Those of us who have been through child loss know as well as anyone the power of a moment in time. Grasping those moments with the child you know you may not have long, and trying to survive in the meantime and the after. It’s so easy to slip into a depressive cycle after losing your child and, in a way, this highlights the importance of self-care. The hardest part, though, is knowing exactly what that is, especially for men.
As a dad and husband, the first person I think of when talking about self-care is my wife. For her, it’s nails and hair, massages and yoga. Self-care is something that we men recommend when we can tell our significant others are worn down, not something that we think of needing for ourselves. While those things are happening, we’re usually holding down the fort and providing support where it’s needed.
I’m here to tell you, dads who have lost a child, that self-care is for us too. After we lost Luke I had two primary thoughts – take care of Cassy, and do things. All of them. Anything I could think of that needed to be done, I did when I was strong enough to get out of bed. And immediately after coming home from losing our second child Jonah, I went to my garage and shed and started cleaning them out.
I needed busy time to either process what was happening to my life or to give me a break from it. I built furniture and trained for triathlons. I got some extra house projects finished and did planning for the next ones. I didn’t realize it at the time but self-care was exactly what I was practicing – taking the time to do what I needed to get a little closer to center. Guys, whatever you want to call it or however your grief pattern lays itself out I’m urging you to take a second and do something for yourself on purpose.
This isn’t a matter of convenience and it isn’t a consolation – we hurt too and it is fully deserved to have time to yourself to heal in some way, no matter how small.
Part of what makes couple-life so difficult after a loss is that we don’t grieve the same – in my experience talking with other couples there is almost always one that is expressive and another who is busy, and it’s pretty often that one feels like the other doesn’t feel it as deeply. If you’re reading this and nodding along, chances are you’re the mother/wife thinking about the father/husband – these are natural roles and responses. What we miss in highlighting how differently we process is that we’re doing it for the same reason and from the same place – our hearts hurt from a loss unlike anything else in this life.
Give each other grace and take the time to carve out space for your own healing.
Photo by: Cassy McCartney