Full Impact

I was recently at an event for the consulting engineering industry that I work in and ran into a couple of fellow colleagues. During the conversation, I asked one of them how a fellow co-worker and friend of mine, who currently works for his company, was doing. The response was that “he was doing well but still dealing with the after effects of a car accident he had last year.” I had known he and his fiancée was in an accident where the vehicle they were in rolled several times. Fortunately, they both had their seatbelts on and “walked” away from the accidents with bumps and bruises.

One of the “bruises” that our fellow friend had was a severe concussion. The guy I was speaking with mentioned that our friend has had some lingering symptoms from the head/brain injury. Symptoms such as headaches, difficulty concentrating and fatigue.

While he was telling me this, I started to think about my own head “trauma” that I experienced after the death of my children. I have and still do experience many of the same symptoms he was mentioning. Although the head/brain trauma (physical) our friend experienced was completely different then the head/brain trauma (emotional) I experienced, the symptoms were very similar.

I decided to do a little research on emotional trauma and the symptoms. As a result, I came across this website that helps explain “emotional and psychological trauma” and the impacts it has on you. I was kind of surprised to see all of the symptoms that I had experienced and a few of them that I still deal with like difficulty focusing at work. I still haven’t figured out if it’s because it’s a symptom or I have learned to not really give a shit about some of the things at work. I think it’s the later most of the time.

This is an important thing to remember when you get frustrated with yourself because you feel like you are not the “old you.” It’s because you are not, you have experienced a full impact injury that is hard to see and comprehend. Call it PTSD or whatever you want to call it, but make no mistake about it, there was damage done to the brain as a result of losing your child.

This following are some of the emotional symptoms of trauma that they have listed on their website:

·       Shock, denial, or disbelief
·       Anger, irritability, mood swings
·       Guilt, shame, self-blame
·       Feeling sad or hopeless
·       Difficulty concentrating
·       Anxiety and fear
·       Withdrawing from others
·       Feeling disconnected or numb

Another symptom that has stayed with me is agitation. There are times when I notice (my wife also notifies me of this) myself becoming more irritable or agitated. I have noticed that the anti-depressant that I take has made a huge difference and has helped me stay calm most of the time.

What symptoms have you dealt with?

Have you sought professional help? If not, why?

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User Comments ( 16 )

  • Tony

    Such a timely post for me as I’ve really been struggling to care about much of anything – especially work. It’s been a little over three years since my daughter passed away and over the first year or two, I made a conscious effort to just keep my head down and keep doing the same things I had always done. Mostly I did it for the sake of my other two children so that they would have a normal routine and their life wouldn’t be thrown anymore out of whack than it already was. However, as more time goes by I find myself dreading going to work and sitting behind a desk all day. It all seems so trivial and meaningless. There has to be something more than driving to work, sitting there for 8 hours and then driving home. Repeat five days a week. I used to really enjoy my work and the people I work with, now I find myself saying in my head (and sometimes out loud) “who gives a shit??”.

    Over the past week, I’ve been really down and depressed thinking there was something wrong with me. I check this site about once a week so yesterday when I checked in it almost brought tears to my eyes to see this post. It was so comforting to see that I’m not weird and I’m not “losing it”. There are other Dads that feel the same way. Thank you Kelly for this post and thank you to all the Dads that replied. It really picked me up and made me more determined than ever to find something that will bring me some fulfillment and also allow me to make a difference in the lives of others.

    -Tony

    • Tony – Thank you for the kind words regarding this post. I am always happy to hear when my work has had an impact on others.

      The reason sitting behind a desk and pushing paper seems so “trivial and meaningless” is because most of the time it is. I find it hard to sit there because I know what “bad” is and I feel like at times on am going on as if nothing happened to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some major changes in my life to get away from climbing ladder pressure. I’ve turned down VP positions and senior level management positions multiple times. I didn’t take the bait. My ego and greed wanted me to, but deep down I knew better. I knew I would be miserable and would feel like I sold myself short and didn’t honor Katie and Noah.

      I now sit back and watch the people that did take those roles and smile because I see the pressure they are under and I want nothing to do with it. In fact, I am confident my new threshold for stress wouldn’t have allowed me to due it. I would have been highly stressed out and sick. I look at my job now as a means to an ends. Its not horrible or is it great, but I am not sure anything really is.

      I will say the only since of reward I get from my “work”, is the work I do with Grieving Dads. It means a lot to me to see the impact the book and this blog has had with others. I believe it started a ripple in openly discussing issues that men face. I can only hope that men will start to feel comfortable with opening up and letting out the pain they often keep inside.

      • Tony

        I hear you, Kelly. My wife and I started a charitable foundation in our daughter’s name so that we may reach out and help other family’s going through what we went through. When I’m actively working on that, I like you, feel a sense of purpose and gratification.

        A few weeks ago, my wife and I were invited to speak about child loss to a group of about 15 nurses at a local hospital as part of their continuing education so that they may be more prepared to help parents say goodbye to their child. They have had these seminars for a few years but this is the first time a Dad was present to tell his side of the bereavement story. As I was speaking, I watched the eyes of the nurses in the audience. I could tell that they had never heard these things from a Dad before. They had no idea, that while our outside appearance may indicate otherwise, we are dying inside. I tried to explain the unique emotions a father feels when their child dies. I felt I was able to give voice to the men on this website, and in your book, and tell these health care professionals what truly goes on in with a Dad when their child dies – and how to help and support these Dads. My goal that day was to honor all grieving Dads and tell our side of the story.

        So, how do you go back to your regular job after doing something like? Is my work in IT going to amount to anything remotely as meaningful as that hour and a half I spent with those nurses? Not even close. But like you said, it’s a means to an end. A way to pay the bills.

        My hope (and who knows, maybe this is a project we’ll tackle) is that every hospital will hold this type of seminar for their healthcare professionals on a regular basis. It’s vitally important that doctors and nurses know (if they haven’t been through it themselves) the pain and trauma associated with losing a child. Of course, if they haven’t been through it there is no way from them to truly comprehend the magnitude of the loss, but we can at least try to get them to understand.

        All I know for sure is that I have to stayed involved with this type of work. It helps me feel closer to Sophie

        -Tony

  • Ray

    One of the best tips I got since my son Max died in April 2013 was from your site, Kelly, a few months back when you referenced an article by Kelly Buckley, who lost her 23-year-old son in 2009. Ms. Buckley, a Canadian who lives in North Carolina, has a rather determined and straightforward approach to overcoming debilitating grief: “Be Happy. Repeat.” She spreads her gospel of grief survival through her website (www.kellybuckley.com), her books, her speaking engagements and — my favorite — her daily JOLT email containing an uplifting and thought-provoking quote. JOLT stands for “Just One Little Thing”, as in, find One Little Thing to be grateful for each day and focus on that. Resilience and gratitude are the twin foundations of Ms. Buckley’s approach to surviving the loss of a child. Her philosophy resonates with me and perhaps some of your other readers would also find her website helpful.

  • Greg – I watched the video you posted over the weekend. Now you have me day dreaming about taking a leave of absence from my “job” and spend 6 months to a year driving around north American exploring with my wife and dog. I like the line in the video about “most people waiting until their 60 to do something like this…” I feel the same way. We spend the best years of our lives working and trying to “save” for some day. We all know the day may never come. My wife is a teacher and has summers off. So I am planning on taking a month vacation from my job next summer and rent a house in Colorado (in the Mountains) so I can hike, mountain bike and just play for a month. This will be my first adventure where I am not trying to squeeze everything I want to do in the usual 4-5 days of vacation. I turn 50 in 4 years and want to be able to walk away from my office job and start a new career doing something more meaningful. We’ll see, its a dream right now and it keeps me moving forward.

    Thanks for sharing the video. Peace

    Kelly

    • Ray

      Kelly — Speaking of career changes at age 50: I was amicably let go from a long-term management job at age 49 and figured out after my first job interview that age discrimination is very real in the conventional work world. I don’t know what came over me, but I decided that it was time to try “something old, something new.” A lifelong part-time musician, I turned to “busking” (playing music on the street) in San Francisco and Vancouver for three years, living on donations and the sales of self-produced CDs of my solo guitar work (I sold 3,000 CDs). It was a life-changing decision. I met a young gal on the street in Vancouver who listened to my music for 30 minutes before we ever spoke and I married her and had two kids with her. They are 10 and 12 years old now and at age 63 I am a single non-custodial Dad working as a translator online and living by the sea on the US side of the Canadian border. My Canadian kids and I have a ball here every other weekend doing all the things Americans do, while joking about the follies of both the Yanks and Canucks. I sometimes describe my busking career as “panhandling with a guitar”, but in fact living off the kindness of strangers while playing my music full-time for three years gave me a renewed worldview that has sustained me throughout the ordeal of losing my 26-year-old son Max in 2013.

      • Ray – Thank you for sharing this with me. I’ve been in my own head lately about a lot of career path opportunity that I am not sure I really want. On some levels I feel like I’ve thrown in the towel by not wanting to climb the ladder, but I know if I take the bait, I’ll have a lot more stress (and money) in my life. Both don’t seem as important to me anymore. To me its about enjoying life peacefully the way I want to do it, not the way someone else thinks I should do it. At 46, I sometimes question myself at turning down these “great opportunities”, but I’m just not that guy anymore. Just something I struggle with. Love your story and it has helped me work through some stuff today. So thank you!

        Peace.

        Kelly

  • Kelly, thanks for sharing this. I too suffer many of these symptoms 18 months after the death of Jake. Especially the difficulty concentrating and the not giving a shit. In some ways, this second year is more difficult than the first. I don’t have the luxury of the numbness that gripped me during most of those first horrible months. Now we have settled into the long haul through the grey landscape we all travel. I know I am not the same person and will never be the same person. We are all irreparably damaged and irrevocably changed. I have reblogged this on The Fountain. There are many people out there who think they are just going crazy when in fact they are suffering PTSD of the highest magnitude. Not physical injury but emotional, spiritual, and psychological injury. Hang in there everyone. We are all in this together.

  • Reblogged this on The Infinite Fountain and commented:
    The lingering effects of an emotional brain injury you suffer after the death of a child is almost identical to the effects of a physical brain injury you suffer after a concussion. The reason you don’t feel like the “old” you is because you are not the “old” you. You are a different person dealing with the long term effects of a severe injury to your brain, spirit, and soul. Recovery is slow, and you will never, never be the same.

    I experience many of these symptoms regularly, especially the difficulty concentrating and not giving a shit, and know it is due to the trauma of losing Jake. I am not the same person I was, and don’t see how I ever will be. Death changes everything. Thank you Kelly for sharing this.

    • Mick

      Couldn’t agree more. Its coming up for 10 months since McCallan passed, the original numbness has been replaced with a despair like i have ever known, i often think about ending it (though I know at this point I wouldn’t) in all kinds of ways. My mind drifts into blankness during meetings, and, like you, every time I think I should care about someone or something I am reminded that actually I don’t give a shit about anything or anyone other than my wife. And this is from someone who has a lot of friends, but I just don’t care what they have to say anymore.
      This is why its easier just not to see anyone again.
      We will never be the same again and realizing that makes the loss of our son even worse because three people died that day and they are gone forever.

    • Thank you for sharing my post with your followers. The more awareness we can bring to the impacts child loss has on a person, the more people with seek help.

      I think we can all agree we will never be the same person. My threshold for stress is much much lower than it use to be and my ability to have compassion for others is much higher than it was prior to my own life tragedy. My perspective has changed on most things. The things that use to drive me have changed. There has been positive and negative impacts in my life and how I live it.

      Peace.

      Kelly

  • John O'Malley

    Thanks for sharing that Greg. I definitely agree with you. You really don’t know what you have till it’s gone. The video was very cool. I wish I had the money to just up and have an adventure like that. Kelly is right, having something to look forward to is what helps keep depression at bay. Just seems like I’ve got nothing to look forward to any time in the future. The days just seem to drag by and run one into the next. Life’s just no fun any more. In the words of Crosby, Stills and Nash, “it’s getting to the point where I’m no fun any more”. I used to be a fun guy. Now I don’t even want to be with myself.

  • John O'Malley

    Hi Kelly, I find that I have almost all of those symptoms at varying times, since my Ryan passed almost 7 years ago. I have been on antidepressants for about 6 years, but I’m thinks I need a stronger dose as lately I’ve been more depressed than I’ve been in a long time. In 2007 I lost my job of 29 years to outsourcing to China. In 2008 I lost my Ryan to heroin. In the years that followed my wife and I drifted apart, and we divorced last year after 34 years of marriage. I didn’t want it, she did. I’ve been really getting worse the last few months. Having a hard time with it all.
    John

    • John – This is a tough and lonely road. I am sorry to hear about your divorce and the worsening of your depression.

      I was reading an article the other day about a woman that had gone through some life “stuff”, nothing like losing a child, but they got to a point and said fuck it and made a decision to mix up their life. They quit their job of 15 years and took 3 months and biked across the US. They did some casual biking in the past but nothing of this magnitude. It took them several weeks to get in shape but they did it in just over 3 months. They spent the time processing and thinking about the next chapter in their life an where they wanted their life to go and what they wanted it to look like. They had been living in downtown Chicago and they wanted something more low key. Once they completed the ride, they new what their next chapter was going to be and where they were going to move.

      I tell you this mainly because I often dream of doing something like this. We’ve (grieving parents) have seen and “survived” the worst possible thing a human can endure. Although biking across the US (or anything of this magnitude) sound daunting, its nothing compared to the death of a child. I encourage you to search for your “bike ride across the US” adventure and do it. I find when I have things like this in my life, the depression is much easier because I am moving towards something exciting or more exciting than my current situation.

      Wishing you peace my friend.

      Kelly

      • John O'Malley

        If I had money, I’d do just that. But I’m really not in a financial position to do anything. I’d love to run away somewhere where it’s warm all year round, but I know even if I could the bad stuff in my head will just run with me. I thank you for your nice comments though.
        John

      • Kelly,
        Life, everyday, is a struggle for us. It seems life only gets more difficult as time passes. Every corner I turn is just another reminder what I had. The saying “you don’t know what you have until it is gone” is so true. John can probably agree with me. My daughter passed away July 2014. In less than a year, my wife and I separated. Professional help only seems like a joke to me. I compare it to dealing with a used car salesman. I also refuse to go see a professional so they can prescribe me a drug to muffle the pain. If I continue with this life, I want to feel 100% of it. At 38 years old, I don’t know how many years I have left… none of us do. But I continue to search for that “bike ride” that you speak of so I can find peace. Earlier this year I found a video on You Tube about Mike, who rode a scooter a year (29,000 miles): The Road is Life by eGarage: https://youtu.be/hm8t5WWYctI?list=FLtBXWmZKfKweD7SSCPXVBKg
        It was inspirational to me. Mike says something at 3:20 mark that reached my soul. I hope this helps someone reading this.
        Greg