By: Adam Carpenter
In November of 2017 my life changed forever.
My wife and I unexpectedly lost our first daughter at 23 weeks gestation. The pain and emotions that I was feeling were stronger than anything I had ever felt before. I was terrified that this was going to take over my life in a negative way.
“After a few weeks, it was clear to me that I could not overcome this by myself.”
So, I sought out services at Full Circle. My wife and I joined the Perinatal Loss Group. I was skeptical, and nervous, as I showed up at the group the first night. However, after the first session, I felt a sense of belonging thanks to the support of fellow parents of child loss, specifically other bereaved fathers. I was not looking for someone to take my pain away, I simply needed someone to confirm it. I saw such a positive impact from participating in my first group that my wife and I signed up for a second one.
It was during those groups that I committed to myself that this situation was going to impact my life, and more importantly other’s lives, in a positive way.
From the moment we got the bad news, my life turned into an emotional rollercoaster…and I wanted off ASAP.
In the beginning (right after we lost our daughter) the waves were huge. Even worse was the fact that I never saw them coming so they completely wiped me out. There were plenty of long, hard, confusing and sad days early on.
Over time, as I learned more about the grief process, and about myself, I found myself starting to see the waves as they were coming. They were still big, but at least I could identify them and prepare for the storm. As I progressed with my journey, I learned to navigate and negotiate my way through the waves…I learned to ride them rather than get pummeled by them. Slowly but surely they became smaller and smaller and more time passed between each one.
Looking back on my experience, I realized that one of my coping strategies was to keep my body moving. Because I couldn’t control the situation with my daughter, I looked to have a healthy outlet for my grief. I found that blowing leaves and listening to music was very therapeutic for me. I used the act of physically doing something to help me mentally work through my grief and found satisfaction in having control over something. I even created a grief playlist, which I still listen to regularly. In 2018 AND 2019 my most listened to songs were on that playlist.
Another one of my main outlets for my grief was to look in my daughter’s room. I literally looked in her nursery every night for 1.5 years. It’s almost like I enjoyed the pain. Sometimes when your baby dies, your only real connection to them is through your pain. And, I was certainly not ready to let it go. I felt like if I stopped looking in her room, somehow I would be accepting the past and moving on.
All in all, I learned that you don’t move on, you move forward. I am still on this journey and always will be. There are still really good days and really bad days. I’ve come to recognize, and in a weird way appreciate, my new normal.