Running from Something
I can honestly say that I wasn’t the most compassionate person prior to losing my children. I am not saying I didn’t care about people, I just didn’t give it much thought.
I was generally focused on my task at hand and what I was trying to accomplish. I wasn’t a good listener and certainly not someone that felt someone else’s pain.
Compassion wasn’t something that came naturally to me and it just wasn’t one of my personality traits.
Some people are wired to be naturally compassionate and others are not, I am the later. Although I am a very matter of fact and direct person, I generally operate from a jovial position. I like to laugh, and I like to make other people laugh and feel good.
I’ve come a long way in the area of compassion since losing Katie and Noah, but it still isn’t something that is at the forefront of everything I do.
I never understood the need for compassion until I was the one who needed it. I now know it is a wonderful gift that you can give to another human being (or animal) that is hurting. I was personally on the receiving end of a lot of compassion from people that didn’t even know me. I will always be grateful for those people.
One of those people was Sarah, the chaplain at the hospital where we lost Noah. Truly an angel. Her compassion and love for the people she works with goes beyond her “job” responsibilities. It is certainly her gift that she selflessly shares with others.
As you can imagine, I hear from grieving dads everyday from around the world, each with a heartbreaking story. I do my best to provide them with compassion and insight into their pain and what this journey looks like that sits ahead of them, but I know I fail in comparison to what others with the natural gift of compassion can provide.
As I write this, I am sitting on my couch, where I’ve been for the most part of 5 days fighting the flu. I generally do a good job of avoiding the flu, but this year it hit me even after getting the flu shot. I hate the feeling of being sick for obvious reasons, but the primary reason is, I become emotionally vulnerable.
Yep, that’s right. I become depressed, sad and filled with anxiety along with all of the other symptoms of the flu. All a bad combination. I often time feel like crying for no other reason than I am just sad. I’ve noticed this also happens to me when I work out and really push myself to physical exhaustion.
A few examples of this that has happened to me this week include a short visit to Home Depot, a dream and general thoughts about my life direction:
I stopped by Home Depot earlier in the week when I thought I was starting to feel better. I was looking for something and approached an elderly man who was wearing the orange Home Deport apron. As a I approached him, I notice he didn’t move very quickly. He turned to me with a smile and said something I didn’t understand, so I smiled and proceeded to ask him my question. I realized right a way that he must have recently had a stroke or something because his speech was slurred, and he was hard to understand. Normally I wouldn’t think much about it, but because of being vulnerable, I had this overwhelming feeling of sadness come over me for him. I wanted to put my hand on his shoulder and ask him how he was doing, I wanted to cry for him. Of course I didn’t, I just smiled and nodded my head like I knew what he was saying and thanked him for his time. Was this a logical response, no, but I just wanted him to know I cared. He seemed fine, and he certainly wasn’t looking for compassion, it was just my illogical response.
I don’t remember a lot about my dream from last night, but I do remember that my wife and I were heading into Chicago to attend some event and we were taking a shortcut because we were late to the event. In my dream we realized the shortcut had taken us to the hospital that we lost Noah and where we met Sarah (chaplain from above). We some how went from driving to walking down a busy hallway in my dream. My wife says to me, “I think that’s Sarah up ahead.” At that time, I took off to catch up with her and when I did, I said, “Hi Sarah, it’s me Kelly Farley.” She then said, “Hi Kelly, how are you?” At this point I hugged her and started to weep uncontrollably. It was just the fact she asked me how I was doing triggered this release of emotion that has probably been building up in me for some time and it decided to come out in a dream.
I’ve always been a restless soul, but it has gotten much worse since losing Katie and Noah. My tolerance for bullshit, the corporate world and trying to impress others has become very low. Although I’ve done the corporate world for nearly 24 years I haven’t enjoyed it, it’s a paycheck, that’s it. I’ve been working on changing that for a while and I am very close to making it a reality as I approach my 50th birthday later this year. But when I am sick or down, I always go back to the idea of finishing my master’s in education to become a counselor. This career path wasn’t something that I even considered prior to my losses, but I decided to start the program in 2007 as a way to provide me hope during my grief. I decided to stop pursuing it once I published my book in 2012. I felt like my book could do more to help others dealing with the death of child than me being a counselor. Oh yeah, not to mention, compassion for others isn’t a natural trait for me and I knew over time that this fact wouldn’t allow me to be the counselor that my non-childloss clients would need and expect.
It’s been almost 14 years since I lost Katie and 12 years since Noah and these experiences prove that the pain of losing them is always just below the surface and I can always count on it revealing itself once I become emotional and physically exhausted.
I generally operate from a position of emotionally exhausted because of the losses, it has just become a normal operational position, but when my body becomes stressed from illness or physical exhaustion, it all rushes to the surface. Not to mention it forces me to sit still and think, which isn’t always a good thing.
No matter how much processing and grief work I’ve done, I will always be running/hiding from the pain of losing Katie and Noah.
I’ve come to learn that we are all running from something.
What are you running from?
Photo Credit: Bill Eiffert Flickr via Compfight cc
We lost our son just over a year ago, stillborn at 38 weeks. A year prior to that we had a miscarriage. On the eve of our son’s birthday the wife and I had a long talk, really about everything in our relationship. As I feel we have been on cruise control the last 7-8 years and our emotional and physical intimacy has really taken a back seat with raising our other 2 children. We do have a tough time communicating on any real issues and it can turn into a defensive battle; instead of a constructive conversation sometimes. Anyway, come to find out in the midst of that conversation my wife point blankly said that she didn’t need me for any emotional support or in her grief. I was taken aback and honestly hurt by that comment. My wife is a strong women, and when her father passed away about 6 years ago she really didn’t grieve much; at least in front of me. I understand that grieving is a private process and I respect that we all grieve differently, but in a marriage we should at least be able to come back to each other once in a while to lean on each other; especially in this situation since no one else really knows what we are going through. I personally don’t have anyone else to count on in terms of support. I have my mother and one other close friend, but they both offer limited help; as much as I appreciate it. I am currently in counseling and that has helped somewhat. I am curious, though if anyone has had any experience with their significant other being so emotionally withdrawn from them given the situation. I understand that bringing things up can be upsetting, but my wife pushes to be happy and has been trying to get life back to “normal” I understand the desire to get things back to “normal” but my thought is that things have changed and that our “normal” is now different. I assume she may be in denial. Please any advice to help hurdle this wall. I feel so distant, more than ever, from my wife and I feel like if we can’t weather this storm together, that it may cause a permanent rift in our relationship. The last thing I want is divorce or separation, mainly for our kids, but I feel like I am at my wits end here. Thanks for any and all who read this.
Can I use this image in a calendar for Compassionate Friends.
The theme is Pathways,
Perhaps I could include a link.
Hi Janice. You can share the blog post, but the photo I used and gave credit to photographer that took it. The credit is at the end of my blog post. Kelly
Your story resonated with me on several points. I too was not what you would call a compassionate person when it came to other people. It wasn’t until losing my 22 year old son, David, that I appreciated the power of compassion and gained a sort of respect for those who innately can comfort others in pain. I worked in information technology for 10+ years and stayed with it because it paid the bills, though I did not like it at all. David was in the Air Force just short of two years when he died. After his car crash, the Air Force organizations that provided aid in the form of accessing benefits, assistance with making funeral arrangements, grief counseling, et cetera opened my eyes to how much a little compassion can help someone.
I felt, and often still do feel, guilty for receiving so much compassion from some people, while being a “cold-hearted bastard” (as I’ve been called before) for too much of my life. As I too approach the age of 50, I often ask myself if the pain I have been feeling since my son’s death is deserved in some way – as though the powers that be or karma or whatever were paying me back for my sins and for not being as good a person as I should have been… or a more compassionate husband and father than I was.
I took the pain and frustration of my loss and used it to pursue a degree in counseling, art therapy to be specific, for the very purpose of giving back. I wanted to be a part of the world that is trying to reduce pain in the world. But, like I said, compassion was not my strong suite, but I worked on it. For those of us who want to give back, I would just like to say, that if we look at the spectrum of services that can be provided to grieving parents and family members, there are places that we can fill and be of service. Maybe sitting face to face with people may be a little challenging for us, just keep looking at the variety of jobs available in the mental health world to find what could use your strengths. As you said, your contribution has been your book and website, for others it may be in research, administration, organizing group meet ups, working in schools or hospitals, volunteering with a church, or so many other avenues of mental health care – requiring a degree or not. Not every counselor I know gives people a warm and fuzzy feeling during session and that’s okay. There are different aims in therapy and being innately compassionate is just one skill. Those of us who aren’t terribly strong in that skill likely excel in other aspects. I say to those who want to look into counseling: research your options and don’t let a little deficit in any one skill deter you from something if you feel it may help you or others.
Going through a graduate program in therapy helped me work through many things, grief related and other, get in touch with my life purpose, and allowed me to take charge of my life (and pain) in productive ways. The satisfaction that I get from helping people is unmatched by any satisfaction I have gotten from other jobs and I feel that I do help some people with their pain.
Thank you for your contribution and the compassion it took for you to go through the trouble of writing a book and maintaining a website for our community.
It been almost 8 months since Cathleen and I lost our 23 year son Hunter. I am continuously racked with guilt not knowing if he knew how much I loved and cared about him. And on the flip side, did I truly realize or understand how much he loved me? Both Cathleen and our oldest son (Hunter’s biological brother) have assured me that he did, but since I never heard it from him, there are still doubts. Does this guilt ease over time or will it be something I’ll need to accept and have to deal with from here out? Thanks for providing this forum for me to ask this question to a wider audience.
I always thought that o always had to keep busy to forget about my sadness and grief. Music is and has def remained my out for feeling sad. When I didn’t think I would sing for a long time I found it ok to sing just months after our son Elias passed. I knew it was what he wanted cause he loved it when I sang and I knew I would make at least one person feel better if I did. No running from anything
Thanks for reading.
I agree with everything you said. It will be 4 years since I lost my daughter, Lily, in July. Sitting still is terrible, especially when you are ill. 2 months ago, I was in that same position.
Seems like I continuously have to keep my head busy, just to “run away” from the pain, whether it is physical work, hobbies, or watching some mindless entertainment on some screen. Sitting still SUCKS! Don’t get me wrong, I have not “ran away” from the grief and despair. I have accepted it, as a cousin that lives in my neighborhood and visits unannounced, all… the… time! Sure, I’m sick of this ‘cousin’, but they are family, and family is always family.
Thanks for writing your book. I read it 3 years ago. It always catches my eye on my bookshelf. Makes me think of the compassion and empathy, that does not come natural to me either… and some how pass it forward.
It’s amazing how much we grieving Dads have in common.