where a ton of research on rare diseases takes place. I took a 30% pay decrease and started working at the University of Pennsylvania eleven months ago and although my wallet is a bit lighter, it’s helped me continue to cope with the loss of our son. I don’t know if I would have made this move without the conversation you and I had.
Last month, the University’s Center for Orphan Diseases held its second annual charitable bike ride with 25 rare disease teams and 500 riders. We created a team in honor of my son and called it Team Josh & the DCO Riders (DC or Dyskeratosis Congenita, is the disease Josh had and has been diagnosed in less than 500 people world-wide). We raised almost $10,000 this first year and once we reach $20,000 the University will match our fundraising with the funds going to a pilot grant towards research of the rare disease Josh suffered from. We rode about 35 miles (cycling has helped me cope with Josh’s illness and death over the past ten years) and afterwards, when I got home, I was emotionally exhausted and found myself crying for about an hour. It was the first time I cried while feeling Josh’s illness and death would have some benefit to others. It’s a lousy trade-off as in the end we don’t have our son and he did not have he opportunity to live a full life, but given where we are, I think it’s the best we can do. None of this brings Josh back, but it does give me some feeling that our lives are finally moving in the right direction since losing Josh. At the ride, I was talking with another father whose son had a rare illness, we were talking about his son and Josh, we looked at each other, and all I could say is “this is really f*cked up”, that’s still how I really feel, there’s no justification, nothing that really makes me and our family feel better, some days are better than others and there are things we can do like ride a bike, find a job that’s more fulfilling, get our other kids through high school and college, but losing our oldest son is just really F’d up.
Bruce – I remember our conversation. The sad thing is, I gave you advice I believe, but haven’t had the balls to implement yet. Working on it, but I have a fear of going to something more demanding and not being able to do the job. Although I do not get anything out of my current job (other than a nice paycheck), it does allow me to “hide out” so to speak. However, I know I don’t want to live my life this way, but I keep doing it. I applaud your courage to just do it.
I am currently working on starting my own Real Estate Brokerage (in addition to being an engineer, I sold real estate from 99-2007) that is designed to make a difference. Its a new business model and one I will be sharing shortly. However, it is something that will allow me to continue making a difference in other peoples lives. That seems to be the only thing that drives me. I get a great feeling of knowing that I help people, whether through my book and blog or through this next venture. I will send you a note once its officially launched, it is designed to assist not-for-profits. Waiting on the state to clear my LLC and then its a go.
I applaud you for all of the great work you are doing to honor Josh. Its a big part of surviving this nightmare. Living for our children.
BTW – We have finally added some Republicans to our Farley-Kluger efforts. I think we are making some big progress on this in DC.
Once again it’s like you’ve been reading my mail. Except for the fact that you have at least done some of those things. Since losing my son Matt, I did leave the high tech market and have a job with less money and less stress. My wife left the high tech market and retrained to be a nurses assistant, making far less money, but she is happier.
I guess I need to start doing some of those things that I keep thinking about doing.
Thanks for the inspiration.
Bruce – I encourage you to jump in on some of those things. Pick one or two that really interest you and have fun with it.
I applaud your wife for walking away to do something more fulfilling. My wife did the same thing, she left a very successful engineering job in the gas industry to become a Special Ed Teacher. I wish I had it in me to just do that, but not there yet and I think that is what is causing my unhappiness and searching for a more fulfilling life.
Thanks for sharing.
Mine changed, sounds like yours to be honest. I had to smile about losing the fear of dying. Me too. Thanks for sharing. I get it completely.
Nicole – The topic of dying is pretty much the same for most bereaved parents. You lose your fear of that and other things. I use to be afraid of flying and would medicate before I got on a plane. Now I have no concerns, I get on sit down and I’m ready for take off.
Thanks for sharing. Peace.
I’m not sure how everyone else looks at the death of your child, but I am sure everyone is different in some ways to either escape what your doing or throw yourself in your work. But its when your alone or driving is when it hits you on what just happened, did happen or has happened, that makes you think about life in general and what it all really means.
To escape in your room in the beginning or go to where they died or places they loved, to try and feel them all over again to hear them, touch them. As you said there is a void that can never be filled in all so many ways, including myself, my wife and daughter after the loss of our son.
My wife cant do many things like we use to as home is her security blanket, its where she is close to our son and that is ok, I get it. But we have to keep working on progressing, not apart, but together and each one moves a little different than the other. Always keep that in mind in your journey in healing. She knows I have to get outdoors and do things as that is what our son did in the outdoors and that’s where I want to go, where he would go. Its a healing process and I can talk to him and yell at God if I like.
Yes Kelly, my life, our life has changed in all so many ways, but we are trying to heal in doing things in little steps and for me sometime in big steps. I say, FILL THAT VOID, as much as you can but it doesn’t go away anytime soon and we have accepted it will never go away.
They will never leave you no matter where you go, take them with you, speak out to them in your journey, for you will continue to pause for them, cry thinking of them, so take them with, as no matter if you stay at home or go in your journey in life, they will always be near.
I wish for peace for those in pain…its not easy…