Interview with Dennis Eckhard part 2
If you missed part 1 of Dennis’ interview it can be found here: Dennis Eckhard Interview part 1

On July 2, 2006 Dennis’ Dad died suddenly of a heart attack.

Dennis is a wonderful husband, father, and man in large part because he was loved by a wonderful husband, father, and man. This is part 2 of Dennis’ story…

What have been your outlets to relieve stress?

For a long while I couldn’t find any. I’m probably still more stressed than I realize. I remember once at our old house, there were some bushes in the back yard that we wanted to rip up. I took an ax and chopped that bush to a million tiny pieces. I just wailed on it until I was completely exhausted. It was a way for me to release a bit of the anger I felt after dads passing. Eventually, after I started therapy I found more constructive ways. Every once in a while I treat myself to a massage. Sometimes I just sit and write about stuff that still hurts.

A few years ago my father-in-law passed away as well and though I wish neither of us had to go through it, I’ve found a lot of peace in talking with my wife about the things we both miss. About once a month or so we treat ourselves to drinks and cigars out on our porch where we talk about our fathers and things going on in our lives. It’s amazing how much closer it’s brought the two us. It kind of recharges our batteries for a while.

In what ways do you honor the memory of your loved one?

Every night when I put the girls to bed we go through our ritual. We read a story, sing a lullaby, I give them a kiss, tell them I love them and then give them a kiss for grandpa. That’s probably the most common because I do it every night. I take off from work on his birthday and sometimes buy the girls a little gift and tell them it’s for his birthday. I also take the day he died off of work but that is primarily because I don’t think I’d get much work done on that day anyway.

I wish that day still didn’t hold any power over me but it does. On those nights when I smoke a cigar, I always think of dad. I never really smoked cigars while he was here. I regret never sitting down and sharing a cigar with him and just talking with him. I wish I could have had some of the conversations I’ve had with my wife with my dad.

In who or what do you find your sense of calm and your strength?

My daughters have saved my life. If it weren’t for them and my responsibility to be there for them I know I’d be an alcoholic. I would not have been able to find the strength to fight off all of the anger and sadness that struck me after losing my dad.

On the days I didn’t want to get out of bed, they gave me a reason. On the days I was sad, they put a smile on my face. I talk to them sometimes about my dad and the way they listen I can see the hurt they are feeling for me. They know how hurt I am and their compassion fills me with love and hope.

If it wasn’t for them I’d have never started therapy. I don’t think I’d have found a reason to fight to go on. I’d have been happy to drink myself into a self-destructive mess and give up. Therapy taught me a lot about myself and now I find I can be my own source of motivation.

Where do you turn when you need an ally in grief?

My wife, no doubt, hands down. She’s my better half. It was hard for me, before she lost her father, to really trust that she knew just what I was going through. Now I know she does. She’s almost become my therapist. On those nights we have a smoke together I always come away feeling like I’ve had another glimpse into my inner workings and am just full of gratitude. I’m almost always moved to make a post on Facebook about how wonderful life is after one of those nights chatting with her.

How has the Sudden and Tragic Loss group helped and impacted you?

Apparently one of the signs that an individual no longer needs therapy is when they can understand and practice healthy coping skills. One very important coping skills is to become one’s own therapist. When I started therapy one of my therapist’s goals was to show me how I could comfort myself. She worked with me to build my self-confidence with practicing these skills. I needed to learn how to deal with the pain and struggles life throws at us as they happen instead of bottling up emotions and running from the hurt.

On nights when I’m stressed and realize I need to take some time to sort through what I’m feeling, I read over the stories other people post on the Sudden and Tragic Loss Group. Many times I see people going through the same thought process I had just been experiencing alone and am instantly comforted alongside others, even though they may be miles away. A key phrase, shared thought or feeling triggers in my mind and puts me in a place where I can start self-therapy. I am also a member of another group called I miss my dad and that helps too. But there is huge difference between losing someone you love and losing someone you love with no warning. Your entire world changes in one instant.

There’s no chance to say goodbye. No chance to know what your loved one wanted or expected of you. No last “I love you”. No chance to show your gratitude. The members of the Sudden and Tragic Loss group know those feelings. It’s a club no one wants to be a part of but when you’re in it you feel an instant bond to others there because they know exactly what dealing with those questions means and how it affects us every, single day. Sometimes it’s hard to read because it brings you back to certain bad memories but examining those thoughts are exactly what allows us to fully grieve and move past them. It helps build strength to face the next hardship we may go through.

You can discuss Dennis’ story by leaving a comment.

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