was hoping they would cancel Father’s Day this year, mostly because
my son Ezra Malik died.
He was my baby boy, and he died the day before he
was born, in a hospital in August of last year. He was a beautiful
baby with a full head of hair and flat little feet, and I only got
to hold him once. I cannot describe the intense feeling of joy over
meeting and holding and kissing my son, and the excruciating pain
over seeing him lifeless. His mother and I read him a bedtime story
before we put him in the ground, to be with his ancestors. And now
I am left lamenting over the birthdays, the graduations and other
life events that will never happen, over the laughs and memories
of bicycle rides, amusement parks, and ice cream - experiences of
seeing him grow up which I will never see because it wasn’t meant
Losing my child was the most traumatic experience
of my life. Nothing else comes close. It was like crashing into
a brick wall, or having my heart yanked out of my chest. To those
who have not had the experience, I pray you will never know the
feeling. What makes it particularly difficult is that parents are
supposed to protect their children and keep them away from harm,
and now we feel as if we’ve failed.
This membership organization is a secret society
of sorts, whose members often suffer in silence because society
doesn’t care to listen. To be sure, there are many parents in this
secret society, many fathers such as myself, those who have that
strong fatherhood feeling, who love their child without question.
But we are not viewed as fathers in the regular sense because our
child died. Maybe there should be a special Father’s Day just for
Think of the countless children in this world that
die every year from one of any number of causes, whether disease
or famine, or homicide or suicide or war, or causes unknown. For
example, every year in the U.S., 5,000 children die from gun violence,
and African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately affected.
Homicide is the leading cause of death for African-American males
between ages 15-34, the second leading cause of death for Blacks
ages 10-14, and the third leading cause of death for the 5-9 age
range, with guns accounting for 90%, 70% and 34% of these deaths,
respectively. That’s a lot of children. That’s a lot of mourning
parents, and an army of grieving fathers, often at war with their
emotions, and shunned by a society that doesn’t support them through
their painful journey.
This is a society where value is placed on looking
good rather than feeling good. People ask “how are you feeling?”
without really caring about your response. In a society that does
not deal well with death, particularly the death of children -
and wants people to just “get over it” and feel better, mistakenly
believing that simply forgetting the loss will make the pain go
away - parents of lost children have a rough time of it.
Mothers who grieve over a lost child tend to have
a more supportive network than fathers to help them through their
pain, not that they always receive the support that they need. Men
are told to buck up, walk it off and “be a man”. After all, we are
told, it is hardest on the mothers.
As a result, fathers of lost children are lost in
the wilderness. We must grapple with the fact that our child has
died, yet often we are ill-equipped to do so. Many men have been
conditioned to hide and deny their emotions, their pain and their
sorrow, with unhealthy consequences. Think of all of the people
- especially men - who are behind bars because they could not deal
with what was on their mind. Unable to manage their emotions, they
cracked up, and perhaps even hurt those around them. Maybe they
were unaware of the counseling and support services available to
them (two online support groups for babylost parents are MISS Foundation
and Glow In The Woods).
Or they were reluctant to seek those services because of the social
stigma of being labeled weak, unstable or crazy.
As for those of us who are coping with the loss of
a child, the pain will never go away. It might get easier to live
with, but that is not the point. The stages of grief don’t always
progress in a straight line. Years after our child’s death, the
bad days may still sneak up on us and assault us out of the blue.
Hopefully, healing will come, and we can find ways to incorporate
the loss into our daily lives. But the bar has been lowered on the
highest level of joy that we are able to experience.
finally, to those fathers who can physically hold your child on
Father’s Day, I tell you to hold them tight and don’t let go. Do
not take your child for granted. To those fathers whose children
remain with you in spirit, I say hold them tight in your heart,
in your memories, and in your daily life, and don’t let go.
But if you are someone who knows a daddy of a lost
child, don’t hesitate to go up to him and feel free to acknowledge
his loss. Bringing up the tragedy won’t make him feel worse, because
he is already living the hell that is the most traumatic experience
of his life. But when others pretend that he is not a suffering
father, that will almost certainly make him feel worse. We grieving
fathers need to know we are not alone this Father’s Day.
Editorial Board member David A. Love, JD is a journalist and human
rights advocate based in Philadelphia, and a contributor to the
Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service,
These Times and Philadelphia
Independent Media Center. He blogs at davidalove.com,
Daily Kos, and Open
here to contact Mr. Love.