I was talking with a friend recently who didn’t know about Jonah. He didn’t know our struggle with Luke, he didn’t hear about what it was like to fight for a chance at life for Jonah, and he didn’t know who I was before I became an almost father. We talked about several things across business and life, but what struck me was a question I hadn’t heard before because it was so honest and forward. I listen often for messages from our boys and try to find paths to walk that could beat down a trail for those who come after me, but I hadn’t actually stopped at the place this took me before.
Eventually we hopped onto the topic of writing as a place to process my grief but also as a way to reconnect with parts of myself that I’d lost over the years. I explained that I tried to avoid some of the more common topics in grief writing because no matter how necessary they are, all of us have stories about things that are better left unsaid. Whether I agree or not with the fact that we are still young and can have more children, that is not helpful when I’m fighting to hold onto the two I can’t see let alone when it drives my anxiety at the thought of losing more. There are a million examples because they are repeated over and over to all of us who have become a part of this kind of parenthood. So when we were discussing how often we hear these things and how little they help, he asked a question that brought me to a new place.
What should you do then?
Well, a few things, but it’s such a simple question that I never think to talk about it. For one, I’ll never forget my children so know that you don’t ever have to avoid bringing them up. In the same way, no one asks about a child they don’t know lived (or died) so I don’t often get the chance to talk about them in a way other parents do. There’s no soccer or baseball practices to navigate in the evenings or homework to fail at explaining, so give me the chance to talk about them. Every place we go we see children who could have been Jonah and Luke, running and playing and learning things about themselves. Every single child could have been either of my babies, and there are times where it breaks me down – so sit with me in it. I don’t need to hear about God’s plan in that moment, I need to feel like I’m not falling further into the abyss and knowing you’re there with me will give me a type of community that helps keep me off the edge.
It’s going to be uncomfortable and emotional, no question. You’re going to wonder if you should hug or leave us. You’re going to want to say something to break the mood, but we don’t need to hear any of the platitudes of the situation that break awkward silences but won’t ultimately make progress for either of us. We need to be surrounded by real people who can tell that we’re breaking and want to do what they can to hold us together. We’re going to be fighting to hold onto whatever sense of normalcy we have left whenever we venture back into the world of parenthood again and we don’t know what life holds for us. Every plan we’ve put into place has fallen apart and every precaution we took the second time put us in the position to experience everything we could, but we will always hurt for two lives cut short and two versions of parenthood we could have had. So be present with us – that’s the only thing we can ask for.