The loss of a loved one in our life can be crippling and leave deep scars; it changes who we are, how we look at life and how we relate with the world.
Five or six years out is still early grief but at a point where real rebuilding can begin.
In the first few years, we mechanically maintain, weep a lot and lick our wounds while clinging desperately to everything of our loved one and may in secret wish to join them.
We rejoin the real world at our own time, and it happens when it right for us.
Everyone’s journey is different, but what remains the same is the huge void left in our lives.
In today’s society, it is especially difficult for men in grief to grieve openly, caught in a catch 22 of how to express the deep pain they are experiencing yet not show weakness.
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 viewed as the fix it guys, the protector, the strength and the rock the family needs for support.
More times than not people will ask a bereaved father, “How is your wife doing? This must be extremely hard for her.”
I understand their compassion and intent but cannot help feeling marginalized.
Today, fortunately, men are now given (mostly by women and therapists) license to show emotions, to cry, scream, hug and express their deepest feelings and fears, to let it out.
The irony of this is if he does emote and the family has never seen this behavior, it can be taken as a sign of weakness.
The spouse and other family members may feel they have lost their safety net, their rock of support, and feel even more helpless and rudderless on an already difficult journey.
If this happens, a man may again ‘clam up’ to help with his family and deal with his 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 want-to-be-sensitive man.
Most men cry alone in their cars on the way to work, and they explain that the red eyes are due to allergies or late at 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 26 years now since my son Kelly died, and I still cry with my wife when we feel our loss together or even when I hear a particular song on the radio.
I do not care who is present; you love hard you grieve hard, and it is supposed to hurt.
When you recognize your pain and express it, you automatically become more empathetic to others in similar pain and can help relieve theirs and doing so reduce your own.
People will often tell us to find closure, to move on, or put it behind us; forgive them they know not what they do.
We may find a resolution to our pain, but we never have closure of someone we love.
We don’t move on; we move with; we don’t put it behind us we walk with it.
Our loved ones are forever by our side, only in a new relationship.
We live in one sphere of existence, they in another, but with faith, undying love and the desire we can connect at the seam where our two worlds meet.
They become our rock.
In America, we are allowed a few weeks to “get over it” and get back on track.
I find this unacceptable; it has been 26 years, and I still talk about my son every day and always will.
If you are a man in grief, you can be strong and still weep all night long.
Regardless of gender, we are human, we feel, we hurt, we need comfort, we need to express our pain, we need hugs, allow them and give them.
There is no shame in grief and honest emotions, it happens on a chemical level for men and women.
Grieving outwardly helps return or brain chemistry back to equilibrium.
We will always be bereaved, but we will not always be experiencing the pangs of grief.
Like arthritis we learn to live with it the rest of our lives, we will have flare-ups of pain and discomfort as we move forward through the years, but good days will come as well.
Grief is hard work but finding joy again is our birthright and worth the effort, so keep on keeping on.
About the Author: Mitch Carmody is an author, artist and motivational speaker who has been serving the bereaved for over 30 years since the death of son Kelly James. Mitch speaks of surviving loss by turning it into legacy through the process what he calls proactive grieving which provides provocative, insightful healing resources for the bereaved with writings from his website, blog, and YouTube: MrHeartlight.