Remembering Doria

One Father's Journey after the Death of his Daughter

The Stuff That’s Left Behind

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Beware the unplanned blog entry!

I was goofing around here late at night, doing something completely unrelated, and stumbled upon this story from January: http://thestir.cafemom.com/pregnancy/150440/dad_heartbroken_by_babys_death

Basically, a family went through the tragedy of losing a child right before the baby was due, and right after buying a nice stroller for the baby. That presented several problems: They didn’t need the stroller right away. The stroller was a huge reminder to the dad of their loss (and probably struck right at his heart to provide for the baby—just my own guess). Dealing with getting a refund meant explaining the story yet again, and that’s awkward at best. 

I think that’s one of the unsung difficulties when this happens. In my case, I know that my trip home to get our suitcase for Doria’s birth forced me to look at that right away. The day before Doria died, I had installed her car seat and had the police do their check on it. It was right there as a vivid reminder why I was driving home.

Some of the stuff was sitting in Doria’s crib or right next to it. Cribs are a pretty quick symbol, and it doesn’t take more than a second standing right there to know that the girl I built it for would never be there. The mobile that Becky and I built the night before was attached. That was hard to miss, and just pressed right at that wide-open wound. I never did ask the neighbors if they heard any crying or moaning while I walked around, mostly because I really just don’t want to know. 

However it goes, dealing with the stuff is a major issue. It just can’t be avoided. Getting ready for a baby, especially a first baby, involves bringing so much new stuff into the home that you simply have to deal with it right away. 

In my case, when we came home from the hospital, the car seat was removed and placed carefully in the basement within about 16 seconds, counting my walking time. We  still had some baby shower stuff from the week before that we were putting away. That went faster than we planned before.

Then there are other items that aren’t so readily dealt with. We didn’t have a ton of diapers, but I’d insisted on stocking up a little. We were really torn on that one, but decided that baby #2 would need them. Right now, we’re really happy about that. As we finally moved things around for the new version of baby’s room this weekend, it was nice to see that those are ready. In their case, though, they were just sitting in a corner out of the way.

The biggest of the items to me was the crib. I’ll never forget the war to build that thing, and the dominant victory I achieved by chucking the directions away from me and doing the obvious steps to build it. That was a great day, and I’m still proud of that thing, but we didn’t need it. That led to some interesting thoughts as we made our call:

1. Once you’ve built a crib once, you really don’t want to do it again. You never give back victories.

2. When a crib is up and it’s empty, you can’t avoid that reminder. Cribs only stay empty for a small handful of reasons. In our case, it was empty when expecting Doria, and empty while mourning Doria. That’s a real temptation to take it down.

3. We really didn’t have a place to store the parts, except to leave them right where they were. If the parts were going to stay right there, they’d still be a reminder, and the space is still occupied by the crib, but I’d have to fight that thing again. That seemed silly.

4. We wanted to get right after baby #2. Baby #2 would need a crib. We had a crib, and it was built. This one made the most sense to us, and filled my desire not to tear it down and rebuild it. 

In our case, that’s what we did. I kind of led us down the path of least resistance in a sense, with the idea that it would pay off for baby #2. Every decision was made with the idea of baby #2 coming along quickly. For her sake, I hope that baby #2 (Zoe) doesn’t have these decisions to make. They’re really odd thought processes to work through, and you can’t avoid them. The stuff that’s left behind is right there.

For this poor man in the story, I can imagine that first walk out of Babies’R’Us when it was too tough to tell the story. That happened at so many places for us, at least the painful awkwardness of it, and it still happens. That was a terrible day for that man. I don’t know him, but I know the stuff he had to work through. That’s the whole purpose of writing this one. His story moved me to write about the same thing.

So if you’re in that spot, and you don’t know what to do with the stuff, it probably doesn’t hurt (or maybe even help) to know this: You can’t go wrong on your choice. Whatever choice you make is going to have some benefits. Whatever choice you make is going to hurt a ton. If you take stuff back, you might feel like you’re quitting or betraying the child you just lost. I get that. I couldn’t return anything. If you keep it, you’re keeping a reminder that’s going to dig at you every time you see it. It’s going to hurt no matter what. That’s how this works. 

Just know this: You can’t make the wrong call. If you return it and have to buy it again, it’s a happy trip to the store (once you get through the awkwardness of returning to a baby store, which is plenty hard on its own). If you keep it and get to use it again, you’re miles ahead of where you were the last time. That was good for me, because it was tough for me to get going very quickly with the rainbow baby until things look and feel more certain. 

So, grieving dad, you don’t have to worry about it. You can’t really make the wrong decision on the stuff that’s left behind. It’s your stuff. It’s your grief, and it’s your future. You’re going to get this one right either way. 

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One thought on “The Stuff That’s Left Behind

  1. Sometimes it feels like getting stuff out of the house or out of sight will help in dealing with the grief. I think it’s important to realize that the grief is inside of you, so getting rid of the stuff doesn’t really change that. We made some choices after our son died that I wish we could do differently. Once we gave away things that belonged to Jason, there was no way we could get them back. (Jason was 19 when he died, so he had lots of stuff he left behind.) Granted: each situation is different and circumstances are different depending on the age a child died. As kids get older, they have more of their own “stuff” with some type meaning attached to the item. My suggestion, especially concerning an older child, is to put things in Rubbermaid tubs to store if you are not sure whether you want to keep something or not. That way you can keep them safe and decided at a later date when grief is not so fresh and time has allowed a little more perspective. Take your time deciding what to do with the stuff that’s left behind.

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