When a child dies much of the emphasis and support is given to the mother, which they are wholly entitled to, leaving the father on the ‘back burner’. No one sets out for this to be deliberate or that dads do not need any support or consideration, it’s often just the way it is.
Whilst there are subtle reminders in poems such as ‘ A dad hurts too’ and ‘sub groups’ for dads fathers are grieving just as much as mothers are, but not the same.
A DAD HURTS TOO
His heart is broken too when his child dies.
He tries to hold it together and be strong,
Even though his world’s gone wrong.
He holds his wife as her tears fall,
Comforts her through it all,
He goes through his day doing what he’s supposed to do,
But a piece of his heart has been ripped away too.
So when he’s alone he lets out his pain,
And his tears come like falling rain,
His world has crashed in around him,
And a world that was once bright has gone dim.
He feels he has to be strong for others,
But Dads hurt too, not just the Mothers,
He searches for answers but none are to be found,
He hides behind a mask when he is feeling down.
He smiles through his tears,
He struggles and holds in his fears,
But what you see on the outside is not always real,
Men don’t always show how they really feel.
So I’d like to ask a favor of you,
The next time you see a mother hurting
over the loss of her child,
please remember…..a Dad hurts too.
For may reason such as: stereotyping, that a man has to be strong, that he has to support his family or does not want to share how he feels for fear of criticised, men often bottle up how they are feeling; but are really crying out inside.
Keep these in mind when a man you know is grieving:
Our culture discourages men from expressing how they feel.
At the same time men have been judged for not saying how they feel and therefore may find themselves in a quandary.
A man has physical differences which can impact his way of healing.
A man’s way of healing may be less visible and more subtle.
A man’s grief is often connected more with the future than with the past.
Just because a man is more silent does not mean he isn’t grieving.
Every man is unique in the way he approaches his own healing.
A man’s healing can be influenced by his tendency toward independence.
Men may prefer time alone in order to heal.
Men may respond to their loss more cognitively.
A man is likely to find ways to connect with the pain he feels with an action he can take.
Keep these in mind when you as a man consider your own grieving process:
You will grieve in your own way, influenced by who you are, how you’re made, what you’ve experienced, and how you’ve been raised.
* You may use fewer words than those around you.
You will be inclined to use your strength to connect with and heal your pain.
You may choose to tap into your grief by taking action more than through interaction.
You may place value on independence, quiet, and solitude as you grieve.
You’re likely to find meaning in caring for those around you as one aspect of your grieving process.
You may wish to honor your loss through action that impacts the future more than talking about the past.
You can use your courage to stand in the tension of grief.
You can build on this experience and use if for your own growth.
If you are a grieving male: The world may not see you as the bereaved person that you are. Because of your gender, in our society, you may be seen only as the support person- a role you probably play very well.
If you have been taught from an early age that “big boys don’t cry”, you may feel ashamed of crying. Other people may not be comfortable with your tears. Don’t hold the grief in. Find a safe place or someone to share with who isn’t afraid of your grief. People may mistakenly tell you to be strong or may tell you that you are strong for holding it in. Don’t confuse grieving with weakness and not grieving with strength. Holding in grief is very hard on the body and can make you physically ill. Gender may affect the way you grieve. Try hard not to behave as others think you should- but as you need to.
Many men avoid grief in one of the following ways:
When men experience loss, they often get overlooked. When others fail to acknowledge their losses, men tend to feel isolated, misunderstood and compelled to keep their grief a secret. We have different social expectations on men and women.
Men are conditioned to repress their emotions. Often what lies beneath isn’t what is visible on the surface for men. Men who learn to open up and share their grief will have many benefits to their emotional and physical health, as well as for their relationships and marriage. They will also feel more energy and happiness.
Men need to find other men to talk with. Men’s support groups can be very helpful for this. Counseling can be helpful for those who feel stuck. Seeking professional help is a sign of courage and willingness to heal.
MEN FEEL THE NEED TO BE STRONG.
Even in the face of tragic loss, many men in our society still feel the need to be self-contained, stoic and to express little or no outward emotion. It is very much in vogue today to encourage men to openly express their feelings, but in practice few men do so. The outward expression of grief is called mourning. All men grieve when someone they love dies, but if they are to heal, they must also mourn.
You can help by offering a “safe place” for your friend to mourn. Tell him you’d like to help. Offer to listen whenever he wants to talk. Don’t worry so much about what you will say. Just concentrate on the words that are being shared with you. Let him know that in your presence at least, it’s OK for him to express whatever feelings he might have-sadness, anger, guilt, fear. Around you, he doesn’t have to be strong because you will offer support without judgment.
Men feel the need to be active.
The grief experience naturally creates a turning inward and slowing down on the part of the mourner, a temporary self-focus that is vital to the ultimate healing process. Yet for many men this is threatening. Masculinity is equated with striving, moving and activity. Many grieving men throw themselves into their work in an attempt to distract themselves from their painful feelings.
Maybe you can offer your friend both activity and time for reflection. Ask him to shoot hoops or play golf. Go for a hike or fishing with your friend. Let him know that you really want to hear how he’s doing, how he’s feeling. In the context of these activities he just might share some of his innermost thoughts.
Active problem-solving is another common male response to grief. If a father’s child dies of SIDS, for example, the father may become actively involved in fundraising for SIDS research. A husband whose wife is killed may focus on the legal circumstances surrounding the death. Such activities can be healing for grieving men and should be encouraged.
Men feel the need to be protectors.
Men are generally thought of as the “protectors” of the family. They typically work to provide their spouses and children with a warm, safe home, safe transportation and good medical care. So when a member of his family dies, the “man of the house” may feel guilty. No matter how out of his control the death was, the man may feel deep down that he has failed at protecting the people in his care.
If your friend expresses such thoughts, you will probably feel the need to reassure him that the death was not his fault. Actually, you may help your friend more by just listening and trying to understand. By allowing him to talk about his feelings of failure, you are helping him to work through these feelings in his own way and his own time.
It’s OK for men to grieve differently.
We’ve said that men feel the need to be strong and active in the face of grief. Such responses are OK as long as your friend isn’t avoiding his feelings altogether. It’s also OK for men to feel and express rage, to be more cognitive or analytical about the death, to not cry. All of these typically masculine responses to grief may help your friend heal; there is no one “right” way to mourn a death.
Sometimes words, particularly clichés, can be extremely painful for mourners. Clichés are trite comments often intended to provide simple solutions to difficult realities. Men are often told “You’ll get over this” or “Don’t worry, you and Susie (can) have another child” or “Think about the good times.” Comments like these are not constructive. Instead, they hurt because they diminish a very real and very painful loss.
Your presence at the funeral is important. As a ritual, the funeral provides an opportunity for you to express your love and concern at this time of need. As you pay tribute to a life that is now passed, you have a chance to support your grieving friend. At the funeral, a touch of your hand, a look in your eye or even a hug communicates more than words could ever say.
But don’t just attend the funeral then disappear. Remain available afterwards as well. Grief is a process, and it may take your friend years to reconcile himself to his new life. Remember that your grieving friend may need you more in the weeks and months after the funeral than at the time of the death.
Be aware of holidays and other significant days.
Your friend may have a difficult time during special occasions like holidays and other significant days, such as the birthday of the person who died and the anniversary of the death. These events emphasize the person’s absence. Respect this pain as a natural extension of the grief process.
These are appropriate times to visit your friend or write a note or simply give him a quick phone call. Your ongoing support will be appreciated and healing.
Watch for warning signs.
Men who deny and repress their real feelings of grief may suffer serious long-term problems. Among these are:
- chronic depression, withdrawal and low self-esteem
- deterioration in relationships with friends and family
- physical complaints such as headaches, fatigue and backaches
- chronic anxiety, agitation and restlessness
- chemical abuse or dependence
- indifference toward others, insensitivity and workaholism
If you see any of these symptoms in your friend, talk to him about your concern. Find helping resources for him in his community, such as support groups and grief counselors. You can’t force your friend to seek help but you can make it easier for him to seek help.
Understand the importance of the loss.
Always remember that the death of someone loved is a shattering experience. As a result of this death, your friend’s life is under reconstruction. Consider the significance of the loss and be compassionate and available in the weeks and months to come.
“Helping a friend in grief is a difficult task. Helping a man in grief can be especially difficult, so few friends follow through in their desire to help. I encourage you to stand by your friend during this painful time. Your ongoing presence, patience and support will help him more than you will ever know.”