Wednesday, June 30, 2010

holding on

In this scene of the Academy Award winning Japanese film, "Departures", the main character, Daigo, presents a stone-letter to his wife. He tells the story of his long-lost father who presented a similar stone to him when he was just a young boy. His father explained that when paper wasn't available one would find a stone to convey how they felt through the texture, weight, and size. This would then be sent to someone they knew well in place of an actual letter. As his only lasting connection to his father, Daigo held on to the stone to remind him of the relationship they once had.

This concept resonated with me. Not so much the communication possibilities of stones, but the fact that a stone could mean so much to Daigo simply because his father had given it to him. Stones like these are quite possibly the most ordinary, lifeless, emotionally inert objects in our natural world, but given as a gift they can become priceless.

For Daigo, holding on to the stone was holding on to the reality of having a father.

For parents who have lost children, holding on to mementos from the hospital or nursery is holding on to the reality of their child's existence. A simple, receiving blanket can become validation of a life. A "onesie" can become a framed piece of art. Suddenly every ordinary object connected to your baby becomes extraordinarily significant in your grief.

Collect as much as you can. Create remembrances and tributes and memorials and anything you need to have something to hold on to.

Friday, June 25, 2010

letting go

I remember drawing a small wooden giraffe as an out-of-class assignment my first semester in art school. I studied the figure for some time before laying the image down on the 18x24 inch piece of paper. After about an hour of careful drawing and observation, I had a near perfect likeness of the figure centered perfectly on the paper. I thought it looked great. Centered, accurate, detailed. I got a B. The drawing was too neat and controlled. The composition too stagnate. It was then that I started learning about "putting my back into drawing". Digging in, ripping the paper, grinding the charcoal.

There was something beautiful to be found in letting go.

After four years of art school this became a well learned and practiced lesson. Applying it in other areas of my life, well, that hasn't been quite as easy. When challenged with a crisis pregnancy, birth, or illness parents can call hosts of doctors, surgeons, pediatricians, and specialists to their aid. They can hold, kiss, medicate, hope, pray and nurse, but when the finality of death comes and they are left holding the outcome... all control seems lost. Nothing can be done.

For me this was the realization that I was headed down an unexpected path. I could fight it, deny it, try to change directions or even just hide from that truth, or I could go with it and see where it leads me. Opening up to the journey allowed me to see beauty and blessing that might have otherwise slipped by. Yes, even in the midst of the unimaginable reality of losing two children at once there has been blessing and beauty.

Anger is inevitable. Grief is necessary. Let it happen. You may find yourself in a closer relationship with your spouse, your family, a new friend. You may discover a new purpose or a renewed appreciation for your other children. What blessing will you find? What legacy is your child leaving you?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Empty Cradle, Broken Heart

Just finishing reading this through with my wife. A great resource for parents, grandparents, and friends who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. You can easily find it on
Summary: The heartache of miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death affects thousands of U.S. families every year. Empty Cradle, Broken Heart offers reassurance to parents who struggle with anger, guilt, and despair after such tragedy. Deborah Davis encourages grieving and makes suggestions for coping. The book includes information on issues such as the death of one or more babies from a multiple birth, pregnancy interruption, and the questioning of aggressive medical intervention. There is also a special chapter for fathers as well as a chapter on "protective parenting" to help anxious parents enjoy their precious living children. Doctors, nurses, relatives, friends, and other support persons can gain special insight. Most importantly, parents facing the death of a baby will find necessary support in this gentle guide. If reading this book moves you to cry, try to accept this reaction. Your tears merge with those of other grieving parents. You are not alone!

About the Author: Deborah L. Davis, PhD., is a development psychologist who specializes in perinatal bereavement, parent education, and child development. She is also a member of the advisory board for Pen-Parents, the international network for bereaved parents.

Friday, June 18, 2010

father's day

My first Father's Day is approaching. It isn't going to be what I expected. It isn't going to be a relaxing Sunday morning reading stories to my sons. It isn't going to be highlighted by that proud moment walking into the church service holding Asher in one arm and Evan in the other. It isn't going to be typical or classic or something recorded later in a scrapbook.

Honestly, I don't know what it's going to be. Confusing probably. I know I'm a father, but no one else does. People who don't know our story don't know that I held my sons in my arms, and kissed them, and told them I love them, and then watched them quietly pass away. If that doesn't make a man a father I don't know what does.

So, I guess, Father's Day will be what I want it to be. A more proactive approach seems needed here. I could sulk, which is valid, or I could celebrate, which is preferred. I could spend the day thankful for the few moments I had with my boys, how they made me a father, how they're making me a stronger man... a better husband. I could spend the day making the memory of Asher and Evan a joyful one. A day enjoying the legacy rather than fixating on the loss.

How have you celebrated Father's Day? Any special traditions? Any favorite memories?

steep descent (the first post)

When you find out you’re having twins your world gets turned upside down. Everything changes. All the family planning goes out of the window as you bare down into a nine-month, white-knuckled free fall into parenthood. Now you need four name ideas, you need to scrap the financial plan and start over—you need to double everything.
That was our mode of operation for about twenty-two weeks. Full out, high energy registering, baby sale shopping, night birthing classes… the whole nine yards. My wife was looking more and more pregnant everyday and I was feeling more and more fatherly. I was on a lunch break, pulling into the bank parking lot, when I received a call from my wife. She started crying. And those were the first tears of an emotional roller-coaster that we’re still on. 
And this post is the first of many that will not only tell the story of my sweet boys, Asher and Evan, but will hopefully inspire other grieving fathers to share their stories as well.