Immediately following the loss of our daughter, I was sure I’d never find genuine happiness again. That true, carefree, effervescent happiness. One year removed from Lila’s loss and I felt like the canyon of pain within me had deepened. These weren’t feelings I was used to having. I was always a happy guy. I was lucky to have that natural disposition. An eternal optimist. Finding (some) good in everything. And why not? I’d never endured devastating trauma. I was never, and will never be, the same after Lila died.
For a while, it was impossible to believe what my therapist(s) told me: “You will heal” or “you are healing.” “Bullshit.” was always my immediate, internal, response. I didn’t have the heart to say it out loud – until a few years, and therapists, later. The realization that healing felt like a betrayal to my daughter’s memory was illuminating. I associated her with my pain. Through that association, the pain of losing her, I craved feeling broken. I willed myself to hold onto that pain, and that darkness, because the more it hurt the more I must love her. There are still days, now, where I completely fall apart. Some days, I spend every waking hour teetering on the edge of sorrow. And every single day, good or bad, I live with a pain in my heart. And I know I always will. But there is more light now.
There is no secret, there is no guide, and there is no fast track to finding light again. It will find you. And I know how impossible that may sound depending on where you are on your journey – because I’ve felt it, entirely. You will feel the warmth you once knew in a world that you once loved. You won’t feel guilty for smiling or laughing. The world will never feel, or look, the same as it did before you lost your baby, but familiar feelings of happiness will return. Going back to things that brought me my earliest joys in childhood were crucial in returning light to my soul — mainly music. Connecting with other dads who were going through what I was going through, when I spent so much time feeling alone, alienated, and confused, gave me a renewed feeling of strength.
I can’t presume what worked for me is guaranteed to work for anyone else. The power of music, conversation, and connection have been paramount in my healing process. But I can say with confidence that if you’re continuing forward, you’re already doing the hardest part. No matter how absolutely shattered you feel on those toughest days, no matter how many times you excuse yourself to the bathroom to sob – you are resilient, strong, and more capable than you know. Falling apart does not make you weak. That’s now part of living, and that makes you strong. I’m really fucking proud of myself. And wherever you, fellow dad, are – I’m really fucking proud of you.