Month Five is Worst

I’m sure there is a book somewhere that says Month Five after the death of a child is worse than Month One. I’m also sure reading it wouldn’t make any difference.

This week, I have turned into a hateful angry person. I have blown up at home multiple times. Everything my wife Heather says hits me wrong. I’m embarrassed that my kids have seen me this way. Not to mention Heather, and probably some neighbors.

I feel myself becoming someone I don’t respect. It feels like there is nothing I can do about it, just like I can’t do anything about the weather. Or Olivia. It’s all just sort-of taking its course. I have such an extremely uncomfortable sense of no-control.

A New Enemy

For the past couple of years, I have been waving the flag of “Fear is the enemy” and I have been fighting Fear on a daily basis. I think I have done pretty well at it. But I feel like the battle has shifted for me, and it shifted without me noticing.

Control is my new enemy, or the desire for it.

I just want to feel like I have a handle on something. Anything. I want to feel like something is under control.

Seeking Control

I have been drawn to researching better tools more than usual lately, and I think this explains why. It is something for me to control. With better tools, I have the perception of controlling my work and my life that much better.

I have felt the need for our house to be clean, even more than usual. It’s something controllable which makes me feel incrementally better.

I have been more on top of practice and exercise than ever—something I can control.

But despite the amount of care I put into these things, they are relatively unimportant things to me—much less important to me than things like Olivia’s life, our other kids’ health, my health, my career, Heather’s words… the things most important to me… the things I have absolutely no control over.

Control is Elusive

So I grab onto the things I can control. But it is not helping.

Deep down I know I didn’t have what it took. I couldn’t save Olivia. I can’t protect my kids from everything. And I can’t make Heather respect me. The reality is, I am not in control.

I hate the feeling. But I think I am making the battle about the wrong thing. The exact wrong thing. I can’t be concerned with regaining a sense of control. I must be willing to accept the reality of my situation, and the situation is and has always been: I am not in control.

Freedom Comes with Letting Go

Freedom is on the other side of this truth. The most important things to us are outside of our control. Maybe that is why they are so valuable to us – we know they are only ours because they have been given.

Is the battle shifting, or am I just experiencing a new facet of the same fight?

Fear is becoming less of the issue. It is there. It is not helping anything, but I can’t get rid of it either. I can’t just “not be afraid”. I can only pretend… But what if I can be okay with that? What if I can allow Fear to be there – to give it that freedom without my normal response?

My normal response to Fear is control. What if instead, I choose to respond by letting go? Wouldn’t that take away all of Fear’s power?

This is excerpted from Nathan’s book, Dance Again: Grief is Healing.

Check Nathan’s website: Nathan Peterson, Singer Songwriter | Official Website

Read more by Nathan on Open to HopeFinding ‘Great Things’ in Disaster – Open to Hope


Nathan Peterson

Chicago-based singer-songwriter Nathan Peterson has been creating music as Hello Industry for two decades. After four album releases and numerous iterations of Hello Industry’s live show, including their fully classical Black and White concert, Nathan has stripped everything down to only a guitar, his voice, and a song. Nathan is currently celebrating the release of two solo albums and two books — So Am I: Life, Living, and Letting Go and Dance Again: Grief is Healing — about the life and passing of his daughter, Olivia, as well as his latest Single Release, Masks: a song about finding togetherness in the midst of covid. During Nathan’s 20 years of writing, recording, and performing, he has created a body of work which invites our culture to rest, here and now, in the midst of the storms of life. Nathan’s words and voice invite us inward, toward our own Center, where our fear is the loudest; where our strength and hope are their brightest. Born in Chicago and raised in Germany, Colorado, and the cornfields of Sycamore Illinois, Nathan now lives with his wife and 5 children in Chicago.

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