By Ben Gillham, Jackson’s Dad;
Nick McGeehon, Everly’s Dad;
Daryl Kariniemi, Brecken’s Dad;
Isacc Shields, Cam’s Dad
11 Questions for Bereaved Dads on Father’s Day
For this Father’s Day, we asked four bereaved dads to answer questions about the children no longer with them.
1. What is your child’s name and how old were they when they passed away?
Ben: Jackson was 6 ½ months old when he was taken from us.
Nick: Everly Ann McGeehon – Passed away at 4 mo old
Daryl: Brecken – 1 yr and 4 mo
Isaac: Cam Isaac Shields was born on February 19th, 2019 and passed away a few days later.
2. What is a nickname you call/called your child?
Ben: Hamchop – Lara and I called him our “little hammy” a number of times because he ate so well. We also called him a lambchop a time or two. One day, we accidentally just combined the two and “Hamchop” stuck. We still refer to him as that today.
Daryl: Breckie I think… which makes me feel really sad that I can’t remember for sure. Usually called him Brecken.
Isaac: I always called him Cam, but sometimes I will say he’s my little buddy.
3. What is your favorite memory of your child?
Ben: Seeing Jackson smile from ear to ear every time we played together.
Nick: Listening to her giggle.
Daryl: His smile and laugh when we did funny things
Isaac: One of the more difficult aspects is that we never got to leave the hospital with Cam and he was not with us physically for very long. I cherished all the time we had with him, reading to him, and being able to hold him.
4. What kind of personality did your child have?
Ben: Jackson was super laid back and carefree and just always had a smile to share.
Nick: Go along, get along. She was an easy baby
Daryl: He was a happy child but some things get clouded in my memory between him and Brynlie which makes me feel incredibly guilty right now.
Isaac: He had the personality of a fighter. He was premature, low birthweight, and essentially half a heart but was strong and fought hard enough to be with Sarah and I for as long as he could. We couldn’t ask for more out of him.
5. What is one thing or moment that made you smile when you were with your child?
Ben: When he was making incredible hulk noises – Lara and I thought he was just having fun, but moments later we realized he was working on a #2.
Nick: How excited her big sister was about her.
Daryl: Him learning to pull himself up on things.
Isaac: I will always cherish the first time I was able to see him. I will always love and cherish every moment I had with Cam, but it was almost always bittersweet. When he was initially born we were not aware of his heart condition and I can remember the pure joy I had seeing him after delivery. He will always be perfect to me.
6. What is something that always reminds you of your child?
Ben: The color orange – we think it was his favorite color because he always grabbed for anything orange.
Daryl: Obviously Giraffes but also hospitals, wires, and many other triggers
Isaac: Sarah and I see Cam in nature, especially cardinals. We just always feel him with us when we are outside.
7. What has been the hardest part of being a bereaved father?
Ben: The guilt of feeling like I let my family down by losing our child.
Nick: The hardest decision we have made was to have another child, the hardest daily is how to talk about my daughter in a way that doesn’t bring on pity or sadness from others.
Daryl: Seeing Easton not have a brother to play with and knowing how much fun Brecken would be having with him absolutely kills me inside.
Isaac: As a bereaved father I think it is important for us to have the time and space to feel and express emotions. It is not a “typical man” to be able to express emotions, but after losing a child every father needs to be able to feel those emotions in their own time. We try to be the emotional rock of our families, but bereaved fathers need to recognize that they need to feel their own emotions as well.
8. Has it been easy to grieve or feel emotions as a bereaved father?
Ben: I’ve been lucky to have a wonderful wife to talk with, along with countless family members and friends that I feel I can share anything with. That being said, I certainly think that bereaved fathers have a much harder time opening up to one another compared to bereaved mothers
Nick: The emotions come easily and the grief never really subsides, you only get stronger with time and grace.
Daryl: Not sure how to answer this. Have never felt so much pain in my life but I am getting by.
Isaac: For me it has taken time to grieve as a bereaved father. I had difficulty accepting what had happened and went through a difficult time not knowing how to deal with my emotions. With time it has gotten “easier” and I have become more comfortable acknowledging and letting those around me know when I am struggling.
9. What has been one of the best coping mechanisms you have found to help you through your grief?
Ben: Keeping busy – working on projects around the house, creating Just Enduring to help other bereaved parents, keeping busy at my day job, etc.
Nick: Talking about my daughter and helping others through their own journey.
Daryl: Family and golf both provided much needed distractions.
Isaac: The best coping mechanism is talking with someone. I have found that talking to people helps get the emotions out instead of bottling them up. As someone who had not talked about my emotions before losing Cam it really was something that I had to work on and get more comfortable with.
10. How has the loss of your child positively or negatively impacted your relationships with your spouse, family, friends?
Ben: I think it has strengthened the relationship with my wife. Once a couple goes through that together, they’ve experienced something that (luckily) not many others have to experience. This unique shared experience enabled us to understand one another like very few others can.
Nick: Everly changed my life in so many ways. The loss of my daughter caused me to reevaluate my life and take stock of what I really cared about and who I wanted to be for her and for the rest of my family. Because of that evaluation, I chose a new career that has brought me much joy, an incredible amount of happiness and pride and given me an even better relationship with my family.
Daryl: I think it made our marriage more challenging but helped bring our family together.
11. If you could say one thing to your child right now what would it be?
Ben: I love you.
Nick: I am who I am because of you.
Daryl: Its hard not to cry just thinking about this. I would just hold him.
Isaac: Cam, just know that you are so deeply loved by so many people who would do anything to have you with us. Cam I love and miss you so much every single day.