Thoughts from Rachel's Father
Jonathon L. Andell
On Dealing With The Workplace Environment, And How To Deal With People's Questions Of How Many Children We Have ...
When my loss was as new, I questioned everything I did, thought, and said - both before and after Rachel died. So did my wife.
I had to get back to work only weeks after our loss. It was rotten, because this place has a bulls__t macho culture that is NOT sympathetic to emotional outbursts - and I had no place to break down in privacy.
About two and a half months after Rachel died, we traveled to visit my mother. At a restaurant a well-intended waitress asked us if we had children. My wife answered that "we're trying". Then the guilt started setting in - if we failed to mention Rachel, were we denying or short-changing her?
Unfortunately, the reality is that there are social situations that can become terribly awkward when the death of a loved one is discussed. I even sense discomfort sometimes when I mention happy memories of my baby while she was alive.
As a result, I don't have a "one size fits all" response to the question about whether I have children. If the truth is not awkward, I am proud to tell of my beautiful, wonderful baby. I also wear a memorial pin, and answer truthfully about it when asked.
However, I do not discuss Rachel's life or death among those who clearly don't care. I also minimize the discretionary time I spend with those people. My rationale is that these people are unworthy of Rachel's memory, and that I'll bestow it upon my true friends.
Of course, it's easy to write such words, but in truth it's darned difficult to get through unexpected challenges with this bravado. I wish I was immune to insensitivity, but it does hurt.
On Feeling Guilty If We Feel Happy Or If We Aren't Actively Thinking About Our Departed Loved Ones ...
Fifteen days from today will mark the date when Rachel would have been eighteen months old. Sometimes several days go by without a conscious thought of her. And yet, her life and death permeate everything about our existence. We have pictures and literature all over the place. Any time something to do with a baby comes near, our "antennas" go up. I find myself behaving in ways I never did before she came or while she was alive. And tears well up at the darndest times.
A few months ago, the movie "Hook" was on TV. When Robin Williams' Peter Pan character needed a "happy thought" to fly, he remembered the birth of his child. In that instant I was transformed from a generic couch potato, into a bawling basket case. Can I honestly say that I wasn't thinking of Rachel before that moment?
I never will be able to express all of my love for Rachel - not the joy of her life, nor the sorrow of her death, nor the myriad of things I wish I had done differently - just in case they might have changed the outcome. But time has allowed me to accept that I am a good father in her death, just as I was a good father in her life.
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