When I reached down to pick up the box, it took little strength to carry. How could this loss cause me to drag my feet with the heaviness of despair, yet her coffin was comfortably secure in the partially tensed muscles of my arms?
I made the walk past the rows of mourners and placed the casket on the table which was framed by beautiful flowers. To the right, a tall silver stand held her picture. I placed one hand on the corner of the white box that held our dreams. I stood silently — my eyes straining towards the ceiling — begging for a glimpse of her as the music that filled auditorium faded off, leaving only a few distinct sniffles and the identifiable low humming of muffled crying.
In my pocket, I had four pages neatly folded. Words that I had prepared for this unplanned day were eagerly awaiting my voice to give them life – my voice to reach out to those who had attended this dreadful day.
I made my way to the open seat beside my wife. Her body was trembling softly as a path of tears streamed down her face. Fifteen-minutes passed and it was my turn to speak. I leaned forward and placed my elbows on my knees. I was shaking. I actually had been anticipating this moment. I had a message of hope in the midst of our storm. I had a challenge to administer by not letting our loss go in vain. Now seconds before I was to stand up and address the crowd, I wasn’t sure if my heart, my nerves or, more importantly now, my legs would comply.
One touch changed all of that.
My wife. Beautifully strong. Always.
Her hand rested gently on the small of my back and slowly rubbed. She was broken, hurting and incomplete. She was weak, wore-out, stressed, unsure and unable to make sense of any of the occurrences that had transpired over the last several days. Yet, through the haze of tear-filled eyes, she saw my angst as I leaned forward on that church row and reached through her selflessness to extend comfort to my ailing heart.
I remember that moment so incredibly vivid. One gentle touch of unity, love and support was all that was needed to allow my shaky lean-to transform into an upright stance and eventual first step towards the microphone.
All grief is different. All losses are particular. All women channel the process uniquely. Men do the same. In my instance, I had a desire, very early on, to make this loss count for something here on Earth. I would use writing. I would use my voice. I would use anything I could. My wife and I decided that any good that came out of our tragedy would be claimed as a direct result of us losing Bella.
Naturally, I am more inclined towards my emotions than most men I have come across or met. Whereas you can find me in front of a television on Sunday afternoon screaming at my favorite over-paid athletes on the grid-iron, later that night, you may also find me hiding a few tears during the ending scenes of the film The Notebook.
Unfortunately there isn’t one answer to the question, “How do I get the grieving father to talk about our loss?” There isn’t one thing that will automatically have the father of the child lost pouring out his heart, running to counseling or even admitting that he hurts.
However, there is one thing that he needs.
Your love. Unconditional. Unbridled. Unsuspecting.
The daunting task of facing our loss head-on was overwhelming, especially with no reference point. The life that we had started to decorate with over-sized ribbons, pink dresses and stuffed animals was now unhinged, shattered and thrown about in a million pieces of what-could-have-been. The debris of dreams were spread out at our feet awaiting assembly — minus the manual.
The love from my wife was what I needed to fill in the gaps of uncertainty that appeared at every corner. While we stood in the silent hospital, she reached out to hold my hand. While we gasped at the size of the casket in the funeral home, she leaned over and kissed me. While I hesitated to stand up and speak at Bella’s funeral, she rubbed my back. While I screamed in anger at how mad I was about our loss, she silently listened with caring eyes focused on the heart of me.
Don’t expect the process of expressing your emotions about your loss to be as visible when regarding your significant other. Instead, patiently love. It may be days, weeks, months, perhaps there will never come a day where the words of what are inside his heart come tumbling out, but they are there.
The father of the child lost may seem light-years away from where you are, in your grief, in your journey or in your progress. There are so many delicate levels to this very complicated matter. An unnatural gap is left where your child would have been. It may be incredibly frustrating to not have an open line of communication, but do not let that cause you to discredit his hurt. Seeking help is something I highly recommend but in the end, it will come down to the individual choice.
My wife and I have had many talks. We have attended Grief Share courses. We have decided to work on a few projects to get our story out in efforts to help someone else. We have heard feedback from all around the world, literally. However, with all that Bella’s story has done to help others, change lives, reach hurting moms and dads, the simple touch of my wife’s hand on my back to let me know she was there, is still the most admonishing and encouraging moment of my journey so far.