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)”→
Sometimes it’s hard to pick her up and give Her the hugs that she needs;
She looks so much like Johnny, oh God help Me please.
I still wait for him to come downstairs Dripping wet after his bath;
Telling a joke, crossing his eye, anything To make me laugh.
But then I see him under that truck
His little body broken and still;
Death doesn’t discriminate and that ‘s a
The resemblance is scary she even laughs
The same what am I going to do?
Does the same fate await my girl, will death
Come and take her too?
All I can do is love her for herself not
Because she reminds me of him;
But as long as I can look into her eyes
His light will never dim.
There are important moments in our grief recovery where we take a stand, so to speak, or make a decision to pursue a new path. These decisions are turning points and even though this new path may lead to a dead-end, it can signal a positive step in a willingness to try something new.
One of my turning points came during the first holiday season without Johnny. It was mid-November and I was already sick of the holidays. I was at a very low point but kept on a happy face at work. One morning in particular was horrible. I had sat in traffic on the way to work just like every other day except this time I was stuck behind a flatbed roll back tow truck. For those that don’t know, that was the kind of truck that hit and killed my son. By the time that I got to work I was a basket case. I decided to hide in my office and possibly have a good cry when one of my “caring” co-workers stuck his head in the door and with a big Hallmark holiday smile on his face said, “how ya doin today, Tom?” ‘How are you?’ tends to be one of those throw away lines that people greet you with but never want the real answer just as sure as this gentleman didn’t want but got. Continue reading “Joy to the World”→