When you get "blindsided" by your grief

Sometimes you can think you have "moved on" and dealt with your sadness but then, suddenly out of nowhere, something triggers your grief.

No... you aren't going crazy.

I remember the first time it happened to me was a few weeks after Kathleen's death. It was a beautiful day and I had run to the grocery store alone to pick up some things. It was a good day and I was feeling fine. When I turned down the diaper aisle, my sadness hit me out of the blue. I could barely move and knew that I was going to break down if I didn't escape. I left my cart full of groceries, walked out of the store, and went home feeling like I was losing my mind.

Come to find out, that was not a particularly unusual thing to have happen and it didn't happen again for a long time, partially I think because I was aware it might.

For a lot of men, their dreams for their child that died focuses much more on the future than it does the newborn stage. I was speaking at a conference with Sherokee Ilse once and we had couples in the room draw a picture as they envisioned themselves that day with the child they had lost. Most women drew pictures of themselves cradling and rocking their baby. Men, on the other hand, were much more likely to draw pictures of themselves playing ball, seeing their child in ballet slippers, or walking a bride down the aisle.

I have another story to share about an incident that occurred much later in life, but I'll write about that later.

How about it, guys? Anything to share that might help a dad in the future keep from feeling like they are going crazy? Thanks!

Going to a support group ....

I resisted going to a support group. The thought of being in a room full of other sad people sounded depressing to me. I also was afraid that I would break down and cry -- which terrified me.

Monica and I didn't really argue, but we sure didn't agree as to whether we should go. Finally I agreed to go to one session, with the understanding that if I didn't like it, I wouldn't go back.

I was very nervous that first night, but relieved to see several other dads. Luckily for me, the man next to me spoke first about his loss and where he was at. As he spoke, he broke down and sobbed. He didn't even attempt to hold back. To my amazement, no one went running out the room, laughed at him, or in any way showed anything but sympathy and understanding toward him. That was a turning point for me, because I thought if he could do that, I wouldn't be afraid to. The support group became a place I looked forward to going -- not only because we made wonderful friends, but it was the one place I could let down and did not need to hold back. That man's tears were one of the greatest gifts I got at that time.

How about you? Did you go to a group? If so, how was it? If you didn't, do you regret it? Did your decision either way cause disagreements with your partner?

This is a big stumbling block for lots of guys. Let's give them some information to help them decide how they want to move forward. Thanks

Meaningful Keepsakes....

Hey guys, someone asked me today what I thought father's would like for Father's Day as a remembrance of their child that died. Anyone have suggestions? Are there some of you who would rather not have that acknowledged? If so, maybe share why it would be hard. Thanks!

nice YouTube song

Check out this song sent to me. It's entitled Smallest, Wingless, by Craig Cardiff.

You might have to cut and paste the link.


Faith's Lodge Retreat Center

I want to make sure you are aware of a beautiful retreat center in Northcentral Wisconsin. Faith's Lodge is a new facility specifically built for families who have a seriously ill child or who have had a child die. I attended the grand opening and can tell you that it's an absolutely gorgeous facility. The cost for staying at the lodge is extremely reasonable, but certain criteria must be met to go there. Below I have included some descriptive text from the Faith's Lodge web site as well as a link, so please check it out.

On May 8 and 9, 2009, Sherokee Ilse and I will be doing a program at the lodge for grieving couples. Sherokee and I recently published a book entitled "Couple Communication -- After a Baby Dies. Differing Perspectives," which addresses some of the issues we faced in our respective relationships with our spouses following our losses. During the workshop, we will be drawing on information from the book and hope to make the time at the retreat one of growing and healing for bereaved families. We hope you can join us.

Faith’s Lodge is a unique retreat for families who currently have a seriously ill child or have suffered the loss of a child. Located on 80 picturesque acres in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, Faith’s Lodge has eight individually designed guest suites that can each accommodate up to six people. Two suites adjoin to accommodate larger families and are handicapped accessible.

The mission of Faith's Lodge is to provide a place where parents and families facing the serious illness or death of a child can retreat to reflect on the past, renew strength for the present, and build hope for the future.

In its Northwoods setting, Faith’s Lodge provides temporary respite for guests by offering them a peaceful escape to refresh their minds and spirits, while spending time with others who understand what they are experiencing.


Trying to control the uncontrollable.....

Thinking back, I realize now that much of my behavior in the early hours after finding out that our daughter was dead, was the result of my need to stay in control. Throughout my life, I had come to believe that staying in control of situations and my life represented strength and the path to success.

I believed that staying focused on school work and doing my best would mean that I got into a good college, and eventually landed a job that made me good money and earned me the respect of my family and peers. To a large extent, I still believe that to be true. What I did not realize at the time, was that there were situations in life I could not control.

Even though I seemed to be living the American dream by doing well in school, graduating from a good college, starting my own business, marrying my high school sweetheart, buying a home, and starting a family after 5 years of marriage -- I could not stop my daughter from dying.

There was no preparing me for facing that reality. When I found out that our baby was dead, life as I knew it began to unravel. My first thought was that my "secrets" had finally caught up with me. Maybe the college partying had taken more of a toll than I realized. Maybe God was punishing me for thoughts that I had had or lies I had told.

When the guilt set in, I tried all that much harder to control what I could. I would not allow myself to cry -- therefore I avoided situations that might make me cry. I hurried along our time alone with Kathleen because I feared the longer I was with her, the harder it would be to say goodbye. I chose to let the hospital handle her remains, because I could not fathom going to her funeral. I didn't want to have a lot of family around at the hospital because I didn't want them to see me so vulnerable.

In other words, I was out of control. When the feelings of fear and sadness blended together, my behavior made it seem like I cared much less than I did. I think it's for this reason that I always point out to moms that they need to be careful not to judge their partner's feelings by their behavior. The old, "you can't judge a book by it's cover," adage rings real true in circumstances like these -- especially for men.

The really hard part is -- sometimes we don't even know why we are reacting the way we are. We are just following our instincts on a path we've never traveled before.