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Posts from the ‘grieving dads’ Category

A Stepfather’s Journey (no surviving children)

by Glen Nielsen

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. Read more

Positive Ways to Support a Grieving Dad

by Kelly Farley

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Going the Distance

by Benjamin Allen

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.

man and seaI 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. Read more

Speak His Name, Please

Bart Sumner

Bart Sumner

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 email or 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. Read more

Tommy’s Life: It’s The Legacy That Matters (a story about seizures)

By Mike Ross

tommy-and-seizuresAll 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. Read more

A Simple Brown Box

by Hamp Thomas

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William Daniel Thomas
November 27, 1988 – August 23, 2011

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

Read Hamp’s other article: Rediscovering Anticipation

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KNOCK, KNOCK

by Tom Wyatt

knock-knockKnock , Knock,
Who’s there?
Daddymisses.
Daddymisses who?
Daddy misses you .

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
me apart;
KNOCK, KNOCK I’m dying God, dying of a
broken heart.

Knock, knock I need you God to help me through
this mess;
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.

August, 1991

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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Rediscovering Anticipation

by Hamp Thomas

Sherri and HampAnticipation is the life blood of joy. Anticipating life is part of what makes this world so wonderful. Whether it’s a new job, a relationship, a plant about to bloom, a bird’s egg ready to hatch, or a child. Anticipation gives you hope and keeps your energy flowing.

Losing a child takes anticipation in a different direction. Instead of anticipating the joys ahead in your life, you find yourself anticipating the fear of birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, anything that reminds you of your child. It’s anticipation in reverse. You so dread certain days or dates, you just want to curl up under the covers and never leave the house again. Most grieving parents have experienced the sheer dread of your child’s favorite holiday, seeing one of their close friends, their spouse, girl/boy-friend, perhaps even their child. You anticipate living through the grief and pain all over again.

But, at some point during the grieving process you will eventually find a new normal. It doesn’t happen in a matter of weeks or months or even years. You won’t notice the exact day it happens. It will just gradually enter your life and may even surprise you. Of course, it will never be the same as the life you once had, that life is no more. But, no matter how strong and long your grief, one day, when you least expect it, you will find yourself filled with anticipation. Read more

Tiven Collin Dailey (a poem)

by Jon Collin Dailey, his Daddy

We little knew that morning; God had called your name.
In life we loved you dearly; in death we do the same.
It broke our hearts to lose you, you did not go alone.
Part of us went with you the day God called you home.
You left us beautiful memories; your love is still our guide,
And though we cannot see you, you’re always by our side.
Our family chain is broken, nothing seems the same,
But as God calls us one by one, the chain will link again…

collin collage

Starting All Over Again (part 1 of 2)

by Mitch Carmody

a chronological view of the bereavement process from the perspective of a bereaved parent

Mitch CarmodyIf you want to go the extremes of grief to try and understand the complexities of the bereavement process one should study the bereaved parent. No other loss is more devastating than the death and physical loss of a child. No other loss leaves your heart as deeply and mortally wounded for life. No other loss is more difficult to accept. Even among bereaved parents there is a plethora of differences that set individual grief journeys apart and in how each bereaved parent processes the loss of a child. However, we are all forced to accept the unacceptable: the physical loss of our child forever.

We have all heard of the five stages of grief that have been accepted and used worldwide for the most part without question: Shock, Anger, Denial, Bargaining and Acceptance. For the person dying, for parents living the nightmare of watching their child die, or the parents hearing of the news of their child’s tragic death these stages may aptly apply in the initial response to the death or imminent death. But with the ensuing months and years that follow I feel the stages do not adequately represent the true reality of the bereavement process following the death of a child.

In accepting that initial reality of their sudden death or imminent demise, the stages are a natural progression of emotions to that loss. But for the bereaved parent in the early months and subsequent years following the loss of a child there is no linear progression of stages of grief that is a ‘one-size fits all’. We find that the societies’ accepted stages of grief do not fit our life as we have come to know it.

If there are true stages in our long term bereavement process, there are only two: shock, and the road to acceptance. Everything else falls in between. Both denial and bargaining are insults to our intelligence, of course we know our child is dead, we buried them. We cannot strike a bargain with God or anyone that can change that fact. We may continue to experience denial the first moment in the morning when we open our eyes and realize it was not a dream, but we are not in clinical denial; we just don’t want to believe it’s true that our child could be dead.

Depression and anger are very real emotions that we will experience, but they are not stages, they are tools of survival and a condition of our new normal. Depression brings us to emotional pain levels that we need to experience as we continue to process the enormity of our loss and also serves to protect us from the assaults of the outside world. Anger channeled constructively can be a powerful force for positive change and be a healing process in and of itself. Anger turned inward or manifested in a negative way is concurrent to healing and can only cause more pain.

Bereaved parents trying to fit themselves into the accepted stages of grief find themselves frustrated if they have not gone ‘through’ the stages as outlined. Very vulnerable, the new bereaved parent–still somewhat in shock—will begin processing the loss of a child as the mores of society dictate. Following three days of bereavement leave from work, its back to your job and start getting on with your life. For surely in a few months you will be over your loss and will quietly blend back into the workplace, as hoped for and expected by most. At first you will be greeted with embarrassed looks by co-workers who almost hurt themselves by either making an unanticipated hallway dodge, or an abrupt u-turn. Others become ad-hoc bulletin board readers or mutterers hiding behind magazines. Those skillful with avoiding eye contact will utilize their skill, while the less creative will employ urgent rest room needs. These and other methods are all ruses to avoid the uncomfortable contact with the bereaved parent.

People practice avoidance to avoid bringing up the subject of your loss which they feel will be sure to acerbate your pain. They also have their own concerns that they might be put into a position to have to say something profound and/or healing when they know there is nothing that can be said or done to take away your pain. From time to time, we ourselves play the artful dodger role when we do not want “to go there”. Sometimes the actions we see in others are reflections of our own projection.

I remember one time seeing a person coming towards me down the hallway at work one morning a fewsunrise_1 months after my son had died. The young man rounded a corner whistling and glancing cheerfully at the headlines of his morning paper, unaware of his overfull coffee mug leaving a trail behind him. Then I notice that he catches site of me in his peripheral vision and he scrunches further into the pages of his paper. He suddenly became more engrossed in the paper as we neared each other in the narrow corridor. I was feeling down with transitional edginess from a few real bad days and did not want to hear any morning weather reports or exchange cheerful drivel, so I dodged to the right just as we neared each other, he then dodged to the same direction, we both reversed several times and at the same moment we both spoke and said, “Care to dance?”

We each laughed loudly in a very natural way and automatically hugged one another without compunction. He whispered in my ear with the compassion of a Mom tending her sick child, “How are you doing, man?” I pulled back from our brief embrace and looked him straight in the eye and responded that up to this moment I was having a very bad day. “Thanks for the dance”. We both laughed as we walked away my heart lighter, his heart brighter. Sometimes we avoid contact with others just as they seemingly do with us. Just under the surface our racing emotions are left unseen and unexpressed. In a spontaneous or forced contact situation with another, our emotions can be released like the welcome eruption of a festering boil. Although it hurts briefly, we sigh with relief that the dam has finally burst.

The first year back to work is a difficult challenge for the bereaved parent, but remember you are still an infant in your new normal, barely a few weeks old. We get lost in a forever wandering mind of our own internal dialogues. We have no attention span for the language of the real world and depend on Post It notes to remember everything. We trip more; spill things more, lose things, and get lost on a simple errand. We develop techniques to get things done, but the color is gone from our life. Those around us appear to be living in full Technicolor while we are relegated to dull, flat, still and dark monotones of the person we once were; we are changed forever.

The loss of a child is terminal bereavement. We start all over again and try to figure this our ‘new normal’. It is a new beginning in all sense of the word and our clocks are reset. We construct new concepts, new ways of looking at life…not from the passage of time but from an amalgamation of events and experiences. In the depths of early grief time seems to stand still, so it is with an infant; time has no meaning, all that matters is that we be comforted. As an infant grows to childhood, time will appear to accelerate just as it will for us and we shall cry less often, get up and walk all by ourselves and become curious about the world around us.

In essence I believe we are born again into a new life that starts the moment our child dies and ends the day we die. We start marking time just as a new born baby does, day by day, year by year in a slow progression of discovery of the person left behind. A slow metamorphosis of the psyche, like the Phoenix we rise from the ashes of our despair and become our new found destiny as surely as the maturing baby keeps trying to walk. We need to go through that progression of life developments and stages of growth that a child goes through in becoming an adult; we need to learn to crawl before we can walk. We need to grieve naturally, not stages of grief but stages of life development that takes years–not months– to progress through.

In support of this theory I offer parallels to similar behaviors as drawn by the famous behaviorist and psychiatrist Erik Erickson in 1956 and his 8 stages of social –emotional development of a child from infant to adult. These stages of development are accepted world wide and used in most institutions of higher learning.

According to Erickson, the socialization process consists of eight phases- the eight stages of man. Each stage is regarded by Erikson as a “psychosocial crisis” which arises and demands resolution before the next stage can be satisfactorily negotiated. Stages that build on each other, each previous stage supporting the next and so on in a structural sense that demands each stage be achieved before moving on to the next. It is I who postulate their relevance and key to understanding the long term grief process that a bereaved parent is suffered to endure. I believe we are vulnerable and needy as a new born child and we grow into our new normal just as a child takes his first steps.

The world you knew is gone; time stops, your brain is in code blue and reality as you know it fades from conscious thought; you are propelled into a world of disbelief. Taken from a world that you knew and understood, a world of warmth and security, you find yourself head first in a cold painful world of the unknown. It’s hard to see, you are shaking, insecure and frightened of what’s ahead. Tears flow from your eyes, you feel cold and lost and just want someone to hold you and tell you it’s just a dream.

Am I describing a baby just being born into this world, or a parent just hearing the news of or witnessing the death of their child? It could be both since both describe being thrust into the unknown and faced with the continuing challenges of survival.

Life without our child; our new normal, our new life. Just as a newborn baby needs to adjust to a new environment, so do we. Just as an infant does that first year we shall cry a lot, sometimes way into the night, sleep for a few hours, only to wake up frightened, cry and then sleep some more. You will find people taking care of your simplest needs for you and without compunction, you offer no resistance. As if in a daze you allow others into your close personal space, finding it feels good to be cared for. You will have accidents, you will be unsure of yourself, you will be scared to venture out, be hesitant with strangers, and testy when you’re tired. And… you’re always tired. You will want to explain what hurts and find you have no words that can express your thoughts. Food will be tasteless and you will eat in a perfunctory fashion, yet coupled with an unabated thirst that cannot be slaked; the scratch that cannot be itched. So we find pacifiers to slake the unquenchable, indefinable thirst that gnaws at our being. Again does this describe an infant or a bereaved parent functioning at the base primal level of 1st year survival?

Continued with part two HERE

About the Author: Mitch lost his father to heart disease when he was 15 years old and his mother died of lung cancer in 2000. At 21 he lost his older brother from progressive degenerative cerebral palsy. At age 29 his twin sister and her two young sons were killed in an automobile accident. Less than a year later his son Kelly was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor and ultimately died in 1987. Since then, Mitch has dedicated his life to serving the bereaved in any way.

BookcoverMitch is the author of Letters To My Son, a journey through grief and the newly released 2nd edition Turning Loss to Legacy. Mitch is currently a staff writer with Living with Loss Magazine and has published many articles for a variety of national grief periodicals, newsletters, and internet sites as well as appearing in many radio and television interviews. He is an accomplished artist and creator of the innovative 20 Faces of Grief, which uses his own incredible creations in pencil of the many components of the grief journey. His ground breaking S.T.A.I.R.S model of grief staging has essentially replaced the Kubler Ross stages of grief with a more realistic modality of the bereavement process. Mitch is also the prognosticator of Proactive Grieving, which he believes is a paradigm shift in grief recovery and frequently addresses this in his keynote presentations.

He is well known for his enduring workshop “Whispers of Love, Signs from our Children” which has been a favorite conference presentation for over 5 years and is usually standing room only. He also performs interpretive sign language to many songs that he calls ”Songs of Sorrow” and weaves them in throughout most of his presentations as well as a workshop titled by the same name.

He and Alan Petersen also collaborate on a full day workshop for all types of loss called “A Day with Mitch and Alan” a day filled with music, mirth and healing for all who attend.

Mitch’ main message is that we CAN survive and even thrive after a significant loss in our lives. He wants to not only help the bereaved, but help to educate society on how best to treat the newly bereaved.

For more information on these and other workshop titles and schedule of upcoming events go to:
Heartlight Studios or write to: heartlightstudios@gmail.com

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