Father to an Angel and one on earth. This is my story of the biggest struggle of my life.
This article will contain a discussion of stillbirth and the emotions surrounding the night it happened. I will be sharing some pictures of him. Please read with caution. My goal is to use this story to help at least one person. I never want anyone to feel as though they have to go through this alone or not know what comes next. This is an account of the worst day of my life. Nothing will come close to the loss my wife and I suffered, but there is a silver lining. We made a promise to never give up on each other and to never quit. I am going to try and make this a personal conversation between me and you.
Zeke and His Dad
Silver on the Cloud
Almost as fast as the tragedy hit, it was over and we were headed home. We made our way out to the car, slowly packing up the suitcases we sat down inside. Barely driving through the parking lot just trying to not cry long enough to make the 10-minute drive home. BAM! Just as I passed a parking spot a car backed out of its spot and hit side of the car. I have never exited a car so quickly, I was already on the passenger side of our car before the other car was even in park. I was furious, all the emotions from this weekend were on my sleeve. The second hardest thing I'd ever done was an attempt to calm down and not chew the girl's head off. I did not realize it at the time but that would be the first of many hard things I would have to do to heal. We exchanged information and parted ways and went home. My sister was a hero during this time because she had already set up a meal train for us. Neither of us wanted to eat or cook or even order food. Nothing sounded good, we hardly slept mostly taking naps between hours of crying or staring at walls. When we did sleep it was non-stop nightmares. I was scared, how was I going to go back to work with only one week to get my mind right? My job as a Garage Door Technician is quite dangerous I could not afford to get hurt because my mind could not focus. One evening when my parents-in-law came to visit my Boss and Father-in-law told me that he was going to give me a second full week. I immediately broke down and bawled my eyes out thanking him for the extra time. I vaguely remember next 6-8 months, I remember carrying my son to his grave visibly shaking as I held his tiny casket. My Brother-in-law agreed to help me carry Zeke and still to this day I have no way to tell him what that meant to me. How do you thank someone for helping you carry your son to his resting place? This unspoken appreciation, eye contact, and a nod seemed to be more than enough. After this the rest of the year is a blur, I do not remember Thanksgiving or Christmas, or New Years. Slowly the constant crying slowed and I mistook this for healing, I was still depleted and could hardly talk about the subject and I did not work the 22nd of each month for a long time.
This is where the first of my survival tips start, NEVER stop pouring love and patience into your spouse. you both have very short fuses and you will spout off at each other, just remember you both have a broken heart and things will seem much more serious. Heck, you just went through the hardest thing in life. Burying your child is something that should not have even been an event in your life. if you can only manage one thing be patient. I am eternally grateful for my wife she was there for me when I was drunk and screaming at life for robbing us of our gift, yelling at God for Taking the only thing in life I wanted. Likewise, I was there for her during similar events. We began to get vicious about controlling where the blame went. it was not my wife's fault or my fault. It is just an event that happened and we needed to not hate each other. The start of true healing was when she pushed me to begin therapy and it took her months to convince me to make the call. I didn’t want to I felt I didn’t need it because I was “healing”, not bawling my eyes out every single day. I thought this was progress but it was nothing to what I would later experience after going to one session.
I started therapy somewhere at the beginning of 2021. Granted my memory is fuzzy because of the trauma I was in survival mode for so long that I forgot a lot of things. I do remember the first session I have with him. I thought I would be tough and pulled together and not break down immediately… boy was I wrong. We talked about the normal therapy stuff and once that was over we got into the meat and potatoes of why I was there. My eyes filled with tears as I told him that I was robbed of joy and happiness and felt betrayed by God. It was healthy he knew my pain, he didn’t elaborate but he explained that he had been through something similar.
We made a game plan. What did I want out of therapy?
The ability to talk about Zeke without crying
To feel some amount of hope again
To heal so I could help my wife better
To trust God again
Ultimately to help others with his story because I was not about to let this define my life as only a parent of an angel.
I had my goals and now it was time to start from the beginning. We talked about Zeke and I lamented that I had no memories of him. He corrected me and asked what about the pregnancy I remembered. I told him I remembered how full of energy he was and how once he kicked me in the ear he would respond to my voice. I did have memories, I couldn’t argue with that and I had to focus on those events. These little things helped me feel like I had lost a little less during the experience.
Another new development in my life was panic attacks. I’d never had them before and when the first one hit it scared the crap out of me. I was driving home after work and my wife asked me to grab a few things on the way home, not a big deal, and then I got cut off in traffic, also not a big deal, but then my breathing became shallow. I started seeing things out of the corner of my eye. I stopped blinking. All I knew was that I had to get off the road because things were getting worse. I got into a parking lot and slammed on the brakes screeching to a stop, throwing it in the park, and calling my wife. “I can’t do it, I can’t do this, everything is wrong”. She calmly asked me what had happened and I told her. She reassured me that everything was ok and we were both safe and just to get home safely. She walked me off a ledge be it a small ledge but it was the first one I was at the edge of. My wife has had panic attacks before and I would always walk her through them the best I could not knowing what it was like, kind of blindly saying things in hopes it would work. Now it was my turn, she calmed me down and I slowly made my way the few miles. When I got home and collapsed from the strain of being in control for that long and all my emotions came out. She gave me the best advice ever, write down what happened while it’s fresh and talk about it. So I did I wrote down what went on before the attack and during and after and what helped me. In the next session, we worked through why I had the panic attack and the feelings behind it. He asked a set of questions and then made notes. A few more and then more notes. We finally came to the beginning of the emotion. I WASN'T ENOUGH. I felt I could have done more, I could have pushed harder at the doctor appointments for answers, if I would have been a better person he would have lived. I felt inadequate to be a parent, I felt shame for “letting” my kid die.
Please remember right now that I am being blunt for the parents who have lost their little ones. For those who are reading this to support them to know that your effort means the world to them.
My therapist assured me that nothing I did or didn’t do caused Zeke's death. The only fault was that of the devil who comes to only hurt people. I am a Christian, I have been raised in a Christian school and church and everything else Christian. My world got rocked and now I have a personal beef with the devil. I had a beef with God too. How could a God that knows the desires of my heart let the one thing I ever wanted to slip away in the night never to see him smile or hear his laugh or see a twinkle in his eyes? This was my crossroads, my river to cross, my castle to siege, this was an all-out fight for my mentality. As we closed our session, I came out with a game plan to take back my life by force. I could not be passive about this, it would not work itself out, I would have to get aggressive and take my progress by force because it was not coming without effort.