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Hey! What about the Dads and Granddads?

Editor: Sonya Marvel
Contributors: All Members of My Parents Are Survivors

Dad not only has lost a child, but he is the one person who has to keep his family together and be strong for them. He is hurting, yet his wife is also hurting. He wants to cry, but his children need his strength. What about your feelings of hurt and devastation? When is it my turn to grieve for my child?

Let me first begin by saying men also grieve differently from other men. They grieve differently than their spouses and children. Not all of the instances below may apply to you.

The following article was written By: Pamela Rowse

The death of any loved one can be equated with a journey on the "brink of hell's gates" but, the death of a child or grandchild somehow moves you through those gates if even for a brief span of time. Regardless of the mode of death, suicide, homicide, accident or illness, the loss of the one person that you felt confident would never be gone before you is devastating.

I won't pretend to be able to describe the emotions or thoughts of male counterparts when it comes to a child/grandchild dying. I do however know they feel as much pain and sorrow as any mother or grandmother who has surivived the same experience. The difference is...they are men and by virtue of their psycho social upbringing, they are rarely told it's okay to grieve!

When my grand daughter was murdered at 14 months by her licensed day care provider, our family nearly vaporized as if we had experienced a nuclear holocaust. Each of us her mom, her dad, her grandfather and myself all dealt with the loss in very different ways.....denial, withdrawl, separation and action....the one connection that we had was the love we all felt for little Kierra! The difficulty we had was being able to share that with each other!

During that time we were fortunate enough to connect with a group of very loving and caring people who unfortunately had experienced our same loss. One of those individuals was Charles Collenberger, President of Families of Murder Victims in Las Vegas, Nevada. Charles was and still is a man of deep caring, and compassion, but it took him a very long time to understand his own feelings about death and grieving. I would like to share some of the articles that Charles has written. Even though the loss of his daughter was from violence, most of what he writes about applies to any man who has lost a child or a grand child. I want to share with you his most painful process and the one that ultimately helped him escape the "gates of personal hell".

The Death And The Aftermath

You, as a male, recently received the notice of the death of a loved family member. You were told of it by a policeman, doctor or another spokes-person or possibly discovered it yourself. Be it murder or DUI homicide or accident or suicide or catastrophic illness, it doesn't really matter - you are starting down a traumatic road that can, if you let it, lead to the complete destruction of your life.

At first, the sudden shock leaves you numb. You might even cry a little. But then a little voice says "Men don't cry." Someone, yourself or a well-meaning soul, mentions what has to be done. The calling of the rest of the family, the arranging of the funeral, the carrying on of life.

You look to your female half - wife, mother, sister, daughter - realizing that she is incapacitated by grief and crying. You pull yourself together. Taking your punishment like a "little soldier," you start to make the step-by-step arrangements.

Like a strong pillar, you force your life back into shape. You don't have time to cry. You have to meet people at the funeral. You can't do that if you allow grief to take over. You have to be the support of the surviving family remembering the guilt of the last argument you had with the dead has to be smothered. You have to get back to work to help pay for all of this. You would rather hunt down and kill whoever did this to your family. You have to comfort others around you forgetting the all-consuming anger over the way of death and the treatment your surviving loved ones, including yourself, received from the authorities.

You make it through the funeral and the time consuming, cluttered days afterward, when you haven't had time to acknowledge the boiling cauldron of grief, guilt, and anger inside you. The female members of the family are still caught up in shock and grief. But for you, it's back to work, back to normal living, back to the association with people who don't know, don't understand... so... back go the feelings, deep into the mind, to fester longer.

By now you know, if you really talk about what has happened, you will break down emotionally and maybe even cry. We were raised by our parents by the rules that "men don't cry," "you have to stand silent and take your punishment like a little soldier" and quite often, " the longer you cry, the longer you will be beaten."

Back to work where, if you show too much emotion, or any at all, you are looked on with suspicion and run the risk of losing your job. Back to work where, after the first "Sorry's," they look the other way, hoping you'll go away. Hoping that what has happened to you is not catching and won't happen to them. So it's bury yourself in your job, even though your dead loved one is in your thoughts 75 to 95% of the time forget them and work!

Renewing the Pain

Just when things are looking better, if you're lucky, the trials start. Step by step, what has been done to the loved member of your family is brought out. Your loved one often is attacked by the defense attorney. It takes days for the trauma of a few minutes to be relived. Even if the trial has an outcome acceptable to you, the attempts to reverse the decision start immediately and go on for years.

The family and you have been retraumatized. Most likely, during the trial you found out that the state considers the murder not a crime against a person but a crime against the state, and you are outraged. It's your kid, your spouse, your sibling, your parent, and they and you don't even count except as evidence.

And you and your family start again to put your lives back together, now knowing that, because of the judicial and prison systems, you will have to do this many times over.

Normal Reaction

Resentfully (more guilt), you notice your wife has cried herself into a semblance of recovery. She and her friends have cried together. Maybe she has gone to counseling. Maybe she has joined a therapy group or self-help group. She is rising above the trauma, but just barely. You can't talk to her because of the fear of being seen as weak, and maybe sending her back into grief. So you continue to draw-away from your wife into yourself, and you feel guilt about this too.

Burying yourself in your work seems to help. You are not allowed to dwell on your loss. For moments at a time, some times stretching to minutes, you don't even remember. You begin to accept overtime or take on more than you possibly can get done. Extra jobs which at first help with the burial expenses continue to be an escape from facing up to the problem. This means less and less time at home facing the guilt from which you have to get away.

Sleeping has become a problem, and during the day you are having widely swinging moods. A well meaning but foolish doctor will give you sleeping pills and tranquilizers to get you through the trauma. These pills will outwardly help. You forget, and so you become dependent on them for day-to-day existence. And maybe those other drugs you hear about will help even more.

What do you do with your evenings?? You can't talk with your wife anymore and just sitting, watching television doesn't keep the memories from flowing back, especially with your loved one on your mind so much of the time. Remember how she... Remember the time he... On and on.

A few drinks will help. Oh yes! Maybe you have to go to the corner bar with the boys to get away from the guilt you feel while being with your wife. Maybe your wife is the one dead and you can't stay home anymore.

Maybe the corner bar is across town, and nightly you have to drive home drunk. So what?! You've driven drunk before. Besides, since no one's talking to you, no one cares if you live or die anyway.

WHO CARES?

Everyone does!! They are standing outside of the barrier that you have thrown up around yourself. They are watching you destroy a person that they love dearly. They don't know how to break through this wall you have put up. The only one who can break down this impassable, invisible wall is you.

What To Do

You must:

  • Forget "MEN DON'T CRY. "
  • Forget the silent little soldier taking his punishment.
  • Forget to hide your emotions.
  • Reach out For help. Find someone to listen to how you feel.
  • Clergy, therapist, doctor, wife or someone who has been through it like you. Someone from the group your wife joined. Someone who has spoken out and is healing, healed enough to accept the pain of others and help their healing to begin.
  • BUT MOST OF ALL, you have to let the emotions out that are destroying you.
  • You must learn to cry!
  • Allow yourself to cry long and loud, until you begin to recover. And allow yourself to do it whenever you feel the need again, forever. It won't be easy, years of crippling training have to be undone. It takes tremendous courage, tremendous strength to cry - the strength and courage you thought you were showing before.

    I can cry, I am healing, I am surviving. You can - you must - cry, heal, and survive, too.

    Life will never be the same again. You can't bring them back. But your good memories will keep them alive for you. You can have those good memories only if you are healing.

    Written by: Pamela Rowse
    Used with full permission from Charles Collenberger, former president of Families of Murder Victims.

    Dad's Comments

    Your comments are too true. I'm now a single parent after my wife died last year aged 38, pregnant with twin girls at 36 weeks, they died as well. I have a 4 year old boy who lost his mummy, its difficult all of a sudden becoming more domesticated, mother and father to him, holding down a 9 to 5 job with a house to run. My sister did a tribute to my wife when it was her birthday last October, this can be seen/read on the web, which includes pics of my son and I, also of my wife and me holding my daughters for the first and last time. If you feel you can read the web site, it is listed below. Hope this helps with your project.

    Derek Mulvana
    Derek's Wife

    Thanks for wanting to include this writing in the Newsletter. My son Stephen died Jan. 22, 1998 and I wrote this in October of 1998 after struggling with this horrible grief. I kept hearing things like "the man has to be strong', and "men don't cry", and "men don't let their feelings and emotions show". This writing was a result of those statements made to me.

    A MAN
    By: Lloyd E. Carson
    October, 1998

    When I look in the mirror I see a middle aged man. His hair is thinning on top and beginning to turn gray on the sides. Lines and creases are starting to form at the corner of his eyes. It seems that his age may be starting to show.

    When I look in the mirror at this man I see much more. I see a lonely man that is hurting and angry inside. He's trying to grieve over the loss of someone very dear and special to him. Someone taken away by death with no warning, his life taken by his own hand. It has left a big emptiness inside him.

    He sometimes wears a mask to hide the tears from the pain and anguish that he feels. Sometimes he's afraid to let others know exactly how he feels, afraid of what they'll say to him, afraid of their reaction to him.

    He just wishes things were different. He wishes it would all go away. He wishes he could wake up in the morning and realize it has all been a bad dream.

    When he's out in public he hopes it doesn't show. He hopes the tears don't come to his eyes. He hopes his anger doesn't come out. So he tries as hard as he can to hold back the tears. After all a real man is not supposed to cry. So he hides behind his mask.

    He manages to suppress his anger, he saves it for when he's alone then he finds ways to release it to keep from hurting others and to keep from lashing out at them for no reason.

    So if you see me out and about and you manage to see a tear in my eye, don't criticize me, judge me, or stereotype me. Real men do cry and sometimes it is difficult not to. Don't tell me things like "enough is enough", or that "it's time to get on with your life." Don't tell me "it's been long enough that I should be over it." It just doesn't work that way. Life will never be the same again and you never get over it.

    Listen to me but don't condemn me. Don't feel sorry for me, feel with me. Don't shy away from me, but help me carry this load. Be there for me when I need someone to talk to.

    Tell me I don't need to hide behind my mask. Tell me it's ok to feel the way I feel. Tell me it's ok for me to cry. Tell me it's ok to feel the anger. Most of all tell me you'll help me through this nightmare of life.

    Take Good Care,
    Lloyd
    Stephen's Dad
    3/21/70 - 1/22/98
    http://Roady_1947.tripod.com/stephen.html
    http://www.1000deaths.com/library/writing/stephen27.html

    You have touched a raw nerve with this month's topic about Dads. You are correct that my child has died but where is it written that I have to be strong for my wife and my family. I have that big hole in me just like everyone else but society expects me to bury my emotions and be strong for everyone else.

    If I do that I have all this churning inside of me and nowhere to release it. I'm also in danger of being accused of not loving my child because of the need to surpress my grief in the interest of others.

    If I don't do it then I am looked on as being weak. Is it any wonder that men have difficulty expressing the emotions they are feeling.

    While these stereotypical images of men are changing with each new generation, it's not happening fast enough. Today's men can speed up the process for their sons (tomorrow's Dads) by showing through their example that it is alright to show emotions. Work on their grief in public instead of private and above all talk to their sons and grandsons about what they are feeling so that we don't perpetuate the myths surrounding a Father's Grief.

    Warmest regards,
    Patrick Malone
    Snellville, GA

    What About The Dads Page Two

    Recommended Reading

    Men and Grief
    A Guide for Men Surviving the Death of a Loved One
    By Carol Staudacher
    Review

    "Men and Grief" is an insightful and thought-provoking look at the problems men face as they experience the emotionally painful times of their lives.

    A Grief Unveiled
    One Father's Journey Through the Loss of a Child
    By Gregory Floyd & Thomas Howard

    Review
    Gregory Floyd has written the book that no parent ever wants to be in a position to read. In 194 autobiographical pages, Mr. Floyd tells of his heart-wrenching journey through despair after the loss of his 6-year-old son. He envelopes the reader in his pain but amazingly is also able to share moments of grace along his journey. A father of seven and a student of theology, Mr. Floyd opens his soul and outwardly struggles with questions about the goodness of God . . . The reader of this enlightening book cannot help but be moved by such a powerful journey.

    Only Spring
    On Mourning the Death of My Son
    By Gordon Livingston, M.D., Mark Helprin

    Review
    Gordon Livingston introduces this brutally honest diary as the story of the life and death of his son. It is that, focusing on Livingston's experience of losing his six-year-old son, Lucas, to leukemia; it is also an account of a process of mourning permeated by his gradual realization that "love is not lost even in death." The book focuses almost entirely on the experience of Lucas' death, but the suicide of Livingston's oldest son, Andrew, the previous year, is never far below the surface.

    Copyright/Disclaimer

    This has been written by the members of My Parents Are Survivors to help us to get through the worst time of our lives. Every word of this information and feelings is copy written by the writer. That means that you can NOT use this material in any way, shape or form. Please do not ask, because permission will NOT be given. This has been written from our hearts and will not be duplicated.

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