Mentioned in this Episode

Rob uses the Calm app for its grief meditation.
Rob mentions the Youtube playlist his wife created and grief support from Hospice of Randolph County.
Brandon mentions the blog post he wrote talking about his depression.

Episode Transcript


00:01 Brandon Billinger: Joys of recording a podcast in the basement of my house.

00:05 Rob Ainbinder: Yeah.


00:07 Brandon Billinger: Hey, there’s our…

00:07 Rob Ainbinder: Maybe someday, we’ll get some budget and we can soundproof.



00:13 Brandon Billinger: Hello and welcome to the Dad Huddle podcast. I am your co-host, Brandon Billinger. Sitting in the other seat in the second floor, I hear, is…

00:23 Rob Ainbinder: Yup.


00:25 Brandon Billinger: Is my co-host Rob Ainbinder. How are you doing, my man?

00:29 Rob Ainbinder: I’m doing pretty well, Brandon. Not… Pretty well, all things considered.

00:33 Brandon Billinger: That’s good, good, yeah. So we have… We’re gonna be quite honest in this episode. We have taken, I think we calculated, what, was it three, four months off since…

00:43 Rob Ainbinder: Yeah, like a four month… We hit the pause button for four months.

00:48 Brandon Billinger: Yeah, and we… Yeah, wow and I… We tried on all of our might to have that not happen, but life gets in the way. And we have some very good reason for that, and especially if you follow any of us on our… Either of us on our blogs, you have an understanding of why this all happened because right after episode three hit, and I’m looking at when I published this post on my site, I went…

01:19 Rob Ainbinder: Yeah, what happened with you?

01:20 Brandon Billinger: Yeah, I went through… I went through kind of a moderate depression and I say moderate in the sense that it was… There were… I knew it was happening and I knew the signs to look for, and my wife also kinda made me aware of what exactly was going on.

01:42 Rob Ainbinder: Okay.

01:42 Brandon Billinger: So, yeah, I went through a depression, I was not… To be upfront and honest with everybody, I was not suicidal. So a lot of people think that that is the first sign that people have… That they have when they go through this and it’s really not. When I… As I was going through it, the first sign for me that something was wrong was when my wife looked at me and said, “You need to watch your tone with our son because you are being really hard on him lately.”

02:24 Rob Ainbinder: Oh, really?

02:25 Brandon Billinger: Yeah, and that was the… Like I said, that was the first sign I said, “Okay, something is wrong.” And then I believe it was the next day that she was… My wife again was looking at me. I think we were outside doing something and she asked me, she asked, she said, “What’s wrong?” And I said, “I think I might be depressed.” And she…

02:46 Rob Ainbinder: Really?

02:47 Brandon Billinger: Yeah, I was like… ‘Cause at the time, nothing… I just was, I felt like I was just wandering around, like I didn’t have any meaning to do… Even though I knew at the time… I was even telling myself the entire time… Throughout that entire two-month period in my life, that I was saying to myself, “Okay, I’ve got the kids, I’ve got my wife. I need to be able to still be able to function with them around and let them not know that something is really going wrong and seeing if I can just push through this.” Well, that wasn’t the case and I ended up going to the doctor, getting some help and getting the help that I needed to get through it. So yeah, so that kind of explains what was going on with me at that time and it’s one of those things… I wrote the story and I know that for a lot of people who go through a depression whether it’s very minor, where it’s… Whether it’s moderate or whether it’s really severe, my story seems very… It seems very… I don’t know what the word is. It doesn’t seem as severe as a lot of other cases of people who go through a depression.

04:05 Rob Ainbinder: Well, do you think that it might be somewhat in the eye of the beholder or do you really feel like yours should be graded less than somebody else’s? Because certainly, we see a lot of big examples of extreme…

04:26 Brandon Billinger: Right, and I think that may be why it’s in the eye of the beholder. I think any case of depression is a very serious case and needs to be taken seriously. I think it was just in the eye of the beholder because I also knew the signs that I was looking for as I was going through it, because this isn’t the first time that I’ve gone through a depression in my life. I went through actually a more severe case in college. I knew what I was looking… Some of the things that I was looking for and knew the things to not let myself get to this particular point. And I think also having my wife and kids, I also was not afraid to seek out help as well. And I think that’s what I encourage anyone who’s going through minor, moderate or severe case, or whatever have you, to seek out the help whether it’s to go talk to a family member, or to go see a doctor or whatever. So that’s kind of my story through that case and why I ended up telling my story about going through depression and how I was parenting through that as well.

05:50 Rob Ainbinder: Yeah. Well, kudos to you for being…

05:52 Brandon Billinger: Thank you.

05:53 Rob Ainbinder: Brave enough to share that.

05:56 Brandon Billinger: Not everybody is, and I…

05:58 Rob Ainbinder: No.

05:58 Brandon Billinger: And I think it’s a topic that needs to be talked about more. And I also think that, especially with my platform, with The Rookie Dad, I was able to talk a little bit about why I went through it. We’ll have a link to that story in the show notes.

06:15 Rob Ainbinder: Sure.

06:15 Brandon Billinger: So anyway, that’s a little bit about what’s been going on with me over the last… At least for the two months there but then Rob, we had something a little… Or something happened in your life that was very significant, as a matter of fact. Why don’t we… Why don’t you dig into that a little bit?

06:33 Rob Ainbinder: Yeah, sure. So… If you haven’t been following my blog over these last 20 months, my wife had a rare form of cancer called glioblastoma multiforme and it’s a brain cancer, and you may have seen some politicians and athletes recently that passed with that same cancer. Well, that’s the same cancer that Angela’s been fighting. When we stopped producing the podcast, things had gotten a little more intense in July and then in mid-August, we transitioned her ’cause she was being cared for at home by me and my daughter and visiting palliative care visits from a nurse twice a week, and a doctor occasionally and… And a nurse, a nurse’s assistant three times a week to help with some hygiene. And so all that was going on the whole time we’ve been… We launched this podcast and all of that, and then finally, let’s see… In August, August 22nd she passed away at Hospice of Randolph County in Asheboro, North Carolina from Glioblastoma and that was a very sad day. Saddest day of my life, saddest day of my life. And yeah, nothing prepares you for that, especially somebody that you’ve been married to for almost… It was just shy of 20 years, 24 years together.

08:26 Brandon Billinger: Right, and I remember that day. I remember watching you go through it, I remember the time that you were posting about it on Facebook, about how she was going downhill and how she was going downhill pretty quickly. And that day, I remember I had to take… I remember taking probably about 30 minutes at work where I just had to walk away and knowing you and I remember… And I’ve never met Ange at all but hearing your stories about her, she felt like family to me and so that’s… I had to take 30 minutes at work and just… I broke down for you ’cause I knew exactly what was coming. I knew that this was… We knew, everyone knew this day was coming, it was just a matter of when. And quite honestly, I wasn’t expecting it that quickly as a matter of fact.

09:26 Rob Ainbinder: No. In fact, I had made plans the next week to have a dinner brought in to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary or it would have been… Yeah, the next week because I’d had a friend come forward who had this husband who was a personal chef at a local private university. He had offered to cook us a meal. I thought, “Wow, that would be perfect way to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.” And so I had that all set up and I thought the way things were going at the time that I made those plans, it looked like a possibility but then things changed in 24 hours. And then in those last 24 hours, it just… She just progressed more and more, and she entered into what they call active dying and that’s where there are these physical signs that the body is shutting down. One of them is splotchy skin and that’s because the blood flow is being focused on the vital organs and keeping those going meanwhile as a part of the body shutting down that blood withdraws from extremities, from other extremities to preserve the internal organs as long as possible. So that’s what happens when you enter active dying.

11:05 Rob Ainbinder: There’s these definitive stages that nurse… Healthcare professionals and hospice nurses and hospice doctors look for when somebody is passing away, so it’s not… It doesn’t just happen at once. There are these things that happen to the person that are visible to us as loved ones, as healthcare professionals, as they’re progressing through passing on and then you get to the moment when it happens. And all I can say about that and the aftermath is I did not know pain of loss like that until that happened, and the kind of pain that I talk about, and I’ve talked about this to a few people in a few places but imagine the pain it’s in your sternum and it hurts deep down in there. That’s the kind of pain I’m talking about that I connected with through grief. And so I get an understanding now about the word “heartache” and I think heartache is accurate, but it’s not the right location in your body. I think it’s really more dead center, even though I know your heart’s kind of a big organ and part of it’s over there but… But I think at least for me where it happened, was right deep down in that area where my sternum is. And even now when I have those moments of grief, it hurts in the same place.

13:03 Rob Ainbinder: I will say that before she passed away, we were planners by nature and so we planned pretty tightly. We had planned what she wanted to do for her funeral and memorial service, the foods we were gonna have afterwards, the music that was gonna play. She has a playlist out there on YouTube that anybody can listen to. It’s a list of music that she selected that was played at the memorial service and then we intended to play it afterwards at the gathering at her house that technological problems prevented me from doing that. But there was a lot of the things that we did, that she did beforehand to get ready for not being here and I look back at it ’cause recently, I’ve been thinking about how now I’m the sole head of the household and how that all happened and how those… Embedded in those 20 months where I was a caregiver, she was also giving me on the job training for taking full-on care of the house and raising our daughter. I’d confer with her over menu items, food shopping, she’d still give me ideas even though it was difficult for her to write down things on a list, we still got things from her.

14:37 Rob Ainbinder: The other thing that I did was I shared with her what my plan for grieving would entail, what things I was gonna do and I made it very clear that talking to a counselor at hospice was one of the things. The other thing was that I was gonna lean on my faith and there’s specific prayer for me while I’m mourning and I would undertake that. And then the third thing was meditation and there is… I’m a big proponent of the app Calm. We used it a lot to help both of us go to sleep in the intervening months because when you’re under the stress of you have this… You’ve been given this diagnosis, it can be stressful and hard to find the head space to go to sleep. So we used this app to help us both go to sleep. I now use it and use this grief meditation. And so those are three things that are part of my grief project and I’ll have to say that today, I had another visit with my chaplain at hospice and he said, “With all things considered, you’re doing extremely well.”

16:11 Rob Ainbinder: And we just had a conversation about some other things as well, but he was… It helps me to have somebody to check in with. I’ll say this for the chaplain. It helps me to know that I have somebody to talk to about a couple of things, but the big thing is just to check in that I’m not headed somewhere that I shouldn’t be. Now of course, I do have my daughter to take care of and certainly that pulls me over, back over to the straight and narrow, but there’s still the potential for you to get some emotional rough spots and so I’m using my time with the hospice chaplain, grief counseling, to just give myself a check-in and make sure that I’m not headed toward any bigger problems. The other thing that I do is when I’m grieving, I lean into that grief and completely yield to it happening when it happens, wherever it happens. And fortunately so far, it’s not been anywhere too public and so that’s what we’ve been going through. That’s what’s happened and that’s why we paused for such a long time.

17:43 Brandon Billinger: Yeah, I think everyone will be able to tell that it was the reason we paused was for really good reason. It wasn’t because we got burn-out after three episodes.

17:56 Rob Ainbinder: No.


17:57 Brandon Billinger: No, in fact we…

17:58 Rob Ainbinder: No.

18:00 Brandon Billinger: I remember we had been talking about what we were gonna do for that fourth episode right after that, I believe, and we just… There was a lot going on as you can tell in my life there and then what happened with you so I’m… Yeah.

18:19 Rob Ainbinder: ‘Cause the truth is, we have a bank of show topics.

18:23 Brandon Billinger: Ideas, yeah.

18:24 Rob Ainbinder: Yeah, ideas. Yeah.

18:24 Brandon Billinger: Yeah, and we have guests. We had guests even scheduled at that point in time, but with everything going on, we just kinda had to hit pause and I think at some… I know as an influencer who does blogging and content creation and now podcasting on the side, there’s times where at least for my blog, there’s times even I have to hit pause on that even though it’s been really steady over the last 10 years. I still need to be able to hit pause and be able to re-center myself. And a lot of the times, if I take two or three months off from writing or whatever, what have you, I come back with some of my strongest work, which is a little bit of the hope here too that we come back even stronger and with greater content than what we had even planned for at this point in time. Yeah.

19:22 Rob Ainbinder: Yeah, totally. I read something, I think it was… I think it was Ray Bradbury, he said that, “You… And I’m quoting him loosely, “You have to have enough of life built up in you before you can say something or write something about it,” and he was talking more about writing. But it has to build up in you, and then you have something. Then you have something to talk about and write about and that might be what some of those pauses are that we take because as influencers, and blog authors and that sort of creators, sometimes we don’t have enough ready life material to give us to create that next blog post and sometimes we need a little light of life to experience to give us the fuel to create a few more things. At least that’s how I see it because I’ve taken, I’ve been writing since 2003 on a blog. So there are these sways in how often I post and I have to say this year was not my most consistent. 2018 was very consistent. 2017 to 2018 was very consistent and then life builds up in you and you create. I think that’s how it works.

21:02 Rob Ainbinder: Hearing you, what’s happened with you and how you just explained it, I just think that that’s how the creative process works. If you force it… And I know this is true for me, if I force it or if I have to write it, it’s not as great as if I’m inspired to write it.

21:25 Brandon Billinger: Right and I know for me, there’s been times where, at least from… I have said, I just sat down and I’m like, “Okay, I just need to write. I just need to get whatever’s in my head out on a piece of paper.” And it’s not necessarily that I’ll hit publish right then and there but a lot of the times, I’ll get it out and then come back the next day and be like, “What in the heck was I thinking?” That is…


21:54 Brandon Billinger: Many times, I’ll go, “That is absolutely the worst. Let’s try and fix it.” But then there’s a handful of times where I’m like, “You know what, that is absolutely great,” and I can’t tell you which posts those are, but I just remember I can be like, “Wow, okay, I just need to get that out there because that is absolutely phenomenal.” Or I’m like, “Okay, that’s just… ” Again, in the case where it’s the worst, I’m like, “I still… I need to hit publish on it.” One, not just because I need to get content out there, but two, because that gives me motivation to be able to write something better the next time.

22:34 Rob Ainbinder: Yeah, and I think that’s important to recognize is that I think if you can, take the time to revise after you’ve written can be very valuable if you have the time to do it. And certainly on more personal posts that you aren’t under the gun for, you can do that. And I will say in preparing my remarks, my eulogy at Angela’s funeral service, I took all of a week to do it but what I did was, I said, “Monday through Wednesday, I would be writing and revising. And Wednesday was my put-the-pencil-down date. And then Thursday, Friday was my verbal practice day,” read-through because Saturday was the service and that worked out. Because I wanted some time to, not rehearse it and memorize it but to be at least familiar with reading it for when I got up there because I didn’t know what might happen.

24:00 Brandon Billinger: Yeah, and I gotta say that your remarks at the service were absolutely beautiful. They were absolutely phenomenal, yeah.

24:09 Rob Ainbinder: Thank you, thank you. Well, it was kinda like Angela’s friends stood up for her kind of when they knew her in the past kinda for the most part, and then you had me to stand up there for her about everything about us, and then most phenomenally, my daughter stood up and said something. And then they played a song that she requested and that blew my mind, that… In fact, her saying she was gonna do it forced my hand to do it in actual truth.

24:51 Brandon Billinger: Yeah, that… I mean…

24:53 Rob Ainbinder: Her deciding to do it, I was like, “My gosh, if she’s gonna be up there, I gotta be up there because there’s us to talk about.” The whole, the whole story about us. There’s that whole story to tell people about. About us and about her. It just, it would have been disingenuous of our almost 24 years of a relationship not to say anything.

25:21 Brandon Billinger: Right.

25:22 Rob Ainbinder: But it was weird because the whole time that Angela was alive and we talked about the service I said, “I’m probably not gonna do it, I’m probably gonna be an emotional wreck.” Surprise.

25:34 Brandon Billinger: And then all it took was your daughter to say, she was gonna do it.

25:37 Rob Ainbinder: Exactly. Yup.

25:38 Brandon Billinger: And it’s great that you have… The two of you are so… I wanna use the word “strong” together throughout this, have been so strong throughout this entire process because watching you guys go through it is just… I can’t imagine what the every day is like for the two of you.

26:00 Rob Ainbinder: It was interesting. We had some families stay afterwards, after the memorial service for about 10 days. And at the end, near the end my daughter was like, “When this guest goes, I don’t want any more guests for a long time because we need to get back to us.” I was like “Yup. We need to find our new groove, our new existence.”

26:27 Brandon Billinger: Yeah, so we know that these last, at least this episode and the episode previous to this were kind of in… It was a deep… They were deeper episodes and it’s not always going to be like that. We do have some plans for some great topics. We’re gonna talk about dads with daughters. Coming up, there’s gonna be various other topics that we’re gonna talk about. We’re gonna have guests come on and everything, so we are… Yeah, we’re really starting to ramp up the podcast creation for you and really bringing you into the huddle of being a dad, making you a part of what it’s like growing up. I don’t wanna say growing up but raising kids and raising teenagers and just what it’s like to be a dad during all of this.

27:20 Rob Ainbinder: Yeah.

27:21 Brandon Billinger: So that’s where we wanna get with this. It was unfortunate that we had to take a pause for a little bit but you have to do that in life every now and then, like we talked about. So Rob, I’m glad we were able to get this one out there and get this kind of started up again. I’m looking forward to the next one. You got any…

27:41 Rob Ainbinder: Definitely, Brandon.

27:41 Brandon Billinger: Yeah, you got any final thoughts on… For tonight?

27:44 Rob Ainbinder: Well, I think whatever your stage in fatherhood, I think just remember there’s other dads out there you can lean on. And if you happen to be grieving, then grief takes its own timeline.

28:00 Brandon Billinger: Find that support network, that’s kind of… I think the overarching theme of this episode is find that support network to help you get through whatever it is you are going through, whether you are grieving, whether you are going… Whether you are depressed, whether you are… Have anxiety, whatever have you, find that support network. Whether it’s the Dad Huddle podcast, whether it’s other Facebook groups, and whatever, find that support network.

28:34 Rob Ainbinder: In-person groups, meet-ups.

28:36 Brandon Billinger: Exactly. In-person groups more so than I would say Facebook groups, but they’re all equally as important as the other. So anyway, that wraps up Dad Huddle episode four. We’re really glad you joined us and we hope you stay tuned for the next episode of the Dad Huddle.


29:00 Brandon Billinger: You have been listening to the Dad Huddle podcast. We know that you love what you hear inside the Dad Huddle, so be sure to hit that Subscribe button and give us a review on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you listen to your podcast. And be sure to head over to our website, to find out how to reach us or follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Thanks for listening.


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