In this advice podcast episode, dad Scott tells how he and his wife Jan returned home together immediately after her daughter’s death, which was caused by complications of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).
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This is Still A Part of Us, a podcast where moms and dads share the story of their child who was stillborn or who died in infancy. I’m Lee Redd. And this episode of Advice and Encouragement from a Loss Dad, I chat with Scott, whose daughter was diagnosed with necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC, and who passed away 55 days after birth.
By the way, you can hear both Scott’s and his wife, Jan’s episodes about the birth of their daughter on episode 2.1 and 2.3. Today I discussed with Scott a couple of things that helped him in his mourning process. One of those things was opening up to close friends and family even though he did not want to.
As a word of caution to our listeners. This discussion contains emotional triggers of stillbirth and infant loss. Please keep yourself emotionally and mentally healthy and seek help if needed. Hope this hope somebody out there.
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This last year has been taxing on each of us and on our relationship as a couple. And we realized a few months after our son passed away that if we didn’t tend to it, we would get carried away in our grief and drift apart. So we actually made a commitment to each other that we wouldn’t neglect our relationship and we attended a Utah Date Night and had a night out where we laughed. We had some entertainment, but we also learned from the best relationship experts out there.
And we’re excited that the Gottmans, Dr. John and Julie Gottman, the love experts are speaking of the upcoming Utah Date Night.
It’s so exciting.
Join us because we’re going to be there.
Yeah, we are!
Wednesday, September 18 in the evening from 630 to 930 at Cottonwood High School in Utah. It’s a special night and you’re going to be hearing from a couple people. First, I think from Dr. Laura Heck, who’s a certified Gottman therapist–
I really like her. I listen to a podcast that she does, so I’m excited for her too.
And also Doctor and Doctor Gottman. Dr. and Dr. Gottman.
The Gottmans will be there.
If you’re dating, if you’re engaged, if you’re newlywed, or if you’ve been married for a long time, like Winter and I ,you can learn something from the Gottmans. They make relationships better and stronger, especially if you’re experiencing major loss like many of our listeners have.
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See you there.
All right, well, I think for me, the things that were helpful were to just kind of confront a lot of things. And I think for me, the first thing that happened right off the bat was going home, right afterwards. You know, we went to the hospital, and we had a car seat with, you know, our baby in it. And now we were leaving. And so I remember holding the car seat, but you know, we weren’t leaving with her. And I remember that was pretty rough, obviously. And then so the very first decision that came to us was, Well, we’re headed home. But home was going to be extremely difficult to go to. So I remember thinking, I don’t want to go home. So maybe what we should do is go to a hotel, at least for a little bit–llet’s just get away for even if it’s a short amount of time, just a day or two or something. Grieve a little bit or whatever we need to do. But I have a strong aversion to returning back home. I just didn’t want to go back. But we kind of decided well, we have to go back at some point. And we might as well just go back. So we did, we went back home. And I man, that was hard, and was horrific. But I’m glad that we did that, because now we were home and you know, couldn’t do what I naturally wanted do, which was just kind of avoid that so. That was one the thing that was immediate.
And then the other thing was that I didn’t–it’s not that I didn’t want to talk about much of it, but I didn’t really have a desire to just kind of, I don’t know, talk to my friends or anything about it. Soon, I just kind of wanted to, my natural inclination, was just to keep it to myself. But I remember returning back to work, and I have some good friends, some co-workers who are some good friends. And so I kind of fought that one again, I’m just like, Well, you know, I’ll talk to them and just kind of tell them what’s going on. And that kind of thing. And so we talked. And I remember not really wanting to, but I did anyway. And I think that helped as well. And it’s not that I wasn’t ever going to talk or anything, but I just didn’t want to then. But I think just kind of, for me, a lot of those kind of decisions helped. Because I was able to talk about it and talking about it helped. But I didn’t want to, obviously and I didn’t want to go home. But we did. And I think that that was really good as well. So. So talking was really good.
And then I think the other thing I remember was, it seems like every now and again, even my friends or people would say things that I would take to just kind of be callous, or I don’t know, careless, maybe. And thinking kind of like, Why would you say that? You know, I don’t know–just that’s what I felt like at first. But instead, I didn’t and just kind of thought, Well, I mean, they’re good-intentioned. And they, you know, they don’t know if they should be dancing on eggshells, or what they should say or anything. And so for my close friends at work, I think they just kind of tried to get back to as normal as they could there with me, working with them. And ultimately, that did kind of help me because it helped me kind of get back into a normal rhythm, even with that stuff there. So I think, you know, obviously there is kind of, I think it’s kind of a two-way street when it comes to communicating with others after this. From, from my perspective, you know, it’s very painful, and you’re dealing with a lot of emotions. So, you know, you could be having a really rough time, or even just a bad day, and that kind of thing. And then I noticed that, you know, I’d get very critical, hyper-critical, kind of, things people say, and that kind of thing. Which is understandable, because, I mean, the pain is just, I mean, it’s intense.
And also, on the other side of that road, going the other way, are my friends and people who, you know, they haven’t experienced that. So they don’t know. And I think they’re kind of thinking, I don’t know, that it’s awkward–I guess that they don’t know what to say. I mean, they want to help. But obviously, there really isn’t much that I heard from any friends or a lot of people that helped the pain, you know. But they they try. And so I think that it was good for me just to kind of, I think, just allow that kind of grace to them. Just to be like, you know, it’s not like I really know how to deal with a lot of these emotions, as well. But they don’t really know how to act either. So I know that their intentions are to help me and to be be supportive. And so that’s kind of what I took from them. So a lot of times if something was said that I kind of thought, Well that’s–why would you say that? You know, that’s, I don’t know, a lot of it wasn’t overtly horrible. But, you know, from my perspective, it just kind of was either offensive or something that I thought, well, you know, again, this is just me, you know. They, they call it taking offense, not giving offense. So it’s just kind of find a way to think like, Well, you know, from their perspective, they’re trying to help, you know. They’re not trying to make things worse.
So I think those two things helped a lot for me. So just kind of seeing and myself the way that I wanted to, the things that I wanted to do naturally, and not go home and those kind of things. And to instead just kind of step aside and try to be a third person, looking in and being like, Well, is it going to be that helpful for you not to go home? And I’m thinking, Alright, maybe not. You gotta go home sometime, let’s just, let’s go home. Let’s do this. And then, you know, talking about it. It’s like, I don’t want to talk about it. It’s painful. And I’d rather not, you know, I would rather just kind of keep it to myself. And that is kind of how I mourn anyway. But to, you know, friends and family, to open up, which was not easy. Very difficult, but I think helped a lot.
Thanks. Do you have any items or, I call them tokens? Do you have any remembrances like that you either keep on yourself, or you have in your bedstand or nightstand? Is there anything that you are like, Hey, you know, I kept this little footie pajamas that I have folded up and tucked away, that has been very helpful to you?
We do have a number of things, but I wouldn’t say that any of them have been helpful to me. In, I guess, getting through a lot of it. I’m glad that we have those things, but I’m, I’m not really sure that I would consider them as like personal totems or anything. We did get a pair of rings made and inside the ring, is–they were able to engrave or make them with her fingerprint. But–and I wear it–but I, you know, if I forget it, or something, it’s fine. I don’t know, it’s not really very important to me, I wear it because I think that it’s nice. But that’s kind of the extent of it. I mean, I don’t I don’t really associate a lot of those things with her personally. I kind of associate more of the things we have, like, we have a number of things like her handprints or molds, you know, feet, type of things. I think some articles of clothing, that kind of thing. And they’re to me personally, I don’t really find them that important. I think that they’re nice. I like having them. They remind me of, excuse me, they remind me of that time. And just some random, I guess, stories and things that were going on around then. But I don’t necessarily associate them with her. You know, I think that she is fine and well and, you know, doing her thing. So, yeah.
Is there anything else that you would like to say in this, this advice section?
I think the last thing that I have that’s worth mentioning, that’s very helpful, was my wife and I, you know, we made a point to try to communicate, you know, the best that we could. And also to allow each other to grieve in the way that, whatever it happened to be, the way that that we each grieve. And it was helpful, because, you know, we realized that we weren’t the same in that. And I was, you know, I’d prefer to be, maybe more to myself, and not so talkative about those type of things. And, you know, she was grieving in her way. And I think part of that also included, you know, gathering with friends and speaking, talking more, and those type of things. And, you know, there were things that she wanted to do, or things that she wanted to keep and that kind of things and, you know, that’s perfectly fine with me. It’s like, Yeah, go ahead, you know, that’s great. And, you know, if I was doing things differently and grieving in a different way, you know, she wasn’t upset that, you know, I wasn’t, I guess going about it in the same way that she was. And so we kind of allowed each other to, you know, handle things individually that we needed to and then together, we, you know, just tried to keep our communication open and try to use the experience as a way to help us grow together. And, you know, not allow it to break us apart.
Well, thank you.
A huge thanks to Scott for coming on the podcast and sharing his advice and encouragement with us. And for also shedding some light on how grief and mourning has looked for him. This is one thing that I struggle with myself, on how to open up to those around me about my own feelings as well. I’m grateful for him. I’m grateful that he came and talked with me. And I hope this can help some other loss parents and for those who are supporting loss parents in their lives.
Head over to our website, Stillapartofus.com, where you could find the show notes, including the full transcription of this interview and any resources that were mentioned, where you could sign up for a short email newsletter, where you can also find out how to become a patron and support the work it takes to produce the show for a few dollars a month, where you could find out how to get in touch with us if you want to share your child’s story on the show.
The show was produced and edited by Winter and Lee Redd. Thanks to Josh Woodward for letting us use his song “Vanishing Note.” You can find him at JoshWoodward.com.
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