by Roger Smith
As a man, a father, a husband, I felt that it was my duty to protect, defend, and do the difficult things for my family that no one else wanted to do.
When my son died, I stuffed much of my emotions down because I felt I had to be the one to take care of the arrangements.
My family needed time to grieve; I would be strong for them. But grief has a life of its own and will not allow itself to be ignored.
Increasingly, I felt tears filling my eyes for no apparent reason. I began having difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping.
It felt as if my body was betraying me, not allowing me to do the things that needed to get done.
I began searching for information about grieving the loss of a child. Much of what I found was geared toward mothers.
Precious little spoke to a father’s heart, or should I say the father’s shattered heart.
Slowly, I realized that I needed to acknowledge the hole in my chest where my heart used to be.
I imagined nothing there but a shattered heap of brokenness. How was I supposed to be there for my family if I couldn’t keep it together myself?
It was my wife who spoke softly to me to care for myself, as well as everyone else. They needed me to be strong but also vulnerable, not something easy for most men to do.
As I slowly let my guard down, I began to feel a rush of emotions that initially frightened me.
Now I realize that it was weeks of bottled up feelings that were going to come out. I cried most days, no, I cried every day.
I held the tools that he used, imagining his hands holding onto them, where my hands now touched.
I kept a shirt of his that I wear occasionally. It feels as though he and I are hugging each other.
Now the funeral is over, the headstone paid for, no more “arrangements” to plan.
Now I go to his grave and speak gently to him about what his children are doing, how they are growing, and I cry.
I cry for my loss, the children’s loss, his loss, for memories that will never be made. I am still there for my family in any way they need me to be.
I still hold my wife close when she is hurting; I still talk with my grandchildren, his children, about their dad.
But it’s different now.
Now they see me as someone who is grieving alongside them, someone whose heart is equally broken.
Someone who will forever be changed.