I was recently talking with a Dad who lost his son. He mentioned that his best friend was often by his side but never openly spoke about the death of his son, leaving him no real options for talking about the devastating loss other than his wife and the occasional chance meetings with someone like me.
I talked with him about the fact that for the most part, men do not get the support that women do. About the fact that as awkward as the subject is to most people, the men in particular have a hard time discussing it or bringing it up.
Why is that?
For one, we entertain the myth that it’s not as hard on men. That they somehow shoulder this burden differently.
We think they are “stronger” and by stronger we define this as not grieving as much for some reason. Like grieving is a moral character flaw or some show of “weakness.” So let me dispel that myth right here and now.
Grieving is not a weakness
It’s a human emotion that is a result of having loved someone.
If you are a sociopath and you’ve never loved, you won’t grieve. But most are not sociopaths. Either gender will feel pain when that love ends.
Women do show love differently than men. But that doesn’t mean the depth of a man’s love is shallower than ours.
But it is a rarity for a male to feel safe enough to express his feelings of sorrow following a loss. I know one reason is because between two men, loss is a particularly awkward subject of conversation. Neither party knows what to say.
In my Families Anonymous Support Group prior to my son Charles’ suicide, I did notice men felt safe enough there to cry openly or express pain and sorrow. They knew it was a place that offered permission to do so.
Women married to men who have lost a child get frustrated at the male avoidance of the subject or their inability to show outward signs of that loss. But I do want the women to understand that it might take more coaxing and patience but they will often open up with encouragement, especially if you say you need to hear it. I also have to wonder if that is why the divorce rate after the loss of a child is so high? Because you can’t get on the same page or there is blame.
But do know loss can be divisive and it can bring you closer together. Closer together is worth working towards. Because I believe the greatest happiness is found at the end of pain and struggle.
Let me say I can’t imagine what it must be like being a gender that doesn’t allow you to openly share your loss. It has to be so much harder to work through those feelings of grief if you are not talking about it.
Our society stigmatizes male grieving
But maybe they just need permission from their friends, family and wives to feel comfortable doing so. Unfortunately, if the loss effects the whole family, brothers and sons learn from that flawed role model of “staying strong.”
I would love to hear from men who are currently grieving a loss from a death or even a divorce.
You do not have to use your real name and you can use the comment form below. No one but me will see the email address. I promise to respect your privacy.
You need to let it out to allow healing to happen –because grieving is healing.