Today is a day I’ll always remember as a haze. As a day when I hadn’t slept in 48 hours, and I didn’t care.
I was stuck in Kuwait trying to get home to a child who was hooked up to a machine.
A machine that was providing life to my daughter through electrical impulses generating air. Air that was being pumped into her lungs because she could not breathe on her own.
Two years ago today, I wondered around the military base in Kuwait, trying to find a pair of pants because you can’t fly on a commercial flight in uniform from Kuwait.
Finding pants was hard, but focusing on finding pants was even harder. With each person I walked past all I could think about was, “Why is it my child that’s sick? Why couldn’t it be that person’s child?” Of all the people in the world, how was it my child that was hooked to a machine?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is real. I haven’t been officially diagnosed, but I know one thing: it’s not only associated with combat or violent actions.
Watch: TV presenter Paul Murray speaks about the heartbreak of losing his newborn son. (Post continues after video.)
For the last two years, I’ve viewed myself as a grieving parent. A dad who lost a child. I have carried this burden around, internalised it, and let it take a major toll on my body and my mind.
I’ve written about the loss of my daughter time and again in hopes that it would ease the pain.
In some ways it has. In others, I feel it’s only poured salt on the wound.
Not to say I want to forget anything about her or the thirty days we spent lying next to her bed in the hospital. I would never wish that on myself, nor could it ever happen (I pray every day I can somehow escape the perils of Alzheimer’s).
And just in that last sentence, I’ve done it again. I’ve created something else for me to worry about.
When you experience something traumatic in your life it’s going to lead you to places within yourself you didn’t know existed. It will keep you awake at night. Keep you searching for something that may or may not be there.
I made it my mission when she passed away that I would allow her memory to live on through my actions. That I would work myself to the bone to make other people feel the way Layla made everyone she came into contact feel.
Her smile was infectious. Her laugh brought out the sunshine. I promised myself I would use whatever skills I could muster to help other people experience joy and happiness.
If you are struggling with grief or PTSD these services can help. (Post continues after gallery.)
Over the past two years I’ve discovered I can sometimes do that with my writing. When I think about my daughter and what she means to me, my wife, my son, and our whole family, I can only think about what it’s like to not have her. When I hold my newborn son I think about what it would be like if I could hold her just one more time.
The problem is that reality won’t allow that to happen. I can never hold her again. But I will remember her forever. And today, as the day two years ago I was one leg short of completing my journey to see my baby girl, I have to make a choice.
Today is the day that I will act on my desire to help people feel like my daughter made me feel. The pure joy and happiness that her smile engulfed me with.
I have to decide that I won’t forever be the Dad that simply lost a child – I will be the Dad that forever loves an infant.
Have you been in the same situation? Where do you find comfort?