We Live in a Constant State of Fear

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Being parents of a child who has transitioned into eternity has cut deep into our lives in many ways. But today, I would like to focus on one aspect.

The midnight hour falls. Ashlee and I lie in bed wide awake, overcome by the weariness from a busy day. Neither wants to move, but we both know we won’t sleep until we do. Everyone knows how cranky my wife can get when she hasn’t had her beauty sleep. I reluctantly get out of bed to begin the night’s ritual. I walk through our dark house, tripping over Barbies, stepping on legos, and holding in expletives.

This is a death trap

I enter the boys’ room. Switch on the light. And I stare at their chests to make sure they are breathing. Their chests rise softly, but I am unsure. My eyes could be playing tricks on me from the tiredness that weighs them down. The next step is to uncover their feet, and run a fingernail down an arch. Their foot jumps. Alive. Next room.

The girls are a little more difficult. Sometimes, they are shallow breathers. Sometimes they snore. When they snore, the whole room vibrates like a dragon’s lair, but you can never tell which one is snoring. I try to tickle their feet. No reaction. They have gotten immune to the nightly routine. I take more drastic measures. Eyelashes. My oldest daughter slaps herself in the face. I chuckle because I’m immature like that.  Irritated, but alive.

I can return to bed, and wait for the next time I awake, or when Ashlee wakes me rather, that night for rounds.

A net of fear has been cast over my family. We hide it. But it’s there. It has changed how we go about our day to day. It has changed our prayer life. It has changed what freedom we give our children.

Superstition has crept it’s way in. It’s not the black cat crossed our path, bread and butter kind of stuff the older generation used to participate in.

It’s what if the one night we skip our check is the wrong night? What if we forget to check on one child? What if God woke us up at 3am to tell us to recheck, and we simply were too tired to save the life of one of our kids? We get up and check every time.

We no longer just pray with our kids to have a good night sleep. Now we always add the addendum that they wake up happy and healthy so that God is very aware that we would like them to wake up.

The children are not amused.

They’ve wised up to our task. Who wants to be tickled, or irritated in the middle of the night? The other night, Ashlee went in to check about 2am. She reached to check on our daughter who spoke up, “I’m okay, Mom” in the most irritated voice she could muster. Well… She’s okay. We get it. Let you sleep. Sorry we poked the bear.

Does this look like a bear you want to mess with? (Actual photo of my daughter)

Losing a child alters the mind. If you are someone who has not had this experience, you simply wouldn’t understand it fully. It clings to you, as it should. You child will always be a part of you. But the pain that comes with it is something you’ll go measures to never have to feel again. There are superstitious parts of my mind that won’t even allow me to say certain things here because I was always taught that speaking things into existence could make them real. Yes, I know it’s crazy. But that doesn’t change the fact that it stays in the back of my mind.

Even the harmless activities I participated in the day my daughter passed have become taboo. I’m a gamer at heart. I can’t find myself playing video games anymore. I’ve tried, but I have to turn them off. It took me years to begin watching Anime again. I’m a nerd, who has been stripped of the ability to be one. The fear of recreating the night could make it happen again is there subconsciously.

Welcome to a peak inside the mind of a bereaved father.

Not everyone is a bereaved parent, but we all have our thing. Tell me I’m not alone.

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15 Responses

  1. Dawn ranabargar says:

    Well actually you are not alone… I’ve never lost a child so I don’t know what that feels like but I am that mother that checked on my son all hours through the night (heck I set up a bed in our bedroom that I made him sleep in until he was a teenager) fear of something happening.. He is now married and I talk to him every night before bed and every morning (early morning) just so I know that he is ok… We now have a little girl that we check on more hours through the night than we hours that we sleep (that is if she isn’t sleeping with us) I check to see if she is breathing, I feel her chest, I put my finger under her nose to feel the air as she blows out, one early morning I panicked and jerked her up out of bed and started yelling at Garry as she woke suddenly and started to cry because I scared her… The list of my fears for both of my children continue even as I grow older so trust me when I say you are not crazy and you are not alone with the fears and the constant checking on your babies… The struggle is real and I’m sure for someone who has lost a child this is normal… Love ya…

  2. Raine C. S. says:

    You very much are not alone. Bereavement is hard. There is no doubt that a part of the fear of losing a child will linger with you for the rest of your lives. The reality is though that nothing you did or could have done would have prevented what was meant to happen. As little sense as that all makes in life – I will always personally struggle with the whys. Of course, I don’t know all the details or anything else, but, I do know what type of person you and your wife seem to be and it does not strike me that you’re callous in your duties to protect and look after your children. At some point, you need to fully embrace the fact that life can be so damned unfair, but that it isn’t your fault. You’ll need to losen the grips of fear and not let it have that power over your family. It’s hard. Damned near impossible in fact, but, your wee one wouldn’t want you to suffer. Know that I understand and I’m your brother in bereavement. Know that Selah is remembered and cared about, even by people who didn’t have the blessing to know her. Know that if you ever need an ear to listen or a shoulder to lean on, I’m here – all you need to do is just reach out. Stay strong brother. Peace to you and your family.

  3. Cindy says:

    Beautifully written. I’m sure your words have touched a lot of people’s hearts. Peace to you and your family.

  4. Brea says:


  5. Kay says:

    All the hugs man. I lost my sister a couple years ago and saw (and see) my parents grieve. I get you.

  6. Sara says:

    Thank you for sharing something so personal. I cannot even imagine what you are going through. I can only say that I believe your courage and openness will speak to other parents who are looking for validation and healing.

    I have to say I love your vivid description of walking into the kids room and checking on them. Great work.

    • Joseph says:

      Thank you. It’s nothing if not vivid for us.

      That’s my one hope. That my story can impact someone else for the better.

  7. Shell says:

    You are not alone… I am deeply sorry for your families loss and my heart is filled with prayers for all of you…,

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