He met the neighbor and she asked how the baby was. I guess she hadn't heard. It's been almost five months. And he said, "She didn't make it."
He couldn't look at her. He had to look away. And she replied, "Oh, I am so sorry."
And he said, "It's okay."
And then he stopped and thought, "It's NOT okay! Why am I saying it's okay? What she asked is okay. But, that my daughter is dead, that's not okay. It's really not okay."
This is what Nick told me about one of his experiences with grief last week, that caught him by surprise. We talked about it. About how strange it is that at times we lie to people. We say that we are "Okay" when really, we are not. I guess we fear that people won't be able to hold our pain, so we hide it from them. And sometimes we end up comforting them. It's a bizarre phenomenon.
However, I was glad that Nick was able to talk to me about the exchange between him and the neighbor. I am happy that he opens up to me about his grief. I was so proud of him as we were laying in bed that night and he told me what he thought in his head at that moment. That "It's not okay. It's really not okay that Nora is dead." I also am proud that he was able to tell me that our loss is difficult for him too. I'm happy that he lets me into his little moments of pain, grief, and sadness. Like the other moment he shared with me eight weeks after her death.
I sat on the steps and waited for him as he walked in through the garage door. George greeted him with enthusiasm but Nick did not give G-man his normal welcoming. He had been crying.
"Honey, what's wrong?" I asked.
"It was a hard day. I ran into a guy who asked about her. He didn't know. He asked, 'How's being a dad?'"
I moved towards him and put my arms around him. I leaned into him and held him and listened as he continued, "And after I talked to him I walked by the board."
I pulled away and looked at Nick as I asked, "What board?"
"There is a baby board at work where people put up pictures of their new babies...I was really looking forward to putting her picture up there." He replied with sad eyes.
"You didn't tell me about this baby board. You walk by it every day?" As I asked this my heart broke as I envisioned my broken hearted husband having to pass by this baby board every day, in and out of work. How painful. Such torcher.
Nick sharing this with me was another moment of him letting me into his pain, to his grief. I was honored that he told me. I hope he keeps sharing these moments as we move forward together in grieving our daughter. I hope he shares them with me for the rest of our lives.
It's hard to know what it's like for a dad to grieve the death of his child. There isn't much literature out there about it. However there seems to be more dad's lately who are speaking out about their stories of grief. We need that.
It helped me so much when I read a passage in the book, "Strong and Tender: A Guide for Father's Whose Baby Has Died." Where a father wrote, "For her it was a relationship, for me it was an event."
I asked Nick about this passage as I read it while sitting on the couch two weeks after she died, "Is this how you feel?"
He replied with, "Yeah. That is exactly how I feel."
That hurt me inside. But it helped me understand how our grief is similar and different, because we both had different experiences with her. His was one of anticipation only. There's a lot of grief in that.
I hope Nick continues to share his "moments" with me. When he does I feel privileged to know the depths of his grief and the depths of his love that he has as a parent and a grieving dad for our sweet Nora.