Something that I have noticed since being involved in so many grief groups and listening to the stories of grieving parents in various interviews and reading their stories in books is a profound absence of fathers. This is what is known as anecdotal evidence. This is only my experience. It is statistically insignificant, but it seems grieving mothers are out there expressing themselves a lot more. There are notable exceptions. I happen to know two fathers who have given tremendously to keep the legacy of their children alive and to help others. Each has written two books. I am grateful to have the opportunity to learn from them. But, when I go to the groups for grieving parents I so often hear about a mother’s pain and how there is nothing like it.
Not having given birth, I cannot speak to a mother’s pain. I’m sure it has its nuances that make it different from a father’s pain. But, a parent is a parent. Mother or father, we see ourselves in our children. We want better for them than we have for ourselves. We would gladly give up anything to see them happy up to and including our lives. A mother may have a mama grizzly instinct. But, a father is the protector of the whole family, including the mother. When we lose one, it’s a failure that threatens our very identity just as much as losing threatens a mother’s. We struggle just as much to find a reason to keep living when our primary purpose in life has been taken from us.
Why do men suffer in silence? That’s a purely rhetorical question. I have no answer. Maybe it’s the American way? I have a friend who has chronic pain and has for decades. He tells me people sometimes try to silence him about it. We seem to admire those who suffer quietly, who don’t make the rest of us uncomfortable with the inconvenient truth that pain will come to all of us. We’d rather believe that the fairy tale we are living in will never come to an end. So, we tell men to suffer in silence is to be a real man. To “move on” is the goal. Don’t wallow in your feelings. Just stuff them in and keep on stepping.
I told my friend we need people like him who do not let us forget. People who speak out let others who are suffering silently know they are not alone. Them speaking out isn’t self pity or just self serving. We are not designed to make it through this life alone. While we cannot remove each others’ burdens, we can make them a little lighter, but we can only do that by speaking up about what we are going through.
In a couple of months, Tywana and I will launch a group for grieving parents. I expect we will get more women than men. I guess some people would worry about appearing weak speaking the way I do, letting people know just how much this hurts and sharing my struggle to get through it. Whatevs. I don’t care about looking weak. My hope is one day someone reads this and says “Wow. That’s how I feel. I thought I was the only one. If he can make it. So can I.” Then the display of weakness will have been worth it.