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Fathers and Grief

Fathers in Grief, a Paradox for Today’s Male

The loss of your child can be crippling and leaves deep scars, it changes who we are and how we look at life and how we relate with the world. Five or six years out is still early in the spectrum of child loss but close to the point where positive rebuilding can begin. One thing that I have discovered that helps pull you out of the canyon of despair is compassion for others, it is in giving that we receive and in healing that we are healed.

In the first few years it is hard to even help yourself much less others and we mechanically maintain, weep a lot and lick our wounds while clinging desperately to everything of our child and in secret wish to join them. We rejoin the real world at our own time and it happens when it is right for us. Everyone’s journey is different, but what remains the same is the huge void that is left in our lives. How we fill it is up to us. I believe we need to fill it with something positive for others that creates a legacy of good in our child's name. We now become their legacy and we substantiate our child's life by the way we live ours.

In our "modern day" society it is especially difficult for fathers to grieve openly, caught in a catch 22 of how to express the deep pain we our experiencing. Men don't cry, men do not emote, men do not hug (maybe at the funeral) men don't go to support groups, men don't call in sick because they are screaming inside, we are the man of the family. Fathers are the fix it guys, the protector, the strength and the rock the family needs for support. More times than not people will ask a father" how is your wife doing? This must be hard extremely for her". 

The modern male is now given (by women and therapists) license to show emotions, to cry, scream, hug and express their deepest emotions and fears, to let it out. The irony of this is if he does emote and the family has never seen this behavior, it is taken as a sign of weakness and the spouse and other family members feel they have lost their safety net, their rock of support, and feel even more helpless and rudderless on this journey of pain. If this happens he may again 'clam up' to help with his family and deal with his own pain later. He finds that 'letting it out' is an axiom of sophistry and in doing so he feels he is letting his family down. Indeed a paradox for the wanna-be sensitive Dad.

Most men cry alone in their cars on the way to work and they explain that the red eyes are due to allergies, or a late night. When my father died when I was age 14, my Mom told me I was the man of the family now, I did not cry, I did not grieve. It was not until years later and my losses became overwhelming did I finally let it out and express my emotions for the loss of my father. It has been 16 years now since Kelly died and I still cry with my wife when we feel our loss together or even when I hear a special song like ‘Wind beneath my Wings' and I do not care who is present, you love hard you grieve hard and it is supposed to hurt. When you recognize your own pain and express it, you automatically become more empathetic to others in similar pain and can help relieve theirs. Hell, now I cry at Hallmark Card commercials; I can't help it.

People tell us to find closure, or move on and don't dwell on it. We can, but not how they think we should. We find closure in what will never be, let go of the what ifs, the shoulda -woulda -couldas and move on with the knowledge that our children are forever by our side, only in a new relationship. We live in one sphere of existence, our loved one who has died in another, but with faith, undying love and the desire we can connect at the seam where our two worlds meet. Love never dies.

In America we are allowed a few weeks to "get over it" and get back on track. The dead are wrapped up neatly so to speak and put away and their names unspoken. I find this totally unacceptable. It has been almost 16 years and I still talk about Kelly everyday and always will. We will always be bereaved parents but we will not always be experiencing the pangs of grief. Like arthritis we learn to live with it the rest of our lives, and also realize we shall still have flare ups of pain and discomfort as we move on through the years.

TELLING ONES SORROW OFTEN BRINGS COMFORT -Pierre Corneille (circa 1640)

Love and light,
Mitch

FYI.  I recently was interviewed by Debbie Mandel on her radio show in Long Island called ‘Turn on Your Inner Light” that touched upon this topic of men in grief. It can be heard by going to her website: http://www.turnonyourinnerlight.com/ then go to past shows. Shortcut to interview at: http://www.turnonyourinnerlight.com/page3.html#Past