Living with Loss

Loss. It’s something we all live with every day.

There are times where I find myself harping on what I’ve lost in life instead of what I have, or what I’ve gained.

The loss of a job, a loved one, or one’s own health can make it difficult for us to move forward with our lives. It can often feel that we’ve lost the ability to smile.

On the one hand, I don’t want to ignore how I’m feeling. But I also don’t want to dwell on the past. I have a future to create, and my family is depending on me to succeed. 

In order to counter my feelings of loss, I’ve started being very conscious of how I perceive my curent situation. I’ve been looking for the positive, instead of lingering on what’s lacking.

Every morning I smile, grateful that my wife is next to me, and that my two boys are healthy. I’ve started realizing how lucky we all are, and that although I have experienced loss in my life, every day we all wake up is a good day.

Each of us are creating our tomorrows. And what we focus our attention on has a way of manifesting as our reality. 

If we’re focusing on loss, than we’re perpetuating more of the same. And in doing so, we’re losing time to make a difference in our future by dwelling on the past.

I for one am tired of this. How about you? 

And remember, you are not alone …

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Living with the Loss of a Child

Have you experienced the loss of a child?

Before we had our two beautiful boys, my wife (Kara) and I lost two children to ectopic pregnancies. During the second ectopic pregnancy, my wife almost died.

Although we lost our first two children over eight years ago, there is still an unhealed part in my heart – and I will always miss them.

We believe they are two girls – Sheila and Sky.

Why do I use the present tense? Just because we lose someone doesn’t negate their existence. They are still here with us – part of our family and alive in our hearts. And when I allow myself to do so, I can feel their presence watching over all of us.

This is not an easy topic for me to think about for an extended period of time, but I think it’s important to raise awareness that MANY couples have experienced this type of loss. Just about every one of my friends has experienced miscarriages. One even lost his child after she was born.

This loss is not something we heal from, but something we live with. What confuses me is why we’re not encouraged to talk about it. It’s as if somehow it’s taboo or wrong to bring it up.

You know what? It’s not wrong. It’s part of our lives, and it hurts.

I met a lady the other day that recently lost her daughter, who had lived long enough to become an adult. I can’t even imagine the unbearable pain she and her husband are going through. To watch one’s child grow up, only to pass away so young – leaving a void that can never be filled. Although we had just met, once I gave her “permission” to talk about it, the words and the tears poured out.

She needed to talk about it. Sometimes we all do. 

Feel free to share your own stories, and tell me about your children – both the ones that made it into this world, and the one’s who didn’t.

And remember, you are not alone …

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Loss and the Erosion of a Human Being

Feelings of loss permeate my existence. They often lie just below the surface of my conciousness, occasionally jumping out like flying fish that pop out of the ocean. Problem is, the feeling does not disappear back into my subconscious. And there are more fish than ever swimming around and popping up inside my head.

Loss seems connected to every facet of my life right now. Each one seems to have eroded a little piece of me. And although I’m working on rebuilding myself (the topic of a future blog post), I’m missing pieces. I’m incomplete, which makes rebuilding all that much harder.

What kind of loss has worn on you? Here’s a brief list of what I’m struggling with on a daily basis:

Loss of energy; loss of time with my boys; loss of our two daughters; Grandma Frances; Grandpa Rick; our families in New York (we’re currently living in Wisconsin); loss of my youth; financial stability; loss of intimacy; loss of the relationship my wife and I had before we had kids (dates, holding hands, long talks about something other than survival, romance). Until recently, I had lost my dream of making the world a better place.

Something I often wonder about is the loss of innocence. I still remember when I lost mine as a child. It happened on four separate occasions – all of which involved my father. Am I contributing to the loss of innocence of my boys?

I feel so burnt out. Every week, a little more so, making the week before somehow seem more bearable. I feel hopeless that I will never accomplish some of my big life goals.

But then I realize: these are only feelings, and they’re based in fear. Fear of more loss, which equates (at least to a degree) fear of failure. These fears are a poor representation of my reality. Whether these negative perceptions become my reality is up to me, because FEAR is really False Evidence Appearing Real. This is an acronym I’ve learned, and it’s true.

But knowing this doesn’t make the fear magically go away. I am afraid of loss, and I’m connecting all of the losses in my life to my current situation, fearing more loss.

I’m having trouble getting things done. Goals that, for the most part, should be easier to accomplish. What makes it worse is that these goals, once accomplished, will put me and my family in a better place.

My wife says I’m being hard on myself. She’s right. But you know what? It’s up to me to do these things. There’s nobody else who’s going to do it for me. My family is depending on me and I feel like I’m failing.

I’m struggling. Why is it so hard to admit that?

Beyond all of the emotion, all the exhaustion and the pain, I realize the biggest loss would occur if I gave up. I refuse to give up, and so should you. As long as we’re breathing we can change our lives, we can help others do the same.

So after this fairly depressing article I have something to ask of each and every one of you:

Please don’t give up.

And remember, you are not alone…

The Modern Day Dad Award Goes to David Goldman

This is the first Modern Day Dad Award presented by Daddy Brain.

I was inspired to create this post when I heard the heart-wrenching story of David Goldman, a dad who had been denied seeing his son for over 4 years. It is an unusual story, one which I fear is more common than we might think.

David’s strength, dedication and refusal to give up under extremely difficult circumstances exemplifies what it means to be a modern day dad. 

Before you read the article, I’d like to ask a question. What would you do if your wife took your 4-year old son on vacation to her homeland and never came back?

The following is a reprinting (in its entirety) of the Today Show’s online article about David’s crusade…

After bitter 4-year fight, he finally sees his son again

Dad has ‘beautiful’ reunion with boy whose mother abducted him to Brazil

By Mike Celizic, TODAYShow.com contributor
updated 9:41 a.m. CT, Tues., Feb. 10, 2009

Choking back tears that had been building up for more than four and a half years, a New Jersey father tried to describe the emotions he felt at finally being able to hold and hug his son and tell the boy how much he loved him.

“It was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen since his birth. It was incredible. Amazing. I got to see my son,” David Goldman told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Tuesday by phone from Brazil.

The previous day, accompanied by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, Goldman had finally reached the end of a nightmare that began in June 2004 when his wife, Bruna, left with their son, Sean, for a two-week trip to visit family in her native Brazil. She never came back.

In all the years since, Goldman had traveled to Brazil numerous times hoping to see his son, but all the contact he was allowed to have consisted of a few brief phone calls.

International dispute
A New Jersey court ruled that Bruna had to return Sean to New Jersey for a custody hearing. But despite international law and treaties between the United States and Brazil that upheld the court ruling, Bruna refused to either return or to give up custody of the boy. Instead, she divorced Goldman in a legal proceeding that violated international law, and married an influential Brazilian attorney.

Then, last August, Bruna died while giving birth to a child by her new husband. After her death, that husband petitioned a Brazilian court to take Goldman’s name off his own son’s birth certificate.

Although the system seemed stacked against him, Goldman never gave up. Finally, with the help of Smith, the New Jersey congressman who accompanied Goldman to Brazil, father and son were reunited for a visit on Monday.

“After all this time I got to see him, walk over to him and hug him and tell him how much I love him and how much I miss him and how joyful it was to be with him,” Goldman said.

‘It was beautiful’
He had no idea if Sean would really remember him and how he would greet him, Goldman said.

“I was expecting the worst. And when our arms locked, it wasn’t that way at all. It was beautiful,” he told Vieira, fighting back tears the entire time he spoke.

Sean asked his dad why it took so long to visit him. “That was very painful,” Goldman said. “I saw the anguish on his face.”

What to tell the boy? Goldman was understandably reluctant to tell Sean how his mother first left him and then refused to let him see Sean.

“I didn’t want to hurt him by telling him the absolute truth, so I just said that the courts were making things very difficult,” Goldman said. “I said, ‘Sean, I’ve been here many, many times to try to be with you. The last time I was here I stayed for 10 days and I couldn’t be with you.’ ”

Smith told The Associated Press that Goldman shot baskets and went swimming with Sean during Monday’s visit. Goldman was scheduled to see his son again on Tuesday.

Vieira asked what plans he had for today’s visit.

‘It’s going to happen’

In a later interview with TODAY correspondent Amy Robach, NBC senior legal analyst Susan Filan said that Goldman should eventually regain custody of his son, whose room in Goldman’s Tinton Falls, N.J., home remains as it was the day he left for Brazil with his mother more than four years ago. Filan said that international law and treaties between the United States and Brazil are unequivocal in affirming Goldman’s parental rights.

“You can’t take a kid from one country and hide him another country and say it’s OK,” Filan said. “There’s no question this case should have been decided in a New Jersey court.”

TODAY
In happier times: David Goldman with his son, Sean, and his late wife Bruna.

Filan said she’s looked at the facts from every angle and can conceive of no legal justification or explanation for how the Brazilian courts have acted. According to every law, she said, the man who married Goldman’s wife “has no legal rights to this child whatsoever.” 

She added that the change of administrations in Washington and the personal involvement of Rep. Smith have clearly helped Goldman press his case. Public attention given the case should embarrass the Brazilian government into bowing to the dictates of the law, she said.

“Once one government accuses another government of being in violation of a treaty, it’s embarrassing,” she said.

Filan cautioned that it may still take time for Sean to finally come home to live with his father.

“I don’t think it’s going to be as quick as everybody wants, but I think ultimately it’s going to happen,” she said.

Links to The Today Show’s videos:
Today Video Interview #1
Today Video Interview #2

Stories like this that remind me how lucky I am. I am so grateful for my family.

And remember, you are not alone…

Teaching Our Kids How to Cope with Loss

I read a blog post a few days ago on a great dad site called Building Camelot. The name of the post is: My 5 Biggest Fears Being a Dad, and it covers the fear of loss in a very honest, real way.

The post came along at the perfect time, as loss has been on my mind lately — ever since I had my tooth pulled a few days ago.

My tooth’s clinical name was #13. And although the procedure was quick and physically painless, I have been thinking more and more about loss. Other than my hair (which I’ve been losing for years), this is the only part of my body that I have lost. And the experience has quickly transcended into a life metaphor.

What else have I lost? I’m not talking about a set of keys or a receipt from Target. I’m talking about real loss, the type that takes a piece of you along with it. The kind that leaves you with little gaps, like cavities, that never fully disappear or heal.

And yet we go on – battered, weathered and full of tiny little holes. Somehow, we find a way to function. What choice do we have? To give up?

Here’s what I’d like to know. Why weren’t we ever taught how to cope with loss? How to come to a place of acceptance, and have what we’ve learned from the loss propel us to a better place. In school, we learn about calculus and how to dissect a frog. Have you found that helpful? Unless you are a mathemetician, or a freak who likes to look at frog guts, it hasn’t.

Mom and dad? Yeah, they were a big help. The only serious talk I got was ”boys have a penis, and girls don’t. Did you know that?” As a matter of fact, I didn’t. But nothing came after that sentence except my uncomfortable thoughts about what girls did have down there if there was no penis.

Like it or not, loss is a part of life. We have the power to give our chilren the tools they need to cope with loss in a positive way. We can help them learn to heal (as best as possible), and come to a place of acceptance so they can move on from loss instead of dwelling in it.

We can also let them know that it’s OK if they need help to cope or heal. Just being approachable, and telling them “mom and dad are here,” is a huge deal. Then, of course, there’s the power of spirit (but that’s a topic for another blog post).

Can we protect our kids from loss? I don’t think so. And why should we? If we want them to be healthy, successful adults, it’s our repsonsibility to help them be fully functioning people.

My parents were incapeable of this. Were yours? I think they did their best, which is all I can ask. But we can do better.

And remember, you are not alone…

It Could Be Worse…

It is 10 pm on Easter night. I had been planning to do a satirical comment about the holiday. Something funny, with wit and chuckles to spare. The plan is out the window.

Yesterday my wife had a serious reaction to her diabetes medicine. Thank goodness she’s OK. But it was pretty scary. Today she started insulin again, something we’ve been trying to avoid. But it could be worse. It could be much worse.

Feeling much better (but still not great), my wife made a tasty Easter dinner. Homemade stuffed mushrooms with enough garlic to kill an army of vampires (yum) and a ham more tender than, well, a tough ham. The boys fussed over their food (as usual) but it was quite good and they ate enough to sustain healthy life. They acted like monkeys the entire meal (giving scientific proof to the theory of evolution) leaving my wife and I with headaches, stomach aches and a few extra aches for me to pass around at work tomorrow.

We’re 800 miles from our friends & families, living in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin. Trust me, this is not an actual state. It’s an iceberg with bad pizza, but damn good beer (New Glarus Brewery)! When we lived in NY, the holidays always left me with a vague sense of dread. Now, being away from everybody leaves me with a strange sense of detached isolation. Maybe we should move somewhere in the middle. Maybe that would cancel out all of the negatives. Or at least let me enjoy a sampling of dread and isolation in tandem!

Next, the kids ran around like little hooligans (really cute ones), and evaded my lame 40 year old attempt to catch them. There was laughter to be had, but I was too out of breath to even consider anything but gasping for air. The smell of apple pie permeated the air.

It could be worse. Sometimes I just need to be reminded.

And remember, you are not alone…

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The $5,000 Tooth! (and the deconstruction of America)

I’m starting to feel like The Bionic Man. Not because of any special powers or enhancements like telescopic vision (heck, I’d settle for 20/20), or the ability to run faster than a cheetah.

No, I’m talking about a tooth. A solitary tooth, which I failed to properly take care of when I had a cavity years ago.

Ka-ching! Root canal, $2,000.

Present day. Root canal’s still good. But I’m told the tooth is cracked, oh well…

Ka-ching! $3,000 for an implant.

An implant? Couldn’t they think of a more friendly name? I feel like I’m in an X-Files episode. For that price you’d think they’d at least include something high tech  like a blue tooth implant.

Point being (other than complaining), in today’s economic climate with most of us up to our eyeballs in debt, how are we supposed to get ahead? Or simply break even when the cost of living is so high? There’s only so much fat you can cut, and there’s only so many hours in a day that can be divvied up between work and family.

And yet this country spends BILLIONS of dollars “fighting” a war for the “spread of democracy.” How about the spread of economic independence for Americans? If George Bush thought more about the people of this fine country, instead of the profitability of oil, maybe I wouldn’t gag (no pun intended) at the thought of such expensive dental work. 

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a “turn the other cheek” world. And we don’t live in a world where disputes are always resolved through talking and cooperation. So yes, we have to defend ourselves. But I’ve heard that the USA gave Osama Bin Laden somewhere in the amount of 3 billion dollars prior to September 11th. How much good would that have done for America? But to gain leverage and power in the Middle East, this money was given to a man who masterminded a terrible day. Nice work with that investment there.

And if no “weapons of mass destruction” were really found in Iraq, then why attack? Oh yeah, power & profit. Then we get to pay over $3 for a gallon of gas. It appears that “spreading democracy,” as George Bush puts it, is pretty hard on everyone but the rich here in America. And the deconstruction of economic foundations is global. That’s how influential our country is. In a very real way, we’ve become the heart of the world.

I’m left with a troubling question: Who has the guts, the brains and the determination to make this a better world for our kids? Who has an honest soul and a heart that cares more about helping Americans than making a buck?

I feel like there’s a cavity eating through America and there’s no dentist to be found not at any cost.

Your thoughts and opinions are welcome.

And remember, you are not alone…

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