My apologies for being absent for a while. I hope at least some of you are still with me! I mentioned I would write something one men’s grief for your consideration. well, here is part two!
I have been involved in caring for people both formally and informally for over thirty years now. I was a pastor for fifteen of those years and the others have been devoted to learning through my schooling but also through being directly involved in coming alongside people in all sorts of situations of life. I am still working professionally in a context where suffering is part of the culture.
Now, let me include a bit of a disclaimer here. I did not state the above paragraph to try and establish I am an expert on people or suffering. The truth be known that with all my education and experience in working with people it did not prepare me for how I would respond to personal experiences with grief. When my dad died 12 years ago it took the wind out of my sails. We were together s a family in the hospital awaiting his death. We were aware that he was indeed dying. I actually saw him take his last breath. It was surreal to say the least. My immediate response was to want to walk away and be on my own. I could not think of what to do.
Here is an interesting note on men’s grief. Literature on grief will mention that one of the things men have in common regarding grief is the need to “do” something. My mom, being a real life wise woman, knew this about me and her other sons. She knew me and my brothers well. I didn’t know what to “do” in seeing my dad die. I was standing in the hallway outside the room where my dad died and wondering what was I to do now. “How can I help?” “There’s nothing I can do” “What is going to happen next?” “What will happen to mom?” All sorts of things may go through a guy’s head that point to a helplessness, a sense of not knowing what to “do”. Here I think is a difference that women may bring to the table of grief and is a choice we men have if a caring person points it out to us. My mom simply said to me as I wanted to walk away. “Alan, come on now, don’t walk away. Come on back inside (dad’s room) and be with the rest of us.” It amazes me that I still remember her words. By saying this she wasn’t giving me an alternative to what I could do. She was giving me the choice of “being”. Come and “be” with us. It would only be for a short time that we would stay in the room but mom ws saying I didn’t have to “do” anything. How freeing this simple choice was. Mom allowed me to just “be,” to just sit by my dad’s bed and be.
Our grief, for either men or women, may imbalance us in numerous ways. If given the chance, if we believe we have no choice but to do something, we may be robbed of the beauty, the freeing and gentle acts of “being with” those we love. In “being” we embrace perhaps the child in us that just wants to express that right now “I am sad and I am crying because my world has changed and there is nothing I can do.” Someone please help me “be”.
I don’t know if this makes sense to you readers. Perhaps I am betraying my own teaching and this is but another way of me “doing” grief. I hope it helps each of us in some way.
The waves of grief at times seem overwhelming and at times I long for them to cease or at least be tempered. They do however, remind me of my humanness, my fragility, my vulnerability and hope for a community of caring souls who allow my heart to freely express the pain that strangely unites us. Grief also hopefully gives a great appreciation for the loveliness of life and the precious gift it truly is.
One’s ability just to “be” in our times of grief may also give us a unique opportunity to share with others at least part of the journey we are on. Just think of how lonely it might be if we didn’t have people around us who love us. Especially with close family or friends who love us we may enjoy a strong sense of belonging, the reality that we are not really alone. We may also sense with these intimate connections with others that deep inside there is a spot, there is a space that makes us also aware of the pain of each other as well. Perhaps knowing this helps us to be more tender and less judgemental toward each other.
Women and men, girls and boys, all grieve! Perhaps we indeed grieve in some different ways. “Doing” even in expressing grief, has its place. Learning how to “be” and also knowing that we as men don’t always have to “do” may be freeing to our souls as we go on in life without people we have deeply loved!