"It just takes time...."

I was on the Compassionate Friends Facebook page and noticed that someone had posted a question/comment about "time healing all wounds." The reaction from other parents was pretty strong, and quite universal in expressing that time indeed does NOT heal all wounds. I would agree, but I must admit that I will sometimes say to newly bereaved parents that, in time and with hard work, things will likely start to look different for them and that some of the sadness and pain will give way to more positive memories. Does that mean I am suggesting that all their wounds will be healed and they will no longer hurt? It certainly is not what I am trying to say, although I'm guessing some people might interpret it that way.

For me, the question really comes down to, what is healing vs. accepting the new reality? Acceptance, in my book, does not necessarily mean healing, but rather coming to a point where a bereaved person realizes that no amount of sadness, anger, or hopelessness is going to make things different and the process of grieving allows them to start moving forward again.

In other words, it is not TIME itself that helps, but rather what you DO WITH THE TIME. If you curl up in a ball, pull the shades, and let your sadness take over, no days, weeks, or months off the calendar are going help make you feel better. But if you use that grieving time to reflect and express your sadness and anger in a healthy way so the pressure does not become unbearable, life can become worth living again.

Believe me, it is not that I don't understand that sometimes the sadness is so overwhelming it seems completely impossible to ever think of being happy again. But, I also don't believe that we are dishonoring our children and the love we feel for them by allowing ourselves to smile, be happy, and feel hope.

How do you feel about this? What have you done to find some peace -- or haven't you?

25 comments:

  1. I would LOVE to speak English so i could understand all of your posts! But i can understand your pain, i am also mother of a angel...

    ReplyDelete
  2. I get to your blog by chance. While seeking for some books to help my husband and I to bear our pain a little bit easier, I found a link and give it a try... For us will be 1 month tomorrow, since our cradle went empty and our dreams were taken away. We spent almost 2 months with this little person we were beginning to know. Only 1 month since my arms had him, since my lips gave him a last kiss... It hurts so deep inside every part of my being, I would never run dry of tears for my baby and time right now is just another word just as future. This wound wont heal, we wont heal; as my husband says, we maybe will learn how to live with it.
    I'm so down, feeling helpless facing this pressure in my chest.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So, I have a question ... And I know there is no definitive answer. I also may have missed it in the blog so if it has already been answered...I apologize. What is the general amount of time most men took off after a baby has passed on. My wife has miscarried twice. The first time, I didn't take any time off at all. We had a vacation 3 weeks away and I just sucked it up until then. This time, the pregnancy was longer, we grew more of an attachment with the baby and we held him and got to name him. My wife gets at least 6 weeks. I get at least 5 days for bereavement. I feel like I shouldn't take all of this time but the moment I get back to my high stress job, I may regret it. Any other thoughts?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Byron,

    Thank you for your post. You are correct that there is nothing set in stone as to how long men take off work following a loss like this. The only thing I can say definitively is that you deserve to be able to take some time for yourself.

    If you are able to take 5 days off, and you think it would be good for you, then do it. It's not strange, or uncalled for, or anything like that. Plus, you are correct that your productivity levels are going to be reduced for a period of time and the more you allow yourself to heal on the front end, the less time it will take on the back end to adjust to your "new normal."

    You sound like you are pretty in touch with your feelings and know what it is you need -- that is great -- now just allow yourself to get that.

    I may have said elsewhere on here that it is a good idea to contact someone at your workplace and let them know what would be most helpful from your co-workers when you do return. That may make the transition a little easier. Too often people are simply at a loss as to what to say and are waiting for your lead. For both your sakes, let them know what that is. When you do return to work, allow yourself some breaks during the day to talk with someone or just go out and get fresh air. Again, your productivity will likely be better in the long run than if you just bury yourself and pretend that you are being as productive as usual.

    I hope others will share their thoughts. In the meantime, feel free to write again and ask any questions you wish -- I'm thinking of you and want you to know how sorry I am you are facing this. It's been many years for me, but the feelings you refer to seem fresh enough that it could have been yesterday. Take care.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks Tim for your feedback. I have done just that and taken a full week off. It seems like the slowest week of my life but it has been good to get our son's creamation taken care of and to also help take care of my wife.

    It is also worth it for me, the guy, to have moments too. Thank goodness that I have a good company that has allowed for this. I feel for anyone who can't take this time after the loss of a child.

    One more question for you or anyone. I am now facing the blame game from my wife. She feels like she is responsible for what has happened. I told her, unless you were doing backflips off of a diving board and riding rollercoasters, there is no blame for you to take. We didn't know or couldn't see that this was going to happen.

    I'm sure many others had dealt with this...and maybe it takes time...but I feel somewhat helpless when she keeps going over every little thing in her head that she wishes she would have done...when there was really nothing that could have been done.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am so glad to hear that you took some time to take care of yourself and be with your wife. There was a huge part of me that wanted to get back to work because I felt like being at home was so sad. But, I can guarantee you will never regret spending this time that you were allowed. I would also encourage you to make a point of thanking the "powers that be" at your workplace. Businesses need to know that policies like this are helpful and DO make a difference. Hopefully, the message will sink in with other businesses who just don't seem to understand that employees are not robots and sometimes seemingly small gestures can make a huge difference in long term productivity.

    Again, you are correct about the blame game. Many people (I would guess most often women) do question whether there was something they could have done differently that might have made a difference in the outcome. My wife certainly questioned if the doctor appointment she canceled on Friday would have saved our daughter on Sunday. We will never know that answer for certain, but logic tells me that there was absolutely nothing that would have been different in the outcome, not to mention that none of us have a crystal ball. Of course I have to admit that I spent countless hours wondering whether the fact that I inhaled in college (only once) was the cause of all bad things happening in our lives at the time.

    While it's hard to not be able to say anything that will make your wife feel better instantly, know that when she is talking about it, she is likely not really looking to you for an answer, but rather processing her feelings out loud. It took me a LONG LONG time to learn that about my wife, but once I did, I found that just listening and giving a hug was all she really wanted or needed. In time, she was better able to see that torturing herself was both uncalled for and simply would not change anything.

    Hang in there. You are doing a lot of things right as you live this difficult time. I wish you the best and am confident you will find some brighter days ahead.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I just want to say that you are both so right- and such smart people, and men!! I am a better person for knowing you, Tim and for reading your blog discussions. Thank you both. Lori Ives-Baine, Toronto

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you, Lori --- I think! :-)

    Some of us guys might be a little slow to catch on, but we usually mean well. (usually)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Tim / Byron,

    I've appreciated seeing your dialogue, as it parallels quite a bit of my own experience. I took a day off for each our first two miscarriages to be with my wife when she had her D&C surgery. In the first case, I already had some business and personal travel booked that wound up provided the much needed change of pace and opportunity to reflect. The second time we were camping in northern Maine when she started spotting, so my time off was already done for the year. It was September, and I didn't take any time off until Thanksgiving. I didn't feel like the haze cleared from my head until after Christmas.

    Tim, to your point about the need for time, it took several years for my wife and I to be able to reflect together on just what made that time stretch so difficult for us. Part of it was that I knew intellectually that it was unhealthy to try to take personal control for something that the doctors emphasized was pure chance. When she said "could we have done something differently," responding with "stop trying to make it your fault" was about as boneheaded a response as there is. Essentially I was trying to solve her pain instead of reassuring her that I loved her even if there was something in her body that truly did cause the miscarriages.

    It wasn't until a couple years later when I showed her the typed up version of my journal reflections from those miscarriages that we were able to reflect together on what happened during the aftermath of those two miscarriages. Through those discussions we were able to talk about what our shared narrative would be as we try to integrate our miscarriage experience into our lives. Much of this revolves around not letting death be the final say in terms of bitterly letting go of hope, or trying to pretend that nothing happened. Our oldest daughter understands, as much as a 5 year old can, that "we've had babies who died in Mommy's tummy." We have been intentionally open about our experiences at times when we felt like we need to speak up and challenge the myth that pregnancy is easy, fun, and happens whenever you want it, and also when we have encountered others who have lost children. It is an ongoing process.

    ReplyDelete
  10. There is no doubt that all of these, and many other, experiences are an ongoing series of lessons. The real challenge is allowing ourselves to be open to learning and growing from them, both individually and as a couple. I wish I could tell you that all these years later I have finally figured it out -- but I'm afraid I'm still screwing up more than I should.

    Shawn, it sounds like you and your wife are very lucky to have each other. I wish you both the best and thank you for sharing your story.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks for the open, helpful dialogue Tim & Byron.

    I also wanted to say my heart aches for you, Kate. My wife and I are now 18 months out from our daughter's stillbirth, and I remember wondering during those first few months whether I'd ever have the wherewithal to keep going...Although time alone doesn't heal, our experience is that while the ache hasn't gone away, it HAS subsided to just being a part of the bigger picture of our lives--not the entire picture anymore.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I am a father of 4 and now one sweet little girl who went on to Heaven just 7 weeks ago. I have been using my blog site to express some of the pain and recovery process. If it can be a help, it would mean the world to me. Please feel free to come by. Together my wife and I are taking one day at a time as we deal with this process. Thank you & God bless!
    I also found your blog by chance as I searched for some help for fathers who have lost babies. Your words are encouraging and eerily familiar as I am going through some of the same emotions with the loss of our baby girl. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience. http://pdstories.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/still-born/

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi Tim, I found your blog 2 years ago when my daughter was stillborn Oct 9, 09. I was wondering if you know of any authors who wrote about faith, God and losing babies. My husband is not a book reader but I encouraged him to get your book. Thanks, PL

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Patty -- thank you for your note. There are a number of books that talk about faith and hope after a loss. Probably the best place I can send you to start is the inspirational books section of the A Place To Remember website. Here is the link -- if you have any more questions, do not hesitate to write. Take care.
    http://www.aplacetoremember.com/pdshop/shop/category.aspx?catid=35

    ReplyDelete
  15. Patty,

    Two books that I found very helpful during our miscarriages where "Letters to Henry in Heaven" by Herb Brokering, and "Lament for a Son" by Nicholas Wolterstorff. Both have pretty short entries - on the order of a page or two.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I do understand this blog is for fathers. However I need information. My son age 24 lost his baby at birth. To the best of the doctors guess Rylynn passed just a couple days before her delivery. This was on May 10, 2011. My son is so angry and having such a hard time. He doesnt talk much about it. Just sometimes sits and cries. I want to know if there is anything I can offer him a book a ???? I don't know I can't just watch him suffer like this without doing something. I am asking for direction.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Brenda -- anyone is welcome to post here and you will notice that many of the entries are by women who are asking questions or commenting on their situation.

    First of all, I'm sorry about your loss. As the grandparent it's sort of a double whammy of grieving yourself and wanting to help you children through this awful time.

    Certainly the reaction your son is having is pretty common at this stage of his grief. To be honest, as hard as it must be for you all, I think it's a good sign that he cries and lets some of that emotion out. Many men have a hard time doing that. Anger is also very common, but of course it's important that he find a healthy way to release that anger. I would suggest that you let him know you are available to listen any time or would be willing to help him find another man to talk to. That being said, I would also suggest that you not push too hard. If he's anything like me, the harder someone pushed to get me to do something, the more I resisted and went into my shell.

    There are actually quite a few resources available to men -- at least more than there used to be. Our web site www.APlaceToRemember.com has a section for dads, but there are other companies like Centering, Grief Watch, and Share that have resources as well. We do carry a lot of theirs on our web site in addition to our own. I wrote a book called, "A Guide For Fathers -- When A Baby Dies," that is fairly short and touches on some of the issues men face both in the immediate hours and down the road. Another very good one is "Strong and Tender". There are also a number of blogs for dads out there where your son could ask questions and just simply express his feelings, if that would help him.

    Don't hesitate to write again and know that I would be glad to talk with your son if he would like that. I would want to email you privately to talk more about that. Thanks so much for writing and I wish your family well as time moves forward. I know it doesn't help now, but I honestly believe that things will get better for you all.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hi Tim,

    I've been reading your blog for the past 2 weeks now and have to save it's helped me a lot, I'm glad to see your doing well after your tragedy.

    My girlfriends and myself lost our baby boy to placenta abruption 4 days after her due date, this was 4 weeks ago. As you've stated before the fathers are kind of forgotten so it's nice to see there's something for us.

    To try and keep Cody's memory going we are planning a skydive with all money raised going to a charity known as SANDS, would appreciate if maybe you could make a post about this for us?

    http://www.bmycharity.com/memoryofcody

    Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  19. I agree that time doesn't heal wounds, it just makes them easier to bear. I lost a son at 18 weeks on June 1, 2011 to placental abruption, who was perfect in every way and had a heartbeat when he arrived. He was just not old enough to survive, nor would I have wanted him to suffer. I had spotted for 12 weeks prior to that and had waited for the other shoe to drop, but even so wasn't prepared for how I would feel. I really felt numb and wanted to curl up in a corner and die, but had to be strong for my other son who was three and a half and never knew we were pregnant. He just knew mommy was sick and feeling sad. I ran off to New York with my husband the next week and my job was understanding about not being there.
    My husband told the family they could pick at the scar in ten years. And even in ten years I may not be okay enough to talk about it. Many people want to talk to me about it, but I am just not ready.

    And to complicate matters, I am now almost 6 weeks pregnant with another baby. I decided with my biological clock ticking, we didn't have the luxury of years to wait for full healing, or the resemblance of it. This pregnancy is scary and wonderful at the same time. I question everything that I feel and will until I hold this child in my arms if that is meant to be. We have to hide this from the family, because they could not handle another loss this year. If the worst happens, it will happen privately if before 20 weeks. And if I spot, I may wait until the very end to tell them about the pregnancy. This next baby is due at the same time I miscarried, so if things work out, it will be a bittersweet moment for me. It will also be the hardest thing in the world to be happy and grieving at the same time.

    My experience has taught me that I am the strongest person in the world, and I can survive anything. But it also makes me cautious about sharing what is traditionally good news, given how badly it can go. Some may call me selfish, but I have to lock up my feelings and keep to myself how I feel. I am hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. That way I can be prepared for anything this time around. I never truly thought I would lose the last one, given the fighting spirit and his holding on until the end. My eyes have now been opened, and I have seen things no one should have to in this lifetime.

    ReplyDelete
  20. We lost our daughter just ten days ago. My wife was 38 weeks and scheduled for q c-section on 12/15, the anniversary of her father's death. She went into labor on the 12th, and we got to the hospital, there was no heartbeat. I'm taking three weeks off to stay home and care for her and for myself.
    I feel so trapped by my frustration and anger. It seems like there are a thousand little things building up to add to my frustrations. I'm having trouble finding a way to help her when I'm so angry with the world.

    ReplyDelete
  21. My first son was a stillborn, June 24, 1998. Didn't have time to grieve, didn't know I had to...until now. Working as a Paramedic doesn't help. It hit me hard when just a few days ago I delivered a stillborn baby boy. I don't know where to start, all I know is that I have to start with myself/by myself. We have two children daughter is 12 and son is 8. My wife and I haven't spoken about our stillborn baby in a long time. She doesn't know what happen this week. It's difficult to talk to my wife, she doesnt communicate her deep thoughts and feelings with me. I know what people are going to say, "you have to talk to her", what if that's not possible now? What if it's never possible?

    ReplyDelete
  22. This blog is great source of information which is very useful for me. Thank you very much.

    BEST LOVE POEMS FOR FATHER.

    ReplyDelete
  23. My brother lost his daughter, Mila, jsut days before her due date and I watched him go from unspeakably angry to the saddest man I have ever seen, but what hurt me the most was that no one ever talked with him or asked how he was, not to take the focus off my sister in law at all but this is my brother, my niece and his only child and no one would speak her name to him. He hardly speaks of her and when he does it tend to be in the form of drunken tears. The first anniversay of her angel day is approaching and I want to do something special for them to let them knwo I love them and I havent forgotten though, I don't know what. It has been so long since I have heard him speak of her that I am really unsure for the fist time I don't knwo what to do for him and it breaks my heart in ways i cant verblize. Please if you can offer advice my email is JaxLP05@yahoo.com thank you

    ReplyDelete

  24. We have been together for over 10 yrs. Have always talked about our future together. Even made a mortgage investment a few years back in the valley near hear family. Because of the rough economy we had to move back to the city for job offer. Been here for almost a yr, but these last couple months have been real difficult for the both of us. With me working more and her spending more time out with friends. The connect and commitment seems to be a one way street, we recently found out she is pregnant, I for one was real excited. Only until I fould out she has made the decision to abort the baby. These last 3 week has been like hell. Sleepless nights wondering what went wrong. Her reason for not wanting to keep the pregnancy is because she is not ready. Thank you for listening. Im glad to have finally spoken loud about my feedings, one can only wonder what to do tomorrow when she goes through with the abortion or how should I feel or act towards her. I hate the feeling of blaming her, not being supportive or the fact that I still care about her all at the same time.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Not sure if here is the place to post or even ask...my ex and I lost twin boys 3 years ago..i never really cope well with our loss, even now..we have just seperated thru what I feel has been lack of support and emotion from here since our loss. Its been an 11yr marriage and im deeply hurt to add this with my greif over my boys...to many questions unanswered, to much unresolved..im at a loss...she spent het time and greif supporting others thru a charity she started but I feel I was forgotten..i have since found she posted pictures of our little boys on internet which we took very privatly just moments after our little ones left us...i cant beleive she would do this, and after asking her she would deny their was anything wrong with it? Anyway as I said not sure if here is the place..but time and healing for me , just raises more n more hurt.....thanks for hearing me out

    ReplyDelete