Some differences in grieving may arise from gender. It is important to recognize these gender issues. For example, a man’s feeling of helplessness in the face of grief and sorrow can manifest itself in guilt or anger and he may lash out to those who are closest to him. The social forces that underpin a “macho” approach to life can push a man toward avoidance, denial or compartmentalizing emotions and even the grief journey itself. He will need to attend to “grief work” but others may need to tread very carefully at revealing this truth to him. Patience and understanding must blend with realism and indirect ways of showing him that he does not need to remain trapped in society’s straight jacket. In some cases the male needs to be given permission to deal with his emotions and a “tender side” of life.
This is a truism written by fellow grieving dad and friend Charlie Schmidtke; in fact, it is one that I experienced as a grieving dad. There are so many things in this truism that rings true for many guys.
“Man’s feelings can manifest itself in guilt or anger” – Not sure about any of you, but I felt both. Guilt, because I didn’t/couldn’t protect my children. Anger, because society says it’s ok for a guy to show anger, so I wasn’t shy about showing it.
“Trapped in society’s straight jacket” – As a guy, how can we not feel like we are trapped in society’s straight jacket. Society expects men to behave differently when it comes to tough times. They expect guys to pull themselves up by their “boot straps and get back at it”. I don’t disagree with this approach on something’s, but trying to deal with the death of a child or severe emotional trauma is not realistic or a healthy way of dealing with it.
“Male needs to be given permission” – For whatever reason, I didn’t realize that I was searching for someone to give me permission to grieve/feel the impact of losing my children until some gave it to me. I talk about this story in my book, but it took another guy to acknowledge my pain in order for myself to acknowledge it. It was a simple statement of “that’s a heavy load man” from a stranger for me to say to myself “ok, maybe I am not crazy and this appears as hard to others as it feels to me”. I started to realize that maybe I wasn’t weak, I was human and that it was ok for me to love and miss my children as much as my wife. And it was certainly ok to show my emotions as part of it.
Any of this hit home with you?
Order copy of Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back here and I will donate a copy of the book to a grief support organization of your choice.