Remembering Doria

One Father's Journey after the Death of his Daughter


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Bouncing Back

It has been a long time since I sat down to write, because it has been crazy here. The nice part about that is that it’s the best part of crazy, because it involves more ways of bouncing back from losing Doria, or maybe to say it better, bouncing forward.

I took some time during this last week of winter break preparing for an amazing spring semester class, and some time thinking back on all the steps to build this life after loss.

I remembered thankfully the time when I could get some help and get back that ability to read that a grad student in history needs. I remember getting past those times of worry and panic, and getting some stability back. I remember getting the ability to go full speed for a while, too. and what a blessing that was.

Towards the end of summer, there was one more step to bouncing back ahead. Every time I would make real progress towards my doctoral exams, another setback would happen. I rescheduled them twice, but at the end of summer, I found that I just had to ramp up one more time to get it done.

There was a problem there, and it was one that I never faced before. I didn’t want to. The wild ways that the brain can work was combining memories of loss with the bother of repeated setbacks to convince me that it couldn’t be done, so maybe I should just go ahead and quit. Since I hate quitting and I hate losing, that didn’t sound good. Since I really love and respect the people I study with, I really didn’t want to face them and say “I’m done. I just can’t ramp up again.” Most of all, I didn’t want my part of Doria’s story to be a failure story, too. There was no point putting myself through all that just to quit, and spend the rest of my life thinking it all would have worked if Doria had just lived.

So I remembered back to when I started grad school, when I didn’t have the grief weight and I had all the energy in the world. I decided that this all worked better when I was in shape and under control, and it was time to do that. Through a weird (really, it was weird) series of things, I looked up a program in town that combines kickboxing and resistance training, and declared to Becky that I was in. So far, it’s been a phenomenal few weeks, the energy is back, the doctoral exams are passed, and I can keep up all day with a toddler who doesn’t stop. On the other hand, it led to the words “unhinged enthusiasm” appearing on my student evaluations this semester, which may or may not be concerning. The main point, though, is that getting things under control this way helped me to bounce back and bounce ahead.

The whole point: If you’re a few months away from the immediate moment of loss, a couple years, or even more, and still suffering setbacks, that’s as normal as can be. The good news to it is that there are ways to bounce back and bounce on ahead. Just don’t give up!

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Return to Zero, Return to Zoe

Just finished watching Return to Zero. After nearly two years of rooting for these guys to get the movie out, they had their world premiere on Lifetime. I thought they could pull it off, and they actually managed to tell the stillbirth story powerfully and personally. It’s outstanding all the way around. There were so many familiar moments in there, especially the moment where they find out their baby has died. 

As I watched the stark nature of their hospital experience, and especially the social worker who asks right away if they have considered burial or cremation, it really brought to mind some things that I thought I was thankful for before, but appreciate even more tonight:

Our care providers. The heart that our doctor showed at every turn, and that all of the nurses showed amazed me then, and it amazes me even more seeing how different it could have been. I’m extremely glad that people were there to guide us by the hand compassionately, and that we could set the terms of things like how long we spent with Doria, our pictures, and all that. I’m very glad that they just wheeled Doria out with some dignity instead of a cardboard box like the movie showed. I’m glad that we got to see their real hearts in that horrible weekend.

 

People I work with/for. Seeing the main male character, on his return to work, mention leaving things behind you and moving right on, especially making sure that it doesn’t affect business, was heart-stopping. I’m extremely glad that I don’t work with/for anyone with that attitude. I was working for my major professor that semester. I remember sharing with her my plan to show up for my discussion sections that week and introduce myself, since that part is so easy. She brilliantly countered with “That’s a nice plan. Let’s not do that, and do this instead” in her best politely confrontational tone. Along with that, our department chair (who I had 2 classes scheduled with) OKd me attending class if that made things more normal. I’m glad that they took the time to give that kind of space.

 

Tough times before Doria’s death. They don’t make things better, but the fact that my wife and I had seen troubles and failure before at least let us know that things could collapse. If we were only used to success, I’m not sure what would happen. No matter what, I still wish none of this happened and this movie was a mystery to me, but the tough times and chaotic times helped more than anything else could have.

Zoe. I don’t really spend much time that I’m not thankful for her. It was really funny to watch her play along while we watched the movie. This little girl has no fear and tons of life. I love that. She’ll be frightening as she ages, but that’s OK. We’re still winning.

Doria. I’m still glad for every moment with her. When Minnie Driver’s character mentioned that no one can tell you ahead of time the relationship that you have with your dead child until it happens, that summed up tons of things. I loved watching their excitement leading up to their son, and I really loved the excitement right up to Doria’s last day. Still no regrets.

Forums like this. The stillbirth and child loss community is the best thing that the Internet has to offer. This has been one of the best ways to find out that I/we aren’t alone, and the best way to show that to others as well.  Thanks to the community for doing all that, and for their part in getting this movie out there.

Just a picture of the thoughts sparked by the movie there. Why not wrap up with some non-word pictures? The 2 different sides of things. First is Doria with our mascot Cy, second is Zoe’s 2nd day on the outside.

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