Discovering a New Plan

Author: R. Glenn Kelly

Almost as if spring were just a dream, summer is upon us, and we find ourselves in shorts, t-shirts and sandals, darting to and from air-conditioned spaces.

Men Retreat

Summer also brings another transition point for me after the traumatic loss of a child. In summer 2013, I lost my son and only child, Jonathan, when his heart failed during a relatively simple surgery. To me, summer will always be a reminder of the plans I had that were erased in an instant and the new normal of my life now.

Like every parent who has lost a child, I grieved my son’s death. I was greatly saddened by the life he would never get to experience. Although I could look back over his life and take solace in the incredibly happy childhood he lived, there was so much more to life he had not yet encountered. I am saddened beyond measure he won’t get the chance to live those parts of life. Without question, the majority of my great sorrow is for my child.

Yet, while it is not often discussed, I also had to face that there is a great deal of mourning to be done for myself as well. While many men may think this, we don’t often speak it aloud for fear of seeming insensitive and self-centered. I had to openly admit that while I feel incredible sorrow for what was denied my son – something incredible, anticipated, natural, normal and instinctual – was taken from me too. And it was taken without my consent. Not only against my will, but also against the presupposed plan I had for my life as a parent.

We may never completely heal from our loss, but to continue the journey towards healing, we must look inward and recognize that part of our loss is just that – Our Loss. Pain must be given credence, even if it seems selfish to consider it. Deep inside, even at that place where the unconditional love for my son resides, I had to recognize that something had been taken from me. I had a plan for my life that was completely erased without my consent. I expected to father a child, and then teach, nurture and mentor that person until he could stand on his own, only to leave this world myself, content that my legacy would continue on. But now, I have found purpose in carrying on the legacy of Jonathan.

This summer, I hope you will allow yourself to find a time of reawakening. I encourage you to take time to recognize the pains of losing your old plan. Even if repressed emotions have moved into the subconscious, recognition can be as healing as the summer son to flora and fauna. It may take time; don’t beat yourself up. If emotions act on your behalf without conscious effort or control, be mindful to recognize them each time. As you do, they will slowly become conscious thoughts, where healing through grief can be like that of the warm sun, reawakening life from what was once dormant and barren.

My once coveted life plan is no more, and there is a new normal in its place. But, I believe, in this journey towards healing, a new normal is one where I can once again live a life of purpose, all while carrying the unconditional love of my son with me.

By R. Glenn Kelly, Surviving father of Jonathan Kelly