Ghost Dad: My Experience with Losing my Son
You often hear stories about children who don’t know their fathers, who didn’t have their fathers in their lives, who maybe never even met them. Rarely do you hear the separation story from a father’s perspective, or see the father’s side of that pain. Well, let this be one one of the stories where you do. By the end of it, I hope you understand that I am not the only one, and that there are many other fathers out there just like me.
It began on June 18th, 2017, Father’s Day. I was crashing at my friend’s spot while visiting L.A. for a gig. I was sitting on his couch, looking online at engagement rings, when I got a notification from WhatsApp. The message preview read “Happy Fathers Day” with a camera icon next to it, so I knew my girlfriend had attached a photo. I wasn’t an actual father at the time, so I assumed it was a picture of her and our dog, Brooklyn. When I opened the message a few minutes later, my heart almost stopped. The picture wasn’t of Brooklyn at all. It was a picture of a pregnancy test. We were going to have a baby.
Words can’t explain the joy I suddenly felt in my heart. Before I knew it, I was tearing up. I had that little frog in my throat. I immediately called her.
“Are you serious?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
I could tell she was excited and nervous at the same time. I told her I loved her so much, and that I couldn’t wait to get back home to her. I was so excited that I spent the rest of the day announcing the news to everyone around me, even to a few total strangers. I couldn’t contain myself.
Over the next few months, our focus turned to planning. We came up with more clever ways to announce the news to people, like by wearing matching “Does This Shirt Make Me Look Pregnant/Like a Dad?” t-shirts. My now fiance had quit her job and didn’t have insurance at the time. Our entire family worried over how we would handle the upcoming financial responsibilities. I pushed myself into overdrive, taking every gig I could find. We debated whether we would move closer to family to help ease the burden. It was a very joyous, but also very stressful time. I was flying to Vegas repeatedly for work, while she stayed behind in New York.
The thought of being a father made it all worth it. I remember seeing my son during an ultrasound in New York, on October 18, 2017. Seeing that image of him in the womb and hearing his heartbeat gave me all the strength I needed to keep going. My fiance was five months pregnant at the time. Afterwards, I flew back to Vegas for more gigs, because I knew I had to keep making more money. When I left New York, I had no idea that would be the last time I ever saw my son alive.
The next day, I was back in Vegas deejaying, when my fiance messaged me saying that she didn’t feel well and that she was cramping. I thought she might just be dehydrated and told her to drink some water, and that everything would be okay. I called her later that night when I finished working, and she was in a lot of pain. It was past 3 am where I was, and a little after 6 am in New York. She was crying and panicking. I called everyone I could think of to get over to her ASAP, and to get an ambulance to her. I sat home by the phone waiting for someone to update me on what was happening, and I prayed. I prayed, like I had never prayed before, for God to save my son and make everything okay.
Finally, I got a call from her best friend, and immediately I asked if the baby was okay. All she told me was, “He was so beautiful.” I didn’t notice the past tense. I just asked her again, “Is he okay?” At first I was in shock, in denial. It wasn’t until later, when my parents had reached the hospital and my mom called me crying, that I finally lost it. I broke down, alone and away from everyone, right then. I travelled back to New York on the next available flight, and rushed to the hospital only to see my fiancé holding the body of our lifeless son. I broke down again.
There is no feeling like losing your child before getting the chance to be a parent to that child. It’s one of those things you can’t fully understand until it actually happens to you. It felt like the most unfair thing life had ever done to me. That quickly, without any warning, all the joy I once felt about becoming a father was suddenly replaced by excruciating pain. I remembered all those moments I had seen him alive, all the plans I had made for a life with him. I remembered when we weren’t sure if my fiance could get pregnant, and how excited we were when she finally was. I remembered all the times I heard his heartbeat and felt hope about the future. I looked at her and told her “WE DID THIS ONCE. WE CREATED A BEAUTIFUL BABY ONCE AND WE WILL DO IT AGAIN.” Where that resolve came from, I don’t know, but I thank GOD for having words in that moment. It was important at this time for us to be there for each other, and we leaned on everyone who knew about our loss to be there for both of us as well.
That’s when I was hit with a rude awakening. It started at the hospital, when the nurse stood in front of us and gave her condolences to my fiance, and then sat bedside comforting my her. Later, friends reached out to us and asked how my fiance was doing. I tried to be subtle about my hurt, and would respond with how we were coping.
It didn’t work. She had friends who would reach out and only be concerned about her. While I appreciated all the love and support my fiance was getting in her time of need, I wondered to myself how people could be so blind to the fact that I was hurt by this, too. I had conversations with my boys and found out that some of them had experienced the same thing.
Then a lightbulb went off. Maybe one of the reasons people don’t talk as much about the men who face this kind of tragedy is because the men themselves don’t talk about it. Maybe we, as men, are taught so well how to hide and bury our pain that others have become convinced it does not matter. Maybe it’s because we don’t vocalize just how bad we are hurt by these kinds of losses that the women in our lives seem to get the bulk of emotional support when they happen.
Men who suffer the loss of a loved one, especially when that loved one is his first born child, go through an unimaginable pain. I lost my son, and I lost him before I ever had the opportunity to hug him and tell him how much I loved him. Before I ever got the opportunity to high-five him for acing a test in school, or teach him the discipline that was going to shape him into a man.
I lost my son. I felt the pain of a parent’s loss without experiencing one day of a parent’s joy. And on top of all the hurt I was feeling, I felt like an afterthought. Day by day, as people deeply mourned the loss of my child and offered their comfort to my fiance, I began to feel like a ghost. A part of me had died inside, and it seemed as if not many people were noticing.
I urge any man who has ever experienced losing a child to be more vocal about your pain, so that people can see you. We live in a society that characterizes the man as being the strong one, the rock, the last one who needs emotional support. We need to change that narrative by being vocal about the depth of our pain. Just like a woman’s strength shouldn’t be diminished during a time of loss, a man’s strength shouldn’t be taken for granted. Let everyone know that you are hurting just as much as anyone else. When we get more vocal about our pain, we can all start to heal the way we’re meant to heal; together.