RE: Grief

Wherein I get fired by a counselor.

Stupid Words

“How are you doing?”

Those are stupid words. My son’s dead and his death was stupid and ignominious. He fought hard. No blame. But… where was the balrog or last stand?

Don’t ask, “How are you?” or “How are you doing?” or it’s possible I’mma throw the truth at it. I’m terrible. I’m horrible. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to live in a world where we have tech oligarchs and dead kids. Nope. Don’t like it.

“We don’t always understand God’s plan.”

Piss off. God’s plan was to kill my son? Really? Like… piss off… directly into the sun… and take your stupid words with you.

  • “It hurts.”
  • “This sucks.”
  • “Asher was awesome. Such a cool kid.”

This are good words. Use these.

Getting Fired

My company offers mental MHAAS. That, of course, is Mental Health As A Service. So, the day Asher passed, I reached out and setup an appointment. He passed on Tuesday and the soonest was Friday.

Honestly, looking forward to the appointment was something that got me through the week. “If I can get to the appointment, maybe I can get something from them to help me navigate this space.” From the time Asher got sick to the time I really started to plan for his death was months. But… like nothing prepares you for this. It doesn’t matter how much you read about it or how much you think about it… actually loosing a child is nothing like what I expected. Like… I ordered 40 units of flour on some random website and 40 tons shows up by forklift. DID NOT GO AS PLANNED!

The online counselor sent me a questionnaire. I thought it was weird it was asking me about, “How much impact have these mental health problems had on your productivity?” Like… all of it? All the impact? Reader, you have the advantage of condensed timelines. I had to live it.

When the counselor showed up to the meeting, she said, “Well, normally, we spend some time getting to know each other, but I think we need to jump directly to the problem you discussed in your questionnaire.”

So I jumped into explaining how things went down. The weeks in the hospital. The constant “not knowing” what was wrong with Asher. The crash carts. The trauma brain focusing on things that aren’t really important…

Then she backed up. She said, “Okay, so you know, MHAAS isn’t designed for this. Your problems are way larger than we can manage in this session.” I mean… yeah that’s why therapy is an over time service. “So, we can’t meet anymore. I know we’ve only spent 20 minutes of your 50, but I’m going to refer you to our critical care team and they’ll find you someone to talk with in person.”

“I looked there first. Everyone is months out,” I responded.

“Yeah, but we have an ‘in.’ We can get you something soon. Look for a call from the critical care team in the next 24 hours.”

By the end of the following week, I sent her another message. “Your team never called. This is how you kill people. What if I was suicidal? All I received was an email that told me to try to schedule on the website… which is where I began.”

I’ve never been fired by a counselor. And at such a critical time? Ridiculous.

However, she gave me the name of some books. And honestly, that was the best thing at the time. I needed something to start working through… something to start understanding where my mind was, what was appropriate and where to go.

The Books

The Unspeakable Loss - Nisha Zenoff

A guide to hope and healing after the death of a child, from a grief counselor and psychotherapist who has been there.

Nisha Zenoff lost her son in a tragic accident when he was just seventeen years old. Now, with decades of experience as a grief counselor and psychotherapist, she offers support and guidance from her own journey and from others who have experienced the death of a child. The Unspeakable Loss helps those who mourn to face the urgent questions that accompany loss: “Will my tears ever stop?” “Who am I now without my child?” “How can I help my other children cope?” “I lost my only child, how do I live?” “Will my marriage survive?” “Will life ever feel worth living again?”

No matter where you are in your grieving process, The Unspeakable Loss provides a space to mourn in your own way, and helps you understand how the death of a child affects siblings, other family members and friends, recognizing that we each grieve differently. And while there is no one prescription for healing, Zenoff provides tools to practice the important aspects of grieving that are easily forgotten—self-compassion and self-care.

The Unspeakable Loss doesn’t flinch from the reality or pain caused by the death of a child, yet ultimately it is a book about the choice to embrace life, love, and joy again. As Zenoff writes in the Preface: “Our relationships with our children do not end with their deaths. Our relationships change, they’re transformed, but our children will always be with us.”

This one has been the most useful for us (wife and I). It’s hard. And most chapters make me cry. But also, it provides some fundamental constructs that’re useful understanding what’s useful and what’s not.

Shattered: Surviving The Loss of a Child - Gary Roe

“A truly healing book.” - Glen Lord, President, The Compassionate Friends

Unthinkable. Unbelievable. Heartbreaking. Whatever words we choose, they all fall far short of the reality. The loss of a child is a terrible thing.

Accidents. Disease. Suicide. School shootings. Murder. Natural disasters. War. No matter how or when, the death of a child (no matter what age) can shatter the heart.

How do you survive this? Can you?

Shattered: Surviving the Loss of a Child was written to help.

Bestselling author, hospice chaplain, and grief specialist Gary Roe uses his three decades of experience interacting with grieving parents to give us this heartfelt, easy-to-read, and intensely practical book. In Shattered, Roe walks the reader through the powerful impact a child’s death can have - emotionally, mentally, physically, relationally, and spiritually.

I’ve started this one and it’s primary focus has been on aligning with souls and God. Maybe I’ll go back to it, but I don’t think I was ready for it.

I wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye - Brook Noel

The most helpful grief book to read when you’re ready to start healing after the loss of a loved one.

The grief book that just “gets it.” Whether you’re grieving the sudden loss of a loved one or helping someone else through their grief, I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye offers a comforting hand to help guide you through the grieving process, from the first few weeks to the longer-term emotional and physical effects. It then reveals some of the myths of the grieving process and what really happens as you navigate through the pain.

Top-rated within grief books, topics include:

  • Grieving the loss of a child, partner, parent, sibling, friend, or pet
  • The physical and emotional effects of grief
  • Navigating difficult days such as holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays
  • Helping children cope with grief
  • Understanding the grief recovery process
Very practical. “How to deal with emptying the room they lived in,” kind of stuff. Useful.


I think funerals are stupid. Everyone getting together to cry about it. So sad. No part of me blames Asher for his death. Not even a particle. He fought so dang hard. Think Owl City’s Beautiful Times, “Fought through the night,” kind of hard. I think all of us sitting around and crying is a mistake.

There has to be a better way? Maybe a science fare? The Unspeakable Loss had a chapter about do’s and don’ts. I need more humor. More laughing. I want to honor his fight. Honor his life.