I grew up in a typical blue collar Midwest City where working hard and playing hard was a way of life.  Men were expected to toughen up when times got rough and plow through them.  There wasn’t room for weakness.  When things became too much, you headed to the bar for a few hours.  Nobody talked about what they were dealing with.  My dad and every other male figure in my life lived by these rules.  Since I didn’t know any better, I also subscribed to this way of thinking.

I was also taught that if you wanted something bad enough, you had to work for it.  I made a decision a few years out of high school that I needed to go to college if I ever wanted to change my situation and get out of a dead end job.  Since no one in my network of family and friends had ever gone to college, I really didn’t know how to go about doing it.

On a whim, I decided to enroll in night school at a local community college.  After a couple of years of working full time and going to school at night it was time to transfer to a university.   I applied to the engineering program at the University of Iowa and graduated a few years later with a Bachelors Degree in Engineering.

After much searching, I accepted a position with an engineering firm and moved to Chicago with my girlfriend, Christine, who had also just graduated as an engineer.  We were ready to take on the world.

We married a few years out of college and excelled in our careers.  Climbing the ladder was important to us.  I started a new career as a real estate broker and my wife continued to focus on her career.  I loved making money and impressing people with my skills.  I was driven by my definition of success and put off having children since I was too busy building my own little “empire”.

However, in 2003, we decided that it was time to have a child.  We soon found out that just because you are ready for a child doesn’t mean it will happen.  We were planners and not being able to conceive when we wanted to was not part of our plan.

After a series of fertility treatments, we conceived our daughter Katie.  We were excited to be parents but that excitement turned to sorrow when we lost Katie in the fall of 2004 due to severe fetal abnormalities.  I did what I had been taught to do.  After a couple of weeks, I toughened up and pushed though this horrible event and the pain I was feeling.  I did what every good husband is supposed to do; I became focused on helping my wife through this tragic event.  I buried my pain and grief somewhere deep inside and never talked about it.  I submerged myself in 60-70 hour work weeks to get my mind off of the loss.

After about a year, we decided that we would try to conceive again with the help of fertility treatments.  This time it was a little boy and we felt blessed that little Noah was going to be a part of our lives.  I had no idea how much of an impact Noah would have on my life.  Noah passed away in the summer of 2006 due to severe fetal abnormalities.  Again, my life would be changed forever, but this time I couldn’t bury the pain.

I didn’t want to get out of bed and for the most part, I didn’t for about 3 months.  All of the pain from the loss of Noah and all of the pain I buried deep inside after the loss of Katie rushed to the surface.  I couldn’t cope.  I called work and told them I would be gone for an extended absence.  I didn’t know when or if I would be back.  If the job was there when I got back, great, if not, I understood.

I tried to fight the grief for a short period of time, but there was no burying it this time around.  The journey was extremely hard and much longer than anticipated.  I eventually went back to my job after being off for several months.  I would sit at my desk every morning and cry, mourning the loss of my sweet babies.  I couldn’t wait for the end of the day so I could escape the confines of my cubicle that continually felt more and more like a prison cell.

I wanted to run away from everything, but didn’t know where to go. I was too sad to actually make it happen.  I would sit at my desk and search the Internet for information and clues as to what was wrong with me.

My doctors told me I had depression; I didn’t believe them.  Something else must be wrong with me.  I could control my response to every other thing that has happened to me in my life, but not this.  I finally gave in and realized I needed help.  I met with counselors and finally admitted that I was dealing with depression that was a result of suppressed grief.  I refused to give in and was determined not to let this define me.  There were days I could have easily thrown in the towel.  For the first time in my life, there were days I didn’t care if I died.  I wasn’t suicidal, I just didn’t care.

Once I started talking about my losses and the pain and sadness I carried around with me as a result, people started to reach out to help me.  However, it wasn’t the same people or friends that I had always associated with.  These were people that I probably would never have met.

They were people who have gone through other difficult things in their lives.  They were people that didn’t judge you or feel uncomfortable when you started to cry while telling them your story.  They embraced you and checked in with you on a regular basis. They would take your calls regardless of what they were doing at the time.  They provided me compassion, sympathy and hope.  They never told me to toughen up and plow through it.  They taught me perseverance and how to handle the loss in a healthy way.  By acknowledging my losses, I was able to release the pain, grief, depression and despair ever so slowly.

I made a promise to Katie, Noah and myself that once I was strong enough, I would reach out to other dads that have lost a child and help them come to terms with their loss and to help them find their way.  After you lose a child, it is virtually impossible to continue on through life as if nothing happened.  You can’t run from it, nor can you hide from it.

Society expects men to do these things, to be strong, but it’s not realistic or fair to ask a father to do this.  The best thing any father can do for himself and for others around him is to reach out for help and to know it is not a sign of “weakness”; it’s a sign of courage, courage to face these feelings head on.

There is no time frame for healing after such a loss.  Some days your emotions will win, but gradually over time it will dawn on you that you are prevailing and a new you is starting to emerge.  Maybe the new you will be someone you don’t recognize, but in time you will realize this is the new you and you will learn to live with this person.

I look and feel different now. The stress of their deaths has sprinkled some gray into my hair and lines on my face.  It has taken a part of me that I know I will never get back.  My definition of success has changed.  I no longer feel like I am rushing around all of the time trying to prove myself to the world.  I am no longer the go-to guy at work.  I do my job, but I don’t do it as if I want to run the company someday.  I could easily be persuaded to run off to a simpler way of life.

I have enrolled in a Masters Program to obtain a Counseling Degree.  I am not sure if I will finish it, but it has helped me “do something” other than sitting around dwelling on my losses.

I know Katie and Noah would want me to make a positive impact on other’s lives, which I hope to do with this project.  The idea of helping others helps me.  Material things do not hold much meaning to me anymore.  Spending time with my wife and my dog Buddy is much more satisfying than working long hours to acquire material items that do not provide happiness.

I now know that it’s okay to show emotions and that it’s not a sign of weakness.  I prefer a quiet and peaceful life.  To be quite honest, I am fairly confident that even if I wanted to, I couldn’t maintain the same pace as before the losses, but I now know that’s okay.

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Kelly Farley

Kelly Farley is a bereaved father that has experienced the loss of his two children over an eighteen month span. He lost his daughter Katie in 2004 and son Noah in 2006. During that time he realized that there is a lack of support services available to fathers suffering such a loss. As a result of that realization, he is working on his first book as a resource for Grieving Dads. He created and maintains a website for this project at www.GrievingDads.com. Kelly has also written several articles on the subject of men’s grief and has traveled throughout North America to interview other grieving dads in order to create a resource book that captures the experiences of other men on this journey. His book will be completed by the end of 2010 and is expected to highlight 30-40 real life inspirational stories from dads that have survived the loss of a child. He is on a mission to bring awareness to men’s grief and provide hope to the many men that often grieve in silence due to societal expectations.

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