Wednesday, April 4, 2018


I began writing this thing on March 11th, 2008.

About a week ago, for the first time in seven years, I opened this up, and I read it beginning to end. I didn't plan to, it wasn't some grand purpose, I just opened it up, and it gathered its own momentum. Much of it feels like dispatches from another country, and another time. This is how my life was, once. It's not how it is now. It didn't feel bad, strictly speaking, to revisit this account of this part of my life, but it did feel largely foreign. I felt acutely the time and distance. 

I began writing this a little more than two months after the death of my sons. It was an incomprehensible blur of a time, swallowed by shock and numb incomprehension. I would feel things, think things, experience things, and have no idea what to do with them. But before their death, I knew how to write. I'm an academic, I have to write (and worse, grade the writing of others) as central to my job. Before that, I wrote creatively. I'm comfortable with language. It made sense as a medium, as a channel for my rage and sadness and platform to hash out something for which nobody can be prepared.

So I began writing this thing.

It's a little more than ten years since then, now. Ten years since S. and I lost our sons to the cruel whims of genetics. For about three of those ten years, this was my voice, and other people spoke to me through their own experiences. I discovered that we weren't alone in this. I mean, on a daily basis, we were. But there were others out there. And so I yelled into the void, hoping that if I yelled long and loud enough, I could will myself to healing, to understanding. And I got responses, and they helped.

But, to be honest, after a certain point, I was overwhelmed.

You never want for writing about your grief to become an obligation or a job. After a point, I didn't feel like I had anything new to say. In reading this now, I see the same themes, images, jokes, examples, come up again and again. My language was limited. What felt like optimism then reveals itself now to be denial, my mantra that things were getting better, that we would get through this, that there was light at the end of the tunnel. That was me telling myself what I needed to believe to keep going.

After a certain point, it didn't help anymore.

The year following my last post here was a bad one. S. wasn't getting better. She was slipping further into depression. I couldn't help her, it took everything I had to keep my own head above water. I was functional enough to work, so that's what I did. I felt like I was carrying a lot - I felt like I was carrying our survival on my shoulders, and I couldn't stop, I couldn't rest. I had to keep going, and endure. Because I could function, I had to function, and 2012-2013 was its nadir. I didn't have anything left that wasn't doing my job, a one-year gig that uprooted us to a different city, looking for the job that would - would have to - replace it, and pay what bills I could, cook food, do laundry. Everything I felt got shoved to the back of my head to focus on what was in front of me: Keeping a roof over our heads, looking after S. to the extent that I could, which was not much.

A lot of anger, a lot of resentment built up, and I shrank into myself.

There wasn't anything left for writing about it. I couldn't say any of it out loud. I had to put on a brave face. And that used up everything I had. I kept hoping things would get better, afraid they never would, and just put one foot in front of the other. Endured.

And things got worse before they got better. S. was in and out of the hospital. Substandard care, doctors and counselors who didn't listen, or who tried, but were overwhelmed by too many people to serve with too few resources. Both of us adrift, trying to hold on, barely able to care for ourselves, let alone each other. Those bright moments outlined in my posts here grew fewer and further between, the bar for "good day" got lower and lower.

And I didn't write about it here, because I couldn't say it out loud, even to myself. So I went quiet.

Every now and then, I'd see comments, or people would email me asking what happened, how we were doing. I couldn't even begin to respond to them. I'd have to say things out loud that I couldn't.

It still nagged at me, though. This thing felt unfinished.

I have a recurring dream, that I'm moving out of an apartment, and in trying to get everything packed, I discover a room full of stuff - boxes of things, shelves full of books, stacked on top of each other, covered in dust and cobwebs, and I am struck by the realization that I can't remember the last time I was in this room, that I had forgotten about all of these things, and overwhelmed by realizing just how much more work I have to do - where is it all going to go? Should I hold onto it? I feel bad for neglecting it, forgetting about it, locking it away.

It really struck me this year that it's been ten years since my sons died. Not bad, necessarily, just the awareness that that much time has passed, how much I've changed, for good or ill, since then. I feel much older than the person who wrote the posts here.

So, ten years later, I return to this thing, to unlock the door and do something with it. To provide an epilogue.

In the seven years since I stopped writing this, things did get worse with S, but they're getting better. We split up three years ago, our relationship another casualty of child loss. That's not entirely fair, the cracks came earlier than that, I think when I started grad school. It, and the move that accompanied it, changed the dynamic of our relationship in ways that didn't immediately damage it, but laid the groundwork. It took us awhile to find our feet, and after we did, then came the infertility, and then the loss, and those were wedges that just got driven deeper and deeper. We're still in touch, still close - as she observed, lack of love has never been our problem, and nobody but us will ever understand what we went through together - and it was as amicable a parting as one could hope for. I think we both realized that what happened to us was such a profound change that we needed to figure out who we were from the ground up, and we'd grown so codependent that that wasn't going to happen in the presence of the other. We needed a do-over. I'm rooting for her every day. We had plenty of time together, and I want her to find her happiness again.

S. still has her struggles - her trauma and grief and loss were embodied in way mine weren't, and it took her a long time to find people who would listen, who would take her seriously, who could actually help, who could provide effective treatment. She's still healing and is finding her feet, but she's brave and tough and resourceful on her own. And she's a genuinely good person which, all world events to the contrary, does count for something.

I found another job - something long-term, where I'm appreciated and where I fit. I'm in yet again a different part of the country entirely, and as on my own as I've ever been in my life. All of the grief and sadness and loss I spent years deferring - and how much was me needing to be the functional one versus just using that as an excuse to not deal with my feelings is still not clear to me. I was in a lot of denial, and being alone basically brought all of it home with interest accrued. After about five years of being varying degrees of a mess, I'm starting to see daylight, to consider what life might look like when it isn't defined by endurance, for the first time in fifteen years or so. (Like I said, grad school was rough.)

So this is the epilogue to my story. I don't know if any of the links on this thing work any more, whose voices are still out there, but I want to keep this preserved, as an account of this journey nobody wants to take. Especially for the fathers, because we don't get a lot in this to call ours. I wish I could say it had a happy ending, but it hasn't really ended, and happiness isn't an endstate. It's something you get along the way.

I'll just say this:There is hope. It doesn't always feel like it, and there will be stretches - days, weeks, months, years even - when it feels like there isn't. But there is.

There is hope.

I began this thing by asking "how did I get here?"

Well, literally and metaphorically, I'm not here anymore. But feel free to read, to take the trip, and get from it what you can.

There is hope.