Why I’ve been Quiet

I did not watch the Super Bowl this year.

While the rest of the country was fixated on Payton, Cam and Beyonce, I watched Doctor Who battle weeping angels and robots with my 12-year old daughter. It was her last weekend at home before going to a residential treatment center in Utah for a few years, and I wanted to squeeze in as much time as I could with her.

Agreeing to send my 12-year old girl to an RTC is the hardest thing I’ve had to do as a parent, maybe the hardest thing in life. It kicked off a month of grieving leading up to a final, explosively sad good-bye.

I won’t go into the details of her diagnosis or what got to this point. But trust me when I say we had tried everything to keep her here with us. Her needs had gone beyond local resources. This was the best and only option, but one we had faith would help her. We can give her a loving, safe home, but not the level of therapy, training and community she needs.

The night before she left I slept in her room with her, both to keep her safe and because I wanted to breathe in as much of her as I could. I only slept a couple hours, but I was with her. My last night with her as a child that I could protect.


On her final day, we went for our last walk together, a daily practice we had gotten into over the last few months. We can either go in the direction of the park or downtown. Downtown meant seeing people I knew, so I opted for the park. I pushed her on the same swing I had pushed her on as a kindergartner. I only got a couple swings in before breaking down.

I had forgotten how physical grief was. I feel like I’ve aged seven years over this period. Nobody died – getting the help she needs is overall a positive thing – but I feel drained of life energy.

But throughout this painful process, something unexpected happened: by telling the story, I have had amazing connections with people.

Most of the time, we suffer through crappy life events alone. I’m a big believer of the phrase, “Everyone is fighting a battle you don’t understand.”

But when you crack the seal on what’s really going on, people often respond in kind. I was received with heaping gobs of support and people’s own stories of their childhood or struggles with their kids. I would watch people I barely knew shed the “everything is great, just check out my Facebook pictures” masks of daily life in a matter of seconds.

We have a big hole in our house now. A giant loss of energy that I try to fill in with reading her favorite books (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy), writing long email notes to her and taking care of her snake, Neo (who got out shortly after she left, and I thankfully found him in a carpet fold after a few days).

But I am finding solace in our social fabric for the first time in awhile. People I had written off as superficial have transformed in front of my eyes. And I’m learning their backstories and why they are who they are in the world. It’s unfortunate that it takes these life events for it to happen, but I’ll take it.

I’m counting the days till we can visit her in April. In the meantime, you’ll find me on the Dr. Who fan sites.

And thanks for all the support.

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50 thoughts on “Why I’ve been Quiet

  1. Dave, your daughter could not have more loving parents than you and April. My heart is with all of you, and trusting this treatment center will give your daughter the help and support that she needs.

  2. Wow Dave, I could have read any and all you were willing to share on this. I am so happy that your daughter is getting the help she needs, but my heart breaks for you and your family because that that help is not close to home. Paul and I had a rough year when Anna was diagnosed with high functioning autism. She had to receive never ending assessments and doctor visits. Paul and I would leave for work sure that we would get a call because she was being sent home AGAIN, for some behavioral issue. The school finally had to ask that she not return due to a violent incident with another child. We struggled with how and where to get her the help she needed. It was a long road with many, many obstacles for our family. She is now getting what she needs and improving greatly. As you know you are not alone and you are loved by many. Best of thoughts and strength to you, April and your daughter at home.

  3. Dave, your story touches my heart. Thank you for sharing! I’m with you in Spirit and am sending you and your daughter and family lots of healing energy. Thinking of you…
    Susan Beck

  4. Hey Dave, there are some subtleties in your writing that tell me you and your family have the tools to make it through this, one way or another. You should be proud of yourself and your family. Good luck. Hearts and prayers coming your way.

  5. I’m the superficial one who “transformed” before your steely eyes, aren’t I, Dave? We can take it off-line…

    Love to you, Ellie, & the whole Hersh clan. Your thoughts are affirming & helpful- thanks.

  6. Dave,

    So sorry about what you and your family are going through. It is so true that all of us are facing battles that others do not understand and that place feels incredibly lonely. I have been able to share some of my battles with others the last few yrs and by doing so, I too felt closer to others and had others open up about their battles which reduced the lonliness considerably. My thoughts are with you and your family. Be strong! Remain vulnerable. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Very tough but glad you took action. We had a troubled female teen relative come and stay with us for a year thinking we could help to ‘straighten her out’. There are lots of areas where despite believing large doses of empathy and attention will help to reconnect and build affinity with those with mental issues, the reality is they need professional help to find their way.

    I don’t know the specifics of your daughters issues but I’m sure you are doing the right thing, and I really hope your daughter comes out of the other side of all this happy, healthy and connected…

  8. Oh cousin. Of course I don’t understand exactly where you are coming from, because I’m not you, or really very aware of what has been going on. But we have traveled a path in the last years which makes me identify strongly with your words, especially the ache. I hope very much that your family is supportive of all you are trying to do for your daughter, and the rest of you. You have our thoughts and well wishes.

  9. Praying that your family finds peace and comfort in knowing you are doing what is best for all 4 of you. We have had this experience in my extended family and know the ups and downs even when you are doing what is right. Best to your whole clan. 💙

  10. oh Dave– I am terrible sorry. I have been thinking of you in the past week– which I know is strange, since we haven’t seen each other since you graduated high school! I saw your Kirkwood post and realized that I only live a couple hours from you– in Calaveras County and would love to catch up some time. I’m in the Bay area once a month. As always, I appreciate your honest and authentic posts–this one hurts my heart so much. Sending you, your wife and daughters lots of love.

  11. Thanks for sharing Dave. She’s better for your hard decision and of course you know that. Doesn’t make it easier. They grow up toothed K fast as it is. At least we’re not neighboring lords of decaying English manors, having sent both pairs of heirs off to boarding school by age seven, the way you’re supposed to do.

  12. Dave,
    I can’t even imagine how brutal this has been for you and your family…it takes a lot of bravery to talk about your pain and I totally applaud you. I truly hope your daughter gets the help she needs to heal and be happy. Take care of yourselves too!!! I’ll be thinking of all of you!!!

  13. Oh, Dave. We’ve been out of touch for so long I realize now how much has changed for you. I can only imagine how painful this is for all of you, and the pain that led up to this decision. I remember when E. and my C. were babies and we met up at the Children’s Museum. And when we discovered that wonderful baby toy at your house with the music recorded with a real Broadway singer and I was so excited that this one wouldn’t make me crazy and probably thanked you too much, as is the case when you’re at that crazy early-parenting phase. People talk about how hard babies are and now I laugh at those people, to myself, because this stage is so much harder because we have to make sure they’re ready for the world on their own and it’s terrifying.

    I agree that you have the resources to get through this, but that only means it likely won’t kill you. It doesn’t make it easier. I’ll keep you all in my thoughts and please reach out of there is anything I can offer, or if you just want to get caught up on the rest of life. I’m still here in Portland if you’re ever in the neighborhood.

    1. Great to hear from you, Katherine! Thanks so much for the kind thoughts. And yes, I remember all of that…fading fast, but I remember. Hope we can reconnect sometime.

  14. Dave, I’m so very sorry to hear about this, but I know enough about you to know that you and April made the best decision possible for E. I always enjoyed being around her on those occasions I saw her, so I can only imagine the difficulty of letting her go, even if was for the very best of reasons. Thanks heavens for the technology that allows you to stay in touch. I’m not sure of the specifics here, but there are some things all of us Hershes empathize on. Much love to you and the whole family. You are very much in my thoughts right now.

  15. Dave, I cried when I read this.

    Thank you for being so open, and so courageous to share your pain during this chapter of your daughter’s life. I can’t relate. Though I can relate better now that I have a 12 year old and a 13 year old than at anytime before. “Everyone is fighting a battle you don’t understand.” Words to live by.

    Thankfully, this is but a chapter in her life, and in yours. I have faith that you and she will celebrate the fruits of this painful season in future chapters.

    1. Thanks so much, Todd. I’m pretty sure 12 – 13 is the nadir of childhood :). I don’t recall those years so fondly. Hope to see you soon.

  16. Dave, my heart goes out to you. I would love to offer you sage advice, but all I can say is that you are not alone. You are loved very much, by friends old and new and everyone you’ve touched along your journey. If I could, I would give you a big squeeze of a hug right now and tell you everything is going to be all right. You are one of the kindest people I know and kindness always wins out in the end. I thought this poem might inspire you. Every day you are one day closer to your reunion. Reach out anytime my brave, brave friend.

    A Father’s Love – Poem by Carmen Strawn
    Is a Warm Embrace,
    Or a Quick Hug
    A Glowing Smile, and Your Wit and Wisdom…

    A Fathers Love is a Walk in the Park
    On a Hot Summer Day
    A Drive in the Car, Down that Windy dirt Road

    A Fathers Love is in the Poem Written
    To ‘A Friend or Daughter,’
    In the Special Words That Come Only From a Father…

    A Fathers Love is in Fun Times Together
    Camping under the Trees
    Enjoying a picnic, and Walking through the Leaves…

    A Fathers Love is Faith in His Family
    High Hopes and Dreams, And Pleasure in Doing
    ‘What Ever It Takes’…

    A Fathers Love is a Kiss on the Cheek
    Or a Friendly Hand Shake
    My Idol for Life, ‘I Will Treasure Dearly’…

      1. Nothing quite like the love of RHS Class of 1990. We muddled our way through those adolescent years somehow. My daughter is 16 and I find myself humbled at the complexity of it all. William, thanks for your beautiful words to our class mate💙

  17. made my eyes water mr hersh. you and april have done everything possible and left no stone unturned. You are amazing parents. Heart wrenching but such an authentic, open post

  18. I hold firm to the thought that a parent’s love lives in the child’s heart forever. Difficult decisions often have to be made and I greatly respect your sacrifice. Much affection to you and April. This has to be so very hard for both of you and your younger daughter too and hope with time, your family will happily reunite. We hold you in our hearts.

  19. Such incredible courage. From everyone in your family. Courage to go. Courage to send. Courage to trust. Courage to believe. Courage to share. Courage too, when you stay quiet. Keep the strength- love to all of you. You are not alone.

  20. Dave, I’m so so sorry for what you’re going through. If there’s ANYTHING I can do to help (a night out with beers & Doctor Who episodes at the Tardis Room next time you’re Portland?) please let me know. In the meantime, my thoughts are with you.

  21. Dave my thoughts and prayers to you and your family. I can’t imagine what you are all going through – but know you are not alone and many are hoping for the best possible outcome.

  22. Dave,

    Thank you for being so candid and incredibly courageous to share your pain during this very challenging time. This post really touched my heart.

    Sending lots of healing and positive energy your family’s way.

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