Monthly Archives: October 2015

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.



The Paradox of Healing

andrews wellThe Paradox of Healing is that it is both holding on and letting go.
We hold on to memories, and we let them go.
We hold on to feelings, and we let them go.
We hold on to an old way of being because the self we still are resides there,
And we let go to a new way of being, so the self can live on.
     Poem by Molly Fumia (through our dear friend Emily)

I read this poem and it touches me so deeply – it is so meaningful. We all want to and need to heal. We all want to keep moving forward with our lives – even after the loss of our children. But we don’t want to forget them, and we want them to be there as we forward with our lives. We want to keep them in our hearts and in our minds, but we don’t want our memories and love of our children to debilitate us, stifle us, and stop us in our paths. We want people to know that there is a permanent hole in our hearts, one that will never heal or get better – even with time. But we also want to love others and be open to love with our entire unconditional heart.

When we smile and laugh, some people seem to think we are better. But we are not. When we sell our home and move on to another home, people say it is good that we are leaving those memories behind. But we are not. When we have another child, people think the new child replaces the love and pain we have for our lost child. But it does not.

We are like a broken statue or torn painting. They can be glued and fixed, retouched and repainted, fixed to the point of looking new. But it is still broken and damaged. No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, it will still be in need of repair, and will forever be damaged.

CCI09272014_00019Healing. Healing from a wound or an injury is something that can be measured. Healing from a car accident or from a fall can be quantified, measured and tracked. That type of healing is a trip. It has a beginning and hopefully an end. It can be short, or very long, but there is an end in sight, and a person can achieve healing. After it, you can go back to who you were, and put it behind you.

But the tragedy that we have endured, the loss of a child, is not a trip. It is a journey. A journey that we will be on for the rest of our lives. Struggling with for the rest of our lives. There is no end. There is no cure. There is no mile marker 0 at the end of the road that we wish to see one day. It is an endless journey of grief. Of course the grief lessens over time, we cry less, we open up more, we learn to live with our loss. But we never heal. The road that we are on has no happy ending, no happy ever after, it doesn’t end.

During the never-ending healing process we have our memories and our feelings. Some of them fade over time, some of them we learn to cherish more and re-tell them as often as we can. But we also make room for more memories, newer memories, newer feelings. We try not to push out the old, but we have to make room for the new. We don’t want to forget, we don’t want to move on – but we learn that we cannot live if we cannot make room for love and for new memories in our lives.

DSC_0843That is the paradox that we live with every hour, every day, every month, every year. What can we remember, and what can we chose to forget. Or do we choose not to forget anything, and just make more room in our lives for the new?  Those who do not make room for the new will never heal, unfortunately. Those who stop living the day their child died – have died as well. We want to move on in our children’s honor, and to honor their memories – that is what they would have wanted. We need to honor their lives, cherish their memories, and put our pain and sorrow into a pocket, or a cubbie,  that we know is always there, but that does not stop us from living the lives our children could not. That is the paradox of healing.