Interview with a Bereaved Dad

From The Grief Spot blog, here is an interview with a bereaved father.

We’ve posted the first half and linked to Part Two at the bottom of the page.


Interview with a Bereaved Dad – Part One

I feel so honoured and lucky to have had the opportunity to sit down and interview my partner on his experience with grief and the death of our son.  This blog has been about my journey and at times has included my family but I felt it was time for me to hear his perspective as I realized I had never really asked him.  The interview lasted over 30 minutes and it was filled with honesty, love and respect.  I have decided to break it up into two blogs so it is more digestible. Obviously this in not every bereaved dad’s experience with grief and death, it is simply his individual and unique understanding.

Me: So recently you and I were talking and you made a statement that you didn’t think that you did grief like me. What do you think that you meant when you made that comment?

Landy: I would say that when it comes to grief you are more emotional than I am. I tend to be more… introverted I guess would be the word. I grieve by preoccupying myself or my emotions come out differently.  I have noticed that I don’t grieve [pause] or when I come to the realization that I have been in a mood, the actual realization of that mood is not grief, its frustration or anger or what’s a better word for it? Like distance or the lack of emotion. Yet that mood is really the product of grief. I think I have always been this way; from when the grief was fresh to now.

I think when the grief was fresh I tended to be more, and I am sure you could probably be witness to this too, but I tended to use sort of like an avoidance tactic. I would not hit grief head-on and I would try to avoid it by working more or toiling more or whatever it happened to be. I used some other way of keeping occupied rather than letting the grief sink in. When I do realize [and maybe I am answering another question] that I am grieving I find that I think that I can handle it. If I realize that I am actually depressed or sad about something that I miss, I feel like I am actually able to deal with that emotion and resolve it better – not that there is necessarily a resolution to it but I am able to correct the behaviours attributed to the feelings. It does take me a while to realize that is what is creating those behaviours.

Me: What behaviour would manifest in terms of grief, what do you think it looks like to someone on the outside or to me?

Landy: Usually, and I am still struggling with the right word for it, but distraction. You would find that I get very busy with multiple different tasks at any particular point in time, none of them having any real meaning but just keeping me busy.  I am trying to avoid any sort of settling of emotion whatsoever. That or straight up numbness, like void of emotion all together, coupled with the fact that I am busy or trying to keep myself busy with remedial or even meaningful tasks but keeping myself busy in general.

Me: What do you remember of Flynn’s birth and death? And do you think we remember or treasure it differently?

Landy: What I remember about that pregnancy and delivery was a very long drawn out sort of traumatic wind up. His death felt anti-climactic because we knew what the result was going to be, I am speaking for myself – I knew what the result was going to be.

Me: Okay

Landy: I knew it was not going to be good. I didn’t know what was going to happen, if we were going to hold our son for an hour, a day, two days or a week. Part of me even remembers wondering what it would have been like to have him for the rest of our lives maybe with a reduced quality of life – that was rolling around in my head. I do remember – well- okay, there was the confusion of the hospital and the confusion of all the choices that were being asked of us at that particular time.  Choices that I did not feel prepared for in any way at all, but felt that I needed to be. I needed to make the choices, not necessarily that I was ready to make them. I remember it happening very quickly, I don’t have a slow recall of that whole event – to me it seemed like it was a one day incident. Even that one day felt like it was packed into a 20 minute moment; it just went from 0-60 really quick.  When Flynn was born, I remember holding onto him while you were whisked out of the room and I remember him dying in my arms or at least I am pretty sure that is what I recall, but I think that you recall having him die in your arms?

Me: No, I wasn’t there when he died.

Landy: Ya, so that was probably correct. Anyway, he died with little breaths, very, very small – I remember that. I remember how tiny he was and I think our parents were there, well I know they were there but I can’t remember if they were in the room or not, so that memory is skewed.  It was a very blurry time; I don’t think I was very observant of anything else that was going on at that moment.  It seemed like there was a clock ticking very, very quickly – I do remember that sensation, this feeling of wanting to make it last longer but being very aware that there wasn’t going to be time. After Flynn had died and you were back from the surgery, the memory that I have is of us both feeling the weight of the reality that we now had a dead child.  I don’t know if I have ever really allowed that reality to come to any sort of fruition. Like where I have had other people die in my life, I have had the life to weigh against their death. With Flynn, I had about 45 minutes to weigh against his death. I have had a continued internal struggle with myself, trying to remember him being alive and breathing in my hands to him not breathing in our hands – which one was real?  I also struggle with the reality of what I am grieving over; am I grieving the loss of his life or am I grieving the loss of his future?

I don’t often sit and think about who Flynn would be or could have been or should have been. Whenever I stumble across those moments in life where I picture the little brother to our Oldest, that missing boy who fits in between the Oldest and Middlest, usually it is when I see somebody else’s child who would be his age or two siblings of some other family.  It is those moments that I go “ya it would be pretty neat if he was here.” That’s when I realize we are missing something; which spills into more grief because I get angry with myself for not having those thoughts all the time especially when coupled by you, who seems to have them almost consistently. So I feel inferior in grief a lot of times, I feel like I should grieve more which frustrates me. It doesn’t necessarily anger me but it frustrates me because I wonder if I am shallow or even hollow. Again I believe that is how I experience grief.  I don’t know if I do it through necessity or because I try not to wallow in grief or if I am just incapable of whole-hearted absorption into grief.  I know I have moments that I do grieve but I am not a consistent griever.

Me: Do you think that there were different societal or familial expectations of grief in our roles – mom vs. dad?

Landy: Yes I think there were definite societal roles or expectations on our grief as identified by male or female, husband and wife, mother or father. I think we lived out those roles too, other then maybe in the beginning where you didn’t express your grief very much.  It was three or four months before you really started to fall apart with grief.  Directly after Flynn died you embodied more of a male role (by societal standards).  Where our families were falling apart or upset, you tried to be stiff and strong. I think the societal message to us as men is that we are not supposed to fall apart, we are supposed to keep it together, and we are supposed to keep the family moving forward and stay strong. Honestly for the most part that is probably what I am better at doing.  It doesn’t mean I need to do it all the time or that I feel the necessity to do it, I often feel hindered by it.  If I for some reason want to break down or be upset or even see another male in my life who happens to be upset and trying to hide it, that is when I usually feel frustrated by our societal views or judgements that say we shouldn’t or that it is weakness. It is a pity that we have these societal roles.

Me: So what don’t I know about your grief journey following the death of our son?

Landy: I don’t think there is anything hidden with my grief journey, really what it comes down to is I am masking it from myself. Like I said before, I tend to not realize that I am acting out in grief until I actually come to that realization that “oh, ya that is why I am upset.”  Something triggers the thought process, cluing me into what the source of the feeling is.  Then I start putting together all the pieces, “oh ya that is why I was such a grouch; that is why I was a jerk this day; that is why I have been avoiding that task or that thing.”

Me: I regularly identify myself as a bereaved parent, which is also something that you alluded to in previous responses here. We have had discussions around this, where you have said that you do not necessarily identify yourself as a bereaved parent, do you want to elaborate on that?

Landy: It is not that I don’t see myself as a bereaved parent but I don’t see myself as a flagship bereaved parent. That is not how I identify myself. I think my scars are what make me as an individual but I don’t introduce myself as, and obviously bereaved parents don’t necessarily introduce themselves as such, but I think for some people that is what they are and everything else is secondary to that.  I am who I am and secondary to that would be the grief that I have endured in life.  Not just our son but all the other deaths along the way.

For Part Two click here…