Zander : A Father’s Grief Fuels Purpose

By Micah Clark
Daddy to Zander 
Born still on August 12, 2017

My wife, Raelynn and I were super excited to welcome our son in the fall of 2017, and life was good until that summer. August 11th, a typical day, we went in for our baby’s check-up. We got checked in and taken back to the room in Mercy, where Raelynn’s doctor was going to make sure the baby was healthy. We knew something was wrong when the doctor’s face grew concerned, and then with all of the life fading from his face, he gave us the most challenging news that we had ever received: “There is no heartbeat.”

I remember praying to God, please let there be a heartbeat, and it was at that moment as parents that we felt very alone.

My wife was 39 weeks pregnant, so we had to schedule for her to go in the next day to have the baby delivered, not giving us time to process what had just happened. On Angels’ Wings came to capture pictures of the delivery and our limited time holding our son, Zander. The organization has walked with us ever since, including through a miscarriage and the birth of our rainbow baby, our daughter Amberlee, who is now 3-years-old.

As a grieving father, I remember the days after we returned from delivering Zander and how lonely it felt. My wife comforted me as we processed our grief together, but she had the whole community and friends checking in on her. But it felt like I was left with a walkie-talkie that didn’t have batteries; no matter how much I cried out, I was met with “How is your wife doing?”

During these troubling times, I had the depressing thought that no one cared for the fathers during child loss. Even when someone did finally ask about me, it was only after asking about my wife; it sent the message that mothers are most important.

During this time, I decided to bury it deep until it created a rift between God, society, and me. One of the hardest things to encounter is watching your spouse fall apart due to grief and the inability to help; so I held it in to protect Raelynn. Throwing this on top of your personal grief and the feeling of isolation creates more than anyone should ever have to endure.

Everyone encounters people who try to care and help someone grieving the loss of a child, but do it in the wrong ways. A friend told me not long after we lost Zander: “God took one look at your baby and thought it was too precious for this earth.” They meant well with what they said, but they had no experience with grief to know how much additional pain that statement caused.

Two years later, I realized that I wasn’t alone, but I let my personal despair and grief remain without guidance, causing loneliness to occur when it didn’t have to. As I finally started to address my own grief, it fueled a passion and purpose in me. I decided to get my master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling to specialize in grief and trauma. I want to help people in the darkest pits of their ocean receive the light I never had by funneling my painful personal experiences into their future healing.

Because I have a special place in my heart for the work On Angels’ Wings does, and because of the personal experience my wife and I have endured, I am partnering with OAW to offer counseling to the parents who receive the organization’s services on a sliding scale. I am also now serving as the OAW Dad’s Committee Chair to try and assist the organization in reaching grieving dads more directly, helping them to connect, feel heard, and maybe not feel so alone.

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Micah is a counseling intern from Liberty University and is a member of Chi Sigma Iota counseling honor society. He specializes in working with adults and adolescents on grief, trauma, sexuality issues.
 
“I have experienced loss of two babies, so I am able to tap into common grief experiences and the stigma that follows loss. I will never say I am sorry or I understand what you have experienced, because everyone’s loss is unique to them.”
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