Posted by: njrigg | June 16, 2012

First Father’s Day After Losing My Son

First Father’s Day After Losing My Son

By Tom Calhoun

Tom Calhoun, with son, Bradley

I try to explain to other people what it is like to go through this thing called grief.  I say it’s like climbing a mountain.  I climb the mountain, knowing that I will never reach the top.

Normally, around the middle of the month, I start to slip and slide down, and by the end of the month I’m at the bottom.

This may sound like I’m going nuts sometimes.  I’m not going to lie, I am going nuts!  I miss my son.  I miss everything about him.  I look around and see other dads doing what I should be doing with Brad.  But I just sit there and can only imagine doing things with Brad, now!   And yes, that drives me nuts.

This is the the first Father’s Day since Brad’s death at age five and a half on July 2, 2011.  I am a mess.

Bradley Calhoun

I have started to speak in public about water safety, telling our story.  I made a promise to Brad when I was doing CPR on him, that I would do everything in my power to prevent anyone else from drowning.  I don’t know what else to do.  I don’t ever want any other father – any other family – to know this kind of loss, to know the emptiness I now feel on Father’s Day.

I have a daughter – Brad’s sister – and I love her to pieces.  We will mark Father’s Day together, now.  And I’ll do everything I can to make holidays special for her and to protect her, as much as possible, from life’s dangers.

But I’m new to this thing called grief, so I’m learning as I go!

*  *  *


  1. Tom, I nodded through reading that…..I so understand everything you are saying. Noone can know how we feel, and so they shouldn’t. We shouldn’t either. I found it impossible to know what to do with the space that Daniel left behind, although I did reach a point when I knew that ‘this was as good as it was going to get’ and somehow I was able to ‘accept’ (although I hate that word) that I had reached a plateau on my own particular mountain.
    Wishing you and your family some peace sometime in the not too distant future.
    Penny xx

  2. I am so very sorry for your loss, Tom. I know it well. I was a mess on my first Mother’s Day without my precious Alicea, who drowned in my neighbor’s pool about a week before her fourth birthday. My family and I got a lot of support from The Compassionate Friends, a national support group for bereaved parents. They have local chapters throughout the country. I highly recommend them. Their website is

  3. Tom,
    I am so sorry you are going to have to go through this Sunday without your son. I also know what it’s like. This will be my fourth fathers day without Joshua. For me the first one was really hard. It came so quickly after losing him I could barely breath. I have never presumed to know a better way than others to handle the grief of losing a child. All I can offer it what has helped me. The promise you made to your son is so admirable. I have taken Joshua’s passing and turned it into a passion to try and prevent others from going through what we have also. I can honestly say my son has made me a better person because of this and for that I couldn’t be more proud of him. Our sons can and will have a huge and positive effect on society by saving others. Tom be proud of Bradley. Through you he can and will do great things. After all that’s what fathers are here for. To carry our children on our shoulders to show them off to the world and proudly say! “THAT’S MY BOY”!
    Best wish’s and try to have a good Fathers Day.
    Blake (Joshua’s DAD Forever)

  4. Tom my heart goes out to you on this first Fathers Day. I hope you feel Bradley wrapped tightly in your heart. I know my first mothers day without rory was very raw and I know this year of firsts is really really rough. Hang in there mate, your openness and honesty in your grief process will help you enormously. Hugs for Sunday from me and my family.

  5. I know these feelings well. I find myself hating fathers day. Our daughter Lauren died Sept 19 2010, she was 8. Two months from 9. She collapsed in my arms from a brain bleed at a post office one Saturday. Found she was born with a defective artery in her brain. Just gave out that day. I have all the same feelings of grief no less even today. I feel i failed her as a father for somehow not figuring it out hence I dont feel to deserving of accolades on fathers day. No matter what doctors say about how its nobodies fault I still cant help blaming myself, part of grief I guess. I struggle with memories of her as well. Mostly I just remember that last day for some reason. I hope in time more memories will come back. I think of her every day multiple times a day. The only thing that keeps me relatively normal is the fact that I have to give her younger sister a normal upbringing. So I will smile and pretend on Fathers day.

    This was Lauren

    Robert Lukacs

    • Robert, we are all so sorry about your daughter, Lauren! Thank you for posting…

  6. i have just recently lost my 14 year old son to drowning and after 5 days they recovered his body. I was away working at the time and needed to get a 10 hour flight to the dive site. ive been a mess and have little support, I cant yet grasp the suddenness of this whole ordeal, and the lack of understanding from co workers and “friends”

    • John, we are all so sorry to hear about your son’s death. Support at a time like this is extremely important – we are here for you…

      Here is the link for the Yahoo Drowning Support Network (DSN):

      We also have a closed (membership approved) DSN group on Facebook:

      Nancy Rigg
      Drowning Support Network

      • John, I am so terribly sorry to read about your precious son’s drowning. There are very many of us who know exactly how you feel and, if and when you feel able, you could tap into the support that is in the DSN and also on the facebook page. I found that I couldn’t stop talking and talking about Daniel and his death for a very long time, and finding other people who knew what I was talking about was so very helpful for me. There are some wonderful people out there…..I hope you are able to let them help you to feel less alone with your grief.
        Penny x

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