It’s hard to talk about fears in today’s world. As a man, we’re looked at to be both uplifting to those who need support but also strong to our challengers. As a father, we feel obligated to show our children what it means to be poised when confronted with hard seasons of life, but we also need to teach them that it’s ok to be vulnerable. And as a husband, our default role is either to try to fix things or to grease the wheels – do what it takes to get through this day and begin a new one. If given the chance, I would want Jonah and Luke to know how much strength there is in talking about hardships and fears out loud, and that acknowledging them doesn’t mean succumbing to them. In what has become the hardest season of my life, it’s time to make some honest disclosures.
I’m afraid of losing sight of myself. In all of the things I’ve learned about myself in living after loss these last (almost) two years, I’m finding out how easy it can be to identify in darkness instead of light. Understanding that this season only lasts so long is much different than trusting that I’ll come out of it without letting go of my children. That’s the ultimate mind game, and that will be my pinnacle of parenting Jonah and Luke.
I’m afraid of becoming an unforgiving man. As a brother, son, husband, coworker, and friend it is so easy to fall into the trap that loss puts forward. The hard days make it easier to ignore things going on around me, and it can be intoxicating to focus on myself so much. I don’t want to become hardened by experiences I’ve lost or by attitudes shown – by myself or others – since I’ve stumbled into this journey. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is boil it down to one question – who am I serving in this moment or in this decision? If it’s more about myself than my family or friends, I have some adjustments to make.
I’m afraid of accepting too much of this. There is only so much in this world that we have control over, so our first move is to accept what-is and step forward. Accepting that Jonah will never be in my arms again isn’t something that is done gently. It’s a violent, forceful action that has to be taken and then held in place until it takes, and I always fight the notion that there is nothing more to take from this Jonah Experience. My son has touched my heart in ways I never would have expected, and he will continue to as long as I am open to him. But to what extent will I accept these conditions and what is my reaction to the things I cannot accept? I have to remember that control over my response and the action that comes long after words have been spoken are the only things I have power over, and that I control what has power over me as well.
I’m completely, unequivocally afraid of only being an Almost Father. The fear that this is all there is creeps in constantly. That a life I have envisioned with my family has become one of urns and ultrasound pictures. I’m terrified of the possibility that the only children I will have the privilege of parenting have already been called Home and we are not at the point where an adoption conversation is real. Sure, we have time – that was never a question and isn’t an appropriate response in the first place because we still have two children that we can only hold in our hearts. Both are our reality. But until we take that leap and try again we will always be afraid that this is it, and I will always be afraid that a lost fatherhood is all I will get to know.
Having fear is normal, but calling it out is not. At this moment, I’m taking a stand by acknowledging that fear can also be strength. It can be channeled into compassion and empathy or community service and friendship. Fear can be turned into power by having the courage to bring it out into the open so that those around us can step out of the grips of depression, loss, stress disorders, and anxiety with us.
Take this moment to participate with me and unite us all together. Call out one fear you hold and start a conversation – help your community to break down barriers to see all the ways we are connected, because only then can we build each other back up. And I could use some of that too