I am going to describe my journey as a stepfather over almost two decades, from August 1980 to the present. I am a step-parent who has experienced the death of a child. My story may be different from many of yours in that the death was a long-term illness, which, while it had some very difficult aspects, also offered some unique opportunities for really developing a very close relationship and for closure. Continue reading “A Stepfather’s Journey (no surviving children)”→
I often hear from grieving dads that tell me they feel alone in their grief after the death of their child. It amazes me that after going through something as profound as the death of a child, that these men feel so alone and isolated. As much as it amazes me, I can relate because I too felt alone after the death of my two children.
I felt so alone that I would go online and search for other grieving dads that were out there. However, I didn’t find what I was looking for or needed at that point in my grief. I didn’t find it because most men do not feel like they have permission to tell their story or to share how they are feeling out of fear of being looked at as less than a man or weak. We all know that society is not comfortable with an openly grieving person, but they are even more uncomfortable with a man showing his emotions. Continue reading “Positive Ways to Support a Grieving Dad”→
The death of Benjamin’s wife and two children through an HIV infection became the watershed experience that reshaped his life. Lydia was infected in 1982 at the birth of their first son, Matt. Three months after Bryan’s birth in 1985, the family discovered Lydia and the children’s HIV+ status. Bryan was 8 months old when he died in 1986, Lydia died in 1992 at the age of 38, and Matt was 13 when he died in 1995.
I wanted to go the distance. At the beginning, it was quite clear what that meant. When he died, distance became different, less clear, a nebulous path of a tenuous life.
Almost three years passed from Lydia’s passing to Matt’s. Bryan died four years before Lydia. From the moment we found out that they were going to die in that thirteen-year span, I wanted to go the distance.
I wanted to walk as closely to each one as I could before death parted us. I wanted to hold all of them with all of me. I wanted to emotional lean into every moment and not turn away. I wanted to place my hand on the flame and not run from the pain. I wanted to be there. Wherever they went I wanted to be there.
Matt and I were very close from the beginning to the end. When the pain of my love reached apex after apex and I wanted to run, I leaned in even further. I needed to go the distance because I knew the distance grows more distant. Continue reading “Going the Distance”→
Bart Sumner is an actor, screenwriter, improvisational comedy teacher and performer, and national presenter on grief. His son, David, died in 2009 from a severe brain injury suffered while playing football. He is the author of the book HEALING IMPROV: A JOURNEY THROUGH GRIEF TO LAUGHTER, writes the blog “My Stories From The Grief Journey” at the Healing Improv website, and has contributed articles to many other grief support sites online. He is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit HEALING IMPROV, which provides no-cost Comedy Improv Grief Workshops to people struggling with finding the road forward after loss. You may contact Bart through his emailor Twitter @Healing_Improv. Visit his Facebook page.
The following is a chapter from his book- HEALING IMPROV: A JOURNEY THROUGH GRIEF TO LAUGHTER. Available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.
“I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” ~Bansky
When a person you love dearly dies, one of the hardest things to come to terms with is the reality you will never see them again, you will never hear their laughter, you will never hug them, or feel their touch, or smell them or simply enjoy the presence of them being there beside you watching the idiot box silently from the couch. All interaction is gone. The only place they live on is in your memory. The good things cement themselves in your reminiscences forever and much of the bad or annoying things fade away. The fact that there are no new memories to be made is oft times crippling. Because of this, tears and weeping happen at the drop of a hat. And let’s face it, most people are uncomfortable when someone they are talking to suddenly becomes misty eyed, and their voice begins to tremble. Perhaps this is why most people are afraid to mention the person that died in conversation. The trepidation of bringing the griever pain and heartache keeps people from discussing them at all.Continue reading “Speak His Name, Please”→
All of us are going to die, and it doesn’t matter how long you live, but rather the legacy that you leave behind. Quality vs quantity is how you judge it, and my son Tommy changed a lot of people’s views in his five years on Earth.
Tommy was born on July 21, 2004, and I’ll never forget seeing him for the first time. His blond locks of hair, blue eyes that just seemed to sparkle, and his closed fist when he entered this world. He even gave a “thumbs up” on the warming table. To see this eight pound five ounce baby, and to hold him in my arms was an emotional experience. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried tears of joy, and the feeling of being a father was a remarkable, special moment that changed everything. Continue reading “Tommy’s Life: It’s The Legacy That Matters (a story about seizures)”→
Just a plain wooden box, nothing fancy. A simple brown box carrying the remains of my son. Something I never envisioned in my wildest dreams. Me, carrying my only son past the isles of mourners. Hearing the sounds of goodbye, trying not to watch the tears and fighting to hold back my own; a losing battle. As I walked what seemed like the longest journey of my life, I was trying hard not to think about what I was holding so tightly in my hands. Inside this small wooden box was my heart, my child.
The first month after the funeral, I wrote a poem titled “The Walk of Death.” It somehow burned a hole deep down in my soul, so much so that I had to delete it It was just too personal. Just a brief glimpse of the words brought me to uncontrollable tears and made me relive that anguishing moment, over, and over, and over again. I can see the path now; out of the church, to the Hearse, to the grave, and then gently placed down into the earth. A piece of my heart went down with that box and it is never to be unearthed again, not on this side of the veil.
That imprint will forever haunt me. Walking, trying not to look at the anguish in my wife’s and daughter’s faces, the tearful faces seated down the rows of the church, trying not to sob uncontrollably, trying to be a brave father and husband, and failing miserably at it all. As I walked, the tears fell, soaking deep into my simple brown box.
My heart died a little that day. I will never forget that simple brown box and the wonderful young man who gave his organs so others could live. Organ donation and cremation is a decision I still worry about. Did we do the best thing for our son? Surely God has welcomed our son into heaven and blessed those lives he touched; in life, and in death. Such a long walk, carrying a heavy load, in that simple brown box …
Reprinted with permission of the author
About the Author: About the Author: Hamp & Sherri Thomas live in Whispering Pines, NC and just celebrated their 34th anniversary. Their daughter Lauren is a doctor in Miami, FL and just gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Their son Will left them at the age of 22 and they feel his presence in dragonflies all the time. The “signs” keep them going. Hamp is the author of the books, Love and Grief, My Child My Heart and Love and Grief Year Two.
“Our Will passed away in his sleep in the middle of the night after complaining of chest pains for the last few days. We may never know for sure what caused his death and the doctors can’t seem to agree. I always hate to answer the questions about how he died because I don’t really know the answer. That almost makes it worse.” ~ Hamp Thomas
Knock, Knock use to make me laugh,
They were the jokes he’d tell;
Knock , knock always made me laugh,
When he was here and all was well.
Knock, knock doesn’t make me laugh
it brings a tear to my eye;
Knock, knock doesn’t make me laugh,
why did my little boy die?
KNOCK, KNOCK it’s killing me and tearing
KNOCK, KNOCK I’m dying God, dying of a
Knock, knock I need you God to help me through
Knock, knock I’m praying God please make
the burden less.
Knock, knocks used to make me laugh and
they will again in time;
Knock, knocks will make me laugh when I
feel his hand in mine.
About the Author: Tom Wyatt earned a M.B.A. from Washington University and began his career as a stock broker then later as a small business owner. Following the death of his four-year old son, Johnny, on March 5, 1991, Tom became very active in Compassionate Friends. He currently writes and shares articles and poems for Bereaved Parents of the USA. After receiving his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 2000 from the University of Missouri, Tom has been counseling bereaved parents pro bono. He and his wife, Ruth, have three children; Blake (27), Johnny (4) and Kelsey (20) and two grandchildren.
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