After musician Jeff Buckley drowned in the Mississippi river, one of his former tour mates, Juliana Hatfield, wrote a tribute song for him entitled “Trying Not To Think About It.” I have often thought about this song after Maddie passed, and how Hatfield sings of dealing with the tragedy by trying not to think about it. As time has crept forward and I’ve searched for ways to cope with my loss, I’ve found that “trying not to think about it” is – sadly – the best way I know how.

I don’t want to not think about Maddie. If I could, I would spend every day lost in the happy memories I have of her. But doing so always leads to me being overwhelmed by sadness. I end up gawking at the horror of what happened – that I had this amazing little girl in my arms and now she is gone.

If I’m not militant about trying not to think about it I will find myself back inside that hospital room, watching as that doctor pronounces her dead. Or cradling Maddie’s body one last time, telling her I love her and saying goodbye. Or walking out of the PICU, taking the elevator down to the lobby, stepping through the doors to the street, getting in our car, and driving home… all as if something incredibly mundane had happened instead of the reality that our lives had just been shattered.

It’s at night that I try hardest not to think about it. This may sound stupid, but as I try to drift off to sleep I occupy my mind with stupid fantasy scenarios, like what if I could suddenly throw a baseball a hundred miles per hour? How would I go about using that new skill? I imagine the steps I’d take to break into the Big Leagues, and usually create a cheesy scene where I hunt down a scout who tells me and my thirty-six year old paunch to get lost, but then I throw a baseball past him as he walks to his car, and… By then, with any luck, I have fallen asleep. It’s silly, I know, an embarrassing fictional sports story full of the tropes we’ve seen in a million bad baseball movies, but I will gladly watch this bad movie night after night if it keeps me from laying awake and re-living the nightmare.

That’s not to say I don’t spend time with my Maddie; I do. When Heather and Annie leave the house, I lose myself in photos and videos of my life with Maddie – singing her Beatles’ songs in the NICU, taking her to our favorite Japanese restaurant around the corner where the waitresses mooned over her, watching her turn one at her tremendous party, and every stop in between. By myself I cry, shake my fists at the heavens, and scream, “Why?” But when Annie returns I have somehow put the pieces of myself back together and once again resemble the smiling Daddy she knows and loves.

It isn’t perfect living like this. I don’t like compartmentalizing my life, but everything stopped being perfect that April day almost three years ago. Since then I’ve had to do what I must to keep moving forward – for Heather, Annabel, and myself – and if that means trying not to think about it, then that’s what I’ll have to do.


Trying Not To Think About It
by Juliana Hatfield

Southern California is bad for the soul
And New York City takes its toll
The Mississippi River has a mean undertow
How can I shield myself from the things that I hear
I want to close my eyes and sleep for a year
Tell me that it’s only a dream
That it’s a nightmare

Trying not to think about it
Trying not to think about it

How can your mother be so strong
When her only baby is gone
I don’t know where you are
Everything is wrong

So I’m trying not to think about it
Trying not to think about it