Missing our baby boy

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Daddy's grieve, too

I’ve been so focused on my own grief, I haven’t really given much thought to my husband.

He was the strong one when we lost Brayden. He fielded the visitors and phone calls. He made arrangements with the funeral home. He made sure I had plenty of ice and pressed on my stomach when I coughed or sneezed. He squeezed in the hospital bed and let me cry and cry when I couldn’t sleep and needed his arms around me. When he wasn’t doing that, he slept in the fold out chair beside my bed and didn’t leave my side.

When we got home, he ran the errands into town so I wouldn’t have to go. He made arrangements before I got home to have the nursery door secured shut, so I wouldn’t once have to walk by it and see it empty. He learned how to cook entire meals, pack lunches, do laundry, and shower and dress a third grader. He endured buckets of my tears without shedding any of his own.

He put up with my listlessness and sporadic bouts of sadness, grief and anger while being my rock. He never complained. He never got thanked. I asked him a few times why he didn’t cry – the responses usually varied between “guys grieve differently” to “I suppose it wasn’t real to me yet”.

These last few months have been difficult for us. While I’m nowhere near being over my grief, having to go back to work so soon after losing our son was very hard for me. I was a little resentful, even though it wasn’t John’s fault. It was a practical decision for our family. Still, it hurt to go.

I’ve seen a change in John these last two or so months. He’s ranged from clingy to angry at the slightest thing, and I had told myself that it was the transition from being a full time worker to nothing – it’s big change, and takes serious adjusting.

A few weeks ago, he added drinking to the list. The man I married was never a drinker. He would get angry, drink and pick a fight…usually over something small. A few times he left, coming back hours later even more angry. I just didn’t understand it, but I put up with it for a while.

It all came to a head last week. We had a fight to end all fights, and I seriously considered that maybe we were done, or at the very least needed to a separation. It was all just getting to be too much to handle. I was stressed as well, and thought he was acting rather selfish with no thought to our family.

The other night, the day after we had our biggest fight of our marriage, we talked. That’s one thing we have always been able to do until recently. We stopped really talking to each other about the things that matter – how we feel and how we are truly doing. I had a list of bottom lines I was going to hand to him, things that needed to stop, and behaviors that needed to change. I was prepared to hear a list of his own, and ready and willing to see if we could come to a meeting point to make things work.

What I got during our conversation was a surprise. I walked away feeling ashamed of myself for not giving him what he needed, as he tried to do for me. For not keeping in mind that I’m not the only one who lost a child here, but rather one half of a whole that did.

Don’t get me wrong on this – he still acted like an ass. It doesn’t excuse his behavior. It just explains it.

I asked him what was wrong, and he started right in with all of his gripes. Our 9 year-old son back-talking too much was irritating him. My attitude wasn’t the best after work, he wanted me to smile more and hated that he couldn’t make me. He didn’t feel like he could control our situation or contribute to our family. He was frustrated and he felt useless. He couldn’t do anything getting a job when there were none to be had.

He couldn’t change the fact that our son was gone forever.

At that point, his face crumpled and he completely lost it. For the first time since we lost Brayden, he cried. And cried and cried. Sobbed while he talked.

He wished he had made me go to the hospital sooner…three days, he said. If he could go back and change it, he would make sure we went in three days before we heard no heartbeat.

He said he hated that our doctor was always on vacation and never there for appointments or our delivery. If he had been around, maybe he would have known something was wrong.

He cried when he talked about his friend with three beautiful boys, and said that was suppose to be his life…OUR life…and it was unfair and wrong that we were denied our chance to have it.

I wrapped my arms around him, completely stunned that all of this was pouring out of him. Of course, I was crying at that point, too. As he cried into my shoulder, he kept saying, “That was my boy….he was my boy…my son.”

And I let him cry while I told him it was going to be okay. I didn’t realize how ready John was to be a father until that point. I’m unsure of when he realized it himself.

The last few months, I really envied John his cool head. I felt very alone in my grief, and resented the fact that he didn’t join me. I thought Brayden didn’t mean as much to him as he did me, and took him at his word that it just didn’t feel real. Turns out, he didn’t feel that he could join me in my grief...so, he put his own sadness aside until I was on my feet again.

I read that men process their grief differently, and that in some cases they will realize their grief months after the fact. I don’t know at what point I stopped thinking that applied to my husband.

I don’t know at what point I forgot I was one half of a whole, that his needs became non-existent or that he even had any.

We ended our conversation with promises, and feeling closer to each other than we had in months.

And I slept better that night than I had in a long time.

I don't know what the future holds for us; but, right now I'm more than ready to find out. Because I know we'll do it together.


  1. I'm sitting here crying. What raw honesty you wrote this with...

    It takes so much for our husbands to cry. They are our rocks and it is so easy to forget that they are being strong for us and grieve in ways we don't understand.

    I'm so glad that you had your talk, I feel as though a weight was lifted off your heart.

    Sending you hugs, XOXO

  2. Thanks Andrea - we both really felt like a heavy weight had been removed from our shoulders...and our hearts. I don't pretend to understand what John is going through as a grieving father, but I don't have to...it's his process, just as I had mine.
    All I can do is hope this strengthens us for the future!