Punched in the Stomach

I got punched today, real hard, in the stomach.

IMG-20130709-00004I was driving my car in town this morning when a teenager, about Andrew’s size and height, wearing a tie dye shirt like Andrew used to wear, hair just a tad too long like Andrew had his, and blue jeans with a few tears in them, rode right past me on a skateboard. He didn’t know me, but when he saw me watching him, he nodded and waived to me – just like Andrew would have. Just out of the kindness of his heart. And I had that deep empty feeling in my gut; another punch in the stomach that I was not ready for.

The week before that I was doing okay. Well, as okay as I ever am. Then Friday came, and although I was avoiding looking at it, I looked  at my datebook and saw this entry for Friday evening – “8:00 Temple for Andrew’s kaddish.” And there it was again. Thud – that punch to the stomach that sent me sitting down and almost doubling over in pain. I knew it was coming all week, but there it was. Today was Friday and I was going to temple to say kaddish for my son – for my only boy. His name was read that evening, along with the other yahrzeits. The Rabbi paused for just a millisecond when he read Andrew’s name, i took a deep breath, and I felt that punch. I could barely utter the words of the prayer, and was so grateful for the few close friends who joined Dorothy and me that night, who picked up the slack and said the words that I could not.

Andrew with Uncle LarryIt has been two years now. And i still get punched in the gut every so often – more often than I care for or that I can take. It is not as often as it used to be in the beginning, when it would be every day, sometimes a few times in a day. Out of the clear – whack. I would get that ever so painful punch deep in my gut that would bring tears to my eyes, prevent me from saying the words to finish a sentence, or just make me sit down and gather myself together and catch my breath. I read something recently about the waves of pain. As we get further along in our journey, the waves that were a hundred feet tall, and twenty feet apart, become thirty, forty, or fifty feet apart. Maybe every one of them is not a hundred feet tall. Maybe some of them are ninety, or eighty, or seventy feet tall. But they are always there. They keep coming in, one after another. Just like the punches.

As I said, the punches get further and further apart for me. Or maybe they are not that far apart, maybe I am just learning to accept them more. Maybe they are not as hard and concentrated as they once were. Or maybe I am just getting used to being beaten in the stomach. Whatever it is though, the punches are still there.

Andrew & Mom at a Red Sox gameI know it is not just me. It is all of us. I see Dorothy gets punched as well – and that hurts me more than my own pain – knowing what she is going through. We were food shopping this past weekend, driving on Central Avenue, and I looked over to see her holding her gut, and tearing, and sobbing. There was nothing I could do; I don’t know what set it off. All I could do was just watch her pain, comfort her with a few soft words, and hope it would ease soon. Knowing that nothing I could say or do would really help much. It had to pass by itself. She had to accept it and deal with the pain in her own way – as she has done for the past two years.

Many years of karate lessons have taught me so many blocks to so many different punches – but the years never taught me about this kind of punch. The punch you never see coming; the punch that is brought on by your own memories and pain. You may learn how to block one of the punches once in great while or how to avoid one every now and then, but more often than not, they get through – straight to your gut, straight through to your inner soul.

Andrew was always happy when he wore his hockey jersey

As I tell other grieving fathers, and hear from others, the pain never goes away. The punches keep coming. You can expect that. But with time, a long time, they get further apart, less intense, and the pain gets lesser as well. I am only on this path for two years now, and I can tell there is a difference now, as I enter my third year. I have spoken to fathers who are five, six, or ten years into their journey of loss and they also say that the pain never goes away – ever. The gut wrenching punches are always there – our children as still gone. But you learn to deal with it more, you learn that every punch does not have to send you doubling over in pain. Every punch does not have to take your breath away, gasping for air. You learn to recover faster, and maybe you learn to be thankful for what you had.



12 thoughts on “Punched in the Stomach

  1. Angie

    It has been 4 years since we lost our son. The punches do come. The waves. Your words are so concise. My heart goes out to you and your wife. To your family.

  2. Sally Klein

    Yes, Perry, it has always felt like I was punched in the gut, taking my breath away and they do come in waves and unexpected like a “sucker punch”. Two years is nothing time-wise and I know your grief journey will be a long one, and unavoidable. So to cope, like you, I give myself a “gratitude adjustments” and thank Jill for being in my life for as long as we had together in this realm.

    Take care of yourself, Dorothy and Nicole.

  3. Warren Tabachnick

    Perry –

    I know it’s been awhile since I last commented on one of your posts. This one is especially heart-wrenching. The metaphors you use to describe your pain makes it very clear to others.

  4. Tammy

    November 22 will be 18 years since I lost my son. I am not going lie to you. I thought that the pain would ease, but in all reality my pain has not. It gets really tough around Thanksgiving because that is the day he got his wings. All that you and your wife can do is lean on one another and take one day at a time. I will pray for you and your wife. GOD BLESS

  5. Geri

    I believe that thier spirit finds a way to reach us here.
    At around thd one year date since losing my son a young msn who could pass for my son wearing gray sweats and gray hoodie and same sneakers he wore. As he walked toward my car he looked up from his cell and smiled at me. Im not sure if he felt my staring at him that made him look up. I instantly felt closer to my son. And cried the way home. But what are the chances that we would spot these young men at that point in our lives? I say they were a sign. I am always with you mom.

  6. Jonell Restivo


    I think about you all the time and carry your grief in my heart. You and your wife are stronger than you realize and I admire your strength.

    Keep posting your thoughts and photos with us, I appreciate every word along with the grief you live with every day.
    I have something for you and will shortly email you with more details.

  7. Teri loop

    It’s been 51/2 years for me and as I was reading I was punched yet amazed as I read how my words unable to speak were written for me. Although I’m not Jewish nor a father we have the bond of a child lost and thank you for sharing my heart

  8. Ellen

    It has been 18 years for me, 19 in February. I know that feeling well. And it is so true, it never goes away, it just becomes a part of you. In all honesty, at some point you do not want it to go away because it is a part of the memory of your child.

  9. Paul Kelly

    my heat goes out to you all, know the punches in the gut well 20/10 /1987 to 06/10/2007 my best friend and son Daniel died a horrific death in a burning car calling out for seven minutes “get me out” (cant magine the three trail bikers wouldn’t have some tool in their ute) plenty of rocks there anyway gutless wonders, I have forgiven them tho cant ever like them. Dan woulda got a dog out of that car but suppose they cant help being born without balls. Enough of my agony seeing accidents on the news is a punch in the gut we will all suffer for ever my fellow dads but have to be what our boys woulda wanted us to be no parent should bury their kids love to you all life just isnt fair.

  10. Robin chapman

    Punch in the gut. That’s exactly how I describe it. An unexpected punch in the gut. I’m so sorry for your pain…


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