We planned and planned for months, but nothing prepared me for that moment. Nothing prepared me to see the emotion of that day on his face. In that moment, and so many that have followed, I continue to learn how sensitive and sweet he truly is. And almost four and a half years later, one child here and two in Heaven, it was very telling of the journey we were about to embark upon.
I saw that smile with tears streaming down his cheeks again when our son was born. And just over two years later I saw him cry again. Only this time there was no smile. This time, with a sick and somber face he asked the question I was too scared to, "Is there something wrong with our baby?" Then the answer, and suddenly seeing him bury his face in his hands and weep for our unborn daughter.
Every dream and hope we had for her stolen from us in that moment. He will never get to take her to daddy/daughter dances. Never coach her in softball or watch her twirl. She will never ride on his shoulders or squeeze his face with her hands. He will never walk her down the aisle to meet her husband.
I grieve and ache for my daughter, but when I think about what my husband has lost too, it's almost too much to bear.
Shortly after Lily's diagnosis, we met with our pastor. He offered his prayers, the support of our church, and two pieces of wisdom I will never forget.
The first: He told us that we need to remember that we will each grieve differently and that is okay. He said the most important thing is to be aware that we will go through this differently.
The second: He looked directly at my husband and told him, "You need to talk about this."
We don't talk about child loss nearly as much as we should and we certainly don't talk about the dads much. So often the attention and focus is on the moms, after all we are the ones who carry our babies and for the most part, we may be the ones who visually show our grief.
The dads generally go back to work sooner. They may need to shut off their emotions in order to get through the day. They may put up a strong front to be able to take care of their wife. I'm even guessing people rarely ask them how they are really doing. More often than not, they hear people asking about the moms. I imagine they don't feel like they even have permission to grieve for their child.
The grief of missing Lily didn't really hit me until several months after she died. When the pain meds were gone the fogged finally lifted, and the shock wore off. The waves were washing over me and I could hardly catch my breath.
And I was mad at my husband.
Because he wasn't going through it like I was. He seemed fine. He could function. He could go to work. He had normal conversations. I was lying in bed one night while Jason was reading and I just started crying and I couldn't stop. Jason leaned over and held me and these four words he whispered was all I needed to hear, " I miss her too."
We grieve differently.
I am a writer. I write my pain. I write it down and share it with the world in hopes that it reaches the right people for the right reasons. I get it out of me. Sometimes it pretty and sometimes it's not. I close myself off from the world who doesn't understand me or even tries to. I cry. A lot.
For Jason, the grief builds and builds. It starts out slow and steady and he can handle it for awhile. And when it gets to be too much, he breaks. He cries. And then he talks. Sometimes to me and sometimes to one of the few people he lets in.
We are getting better at it...if that's possible to "get better" at grief. I can see now when it's getting to be too much for him and a wave is about to hit. Sometimes I know it means we need some "just us" time and sometimes I know he needs to talk to a dude.
But this is just my husband's story, how he is living this life without his daughter. There are many, many other dads out there who are missing one of their children, or several of their children, or ALL of their children.
And they are hurting. Whether they tell you or not. Whether they show it or not. They are hurting. Underneath that strong and brave exterior is a man who just wants to hold his baby again. And play catch with his son. Or give his daughter butterfly kisses.
But instead, his arms are empty. His eyes may be dry, but his heart is weeping.
Remember him and remember all the dads who we cannot see grieving.