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Hey! What about the Dads and Granddads?
What Moms & Grandmoms Can Do

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

The following article was written By: Pamela Rowse

Helping Our Male Partners With Loss

I have always hated most "old cliche's" such as "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" or "An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away". You say to your self what exactly is that suppose to mean? But there is one that says so very much, and I have used it often over the last three years while trying to deal with the aftermath of my grand daughter's murder on our family. "There But For The Grace of God Go I"

When faced with coping following the death of one's child or grandchild we encounter many "cliche's" and many phrases that the well meaning individual says to us without even thinking about it's impact "You're strong, you'll get through this". "He/She is in a better place". "Time will heal all wounds". My initial desired response was always "How the hell would you ever know" and soon it became, "There but for the grace of god go they". This same premise holds true when we look at our male partners in loss and the grieving process! Men regardless of their geographical location, martial status, or position in the family grieve differently than women. The difference in their processing tends to leave them in a position of exceptional vulnerability for negative outcomes.

I am going to share an article that was written by a very kind and caring man who following the death of his daughter made it his passion to help others with the mystique of "male grief". Charles Collenberger, former president of Families of Murder Victims lived the isolation of male grieving and it's potential for ultimate devastation.

Understanding Male Grief

Your family has gone though a violent tragedy. The male of the family has taken charge, making most of the arrangements. Fulfilling the role that has been assigned him by training and society. Yet sometimes, this role is too much for the male to fill.

Now you enter into a period of mourning and grieving that will last as long as you will personally need. As you are recovering from your grief, most of the time you will find you are alone in your healing.

Your male protector, provider, disciplinarian, figure head, rock in a storm is standing aside, almost unfeeling, quiet, unmoved, withdrawn. It appears that he is grieving in a completely different way. Sometimes it looks as if he doesn't even care what happened.

Don't you believe it. Don't fall for the myth that males grieve less because they appear to grieve differently.

The Problem of Training

Because of his upbringing, he is caught in a limbo where he can not grieve, can not show that he is feeling, cannot ask for help, can not heal the grief that is tearing apart his life, his marriage, his whole being!

He was raised by his parents, peers and our society 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." And he, deep down in his mind, believes this. He will deny this, but watch how he is reacting to the tragedy, the outside world and the demands of family life.

Things to watch for are:

  • Unable to talk of death or tragedy.
  • Avoidance of mate.
  • Explosive anger over nothing.
  • Avoidance of others in family.
  • Overwork (overtime, extra jobs, etc.).
  • Excessive time with the "boys" away from home and the family.
  • Sexual encounters.
  • Alcohol abuse.
  • Drug abuse.
  • All of us males will have some of these problems but they will mostly resolve themselves in time. Some of us will need extensive help to rise above them. Unfortunately some of us will never be able to freely grieve and start the healing process.

    These problems appear, to varying degrees, in a male, not only with a violent death as I experienced, but can arise with "normal" setbacks in life job loss, forced moving, divorce, violence done to the family and more. Any and all will be crippling to a male who cannot freely express his feelings.

    Helping the Male

    The processes of helping are as many and varied as there are men and their problems. You have to deal with the outward problems first anger, guilt, denial and avoidance are all easy to deal with if you take them a little at a time. The greatest problem is his personal feeling of failure and weakness.

    Alcohol, drug, and substance abuse are best left to experts. We do not have the expertise or patience to handle these problems. All we can do is gently make him aware of the problem. Be careful, too much pressure could just force him further into abuse.

    Anger is best dealt with by giving it an outlet that is not destructive to you, him or your relationship. Screaming in a quiet place where it can't be heard, except by the Supreme Being, works. So does tearing down something that needs to be; breaking something up --- concrete, dishes bought in a swap meet --- all of these help curb anger and calm the feelings for revenge.

    Guilt, denial, avoidance can be taken care of only when the basic problem of the inability to show tender emotions is resolved. You have to work against the training that he has received over the years. You have to get him to open up, to express the feelings he is experiencing. You have to convince him that he is the only one who can break down this impassable, invisible wall that he has put up around himself.

    Barriers He Must Overcome

    He must:

  • Forget "MEN DON'T CRY."
  • Forget the silent little soldier taking his punishment.
  • Forget to hide his emotions.
  • Reach out for help.
  • Find someone to listen how he feels.
  • Clergy, therapist, doctor, wife or someone who has been through it like him. Perhaps someone from the group you have 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, he has to let the emotions out that are destroying him.
    He must learn to cry!
    He must allow himself to cry long and loud, until he begins to recover and whenever he feels 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. All the strength and courage he thought he was showing before.

    Showing emotions, crying and asking for help have been ingrained in to his psyche as weakness, failure. He has already, he feels, failed as a provider, protector and father/husband when he "allowed" this tragedy to happen to his family.

    He has to be convinced of the courage and bravery needed to reach out, to cry, to show the emotions necessary to start the process of healing.

    A Lasting Thought: If you haven't been able to reach him, you might have considered the decision to break up the relationship. Before you do, take a good, long, hard look at this man with whom you have been sharing your life. See if you can recognize some of the outward symptoms I have outlined above. Ask him outright, you might catch him at the right level, and listen - don't talk. It might surprise you how deeply he feels.

    Whatever happens, do not go away thinking he doesn't care, that he is unfeeling, that he doesn't grieve, or that there is truth in the myth that men grieve less than women.

    It is that he can not (not will not) allow himself to show the emotions needed to start the healing.

    Writing as a male, I can honestly say he is tearing himself apart inside trying to fulfill all the roles that society has forced on him. He can't start to fulfill these roles with the handicap of the training that has been given him. In fact, he is an emotional cripple. But one thing for sure, silent and as passive as he appears...

    He is grieving.

    Oh God, how he is grieving!

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

    Moms's Comments

    My son, Ben Hailey, died last May 30. I not only lost my son, but so did my X-husband. Now he has no one....no wife, no son, no close family to hold. I feel so sorry for him! We still keep in touch, yet i hear the pain in his voice. I was lucky in away, I at least have another son. So I really feel for the divorced dads that loose their only son.....or daughters which ever the case.

    Thanks for listening.
    Loretta Passmore

    This is in response to Grieving Dads. Although my husband is not writing this reply I had to share our experience with our first lost. It was our first pregnancy and when we went to have our ultrasound to check the baby's heartbeat..there was none. We were then sent off to our OB's office so he could give us the devastating news, the baby had already died in the womb. Although baby was only 6 weeks old, the hurt was still there. This only happened to other couples not us. I was the strong one, dad was the devastated one. Dr. Shebelut, my OB, was the best person in the whole wide world to us in our time of grief. He spoke to both of us, he cried with both of us, and he listened to both of us. But most importantly he focused on Dad. He understood Dad's pain and grief and disappointment. He continually asked about Dad and expressed to him how important it was for him to grieve his loss and that he did not have to do this alone. "No one will think of you a coward for crying, you need to do this to heal." For six weeks he counseled us and was a great support for Dad. He scheduled check ups for me and Dad. The check ups consisted of talking with my husband to see how he was doing, to see if he could help in any way. My husband managed to get through this crisis with the help of our wonderful doctor. I think the experience was heartwarming because he had someone to share his sorrow with and with another man that said it was okay to cry. We had another child shortly after, and when we had number 2, (Cooper), he died at birth. Again Dr. Shebelut was there for my husband. Perhaps this story is more structured around our wonderful OB, but without his thoughtfulness, caring, and sharing my husband would not have had the opportunity to grieve the way he did. Dr. Shebelut stated one time, "I care about Mom very deeply, but everyone always overlooks Dad. He's the one that is stereotyped as the strong one, to hold the family together. But Dad had a lost and we need to focus on that too."

    Thank you, Sabrina Malm

    My dad has been an amazing man since my brother passed away 6 years ago. He still has his hard times, but makes sure we all include Skip in our prayers and at family gatherings. As for me, the father of my baby (miscarried) is supporting and loving even though we are not together anymore. He always listens to me and is there if I need a hug! What about the dads? They are wonderful and need love and support too!!!

    In memory of baby Brielle/Britton,
    Love, Sherrie

    Hi, my name is Frances Terroni and I think most Dads should be thought of too as it should be true how you describe them. Unfortunately my children's father does not. Perhaps you may think I am too critical of him, but I don't believe that I am. We have been divorced since 5-6-83, my children that time were 4, 6 and 8. He was cruel and abusive and selfish. He over the years has never helped support me or is children in any way. My son Tony and his father used to go on crime sprees. My son Tony died on November 1, 1997 of a heroin/methadone overdose. His father was there when he took his overdose and he left him there to die because he was selfish and thought only of himself. I'm sorry to sound so negative, but I have reasons. Tony's 25th birthday is this Saturday.

    This is a wonderful topic to bring up! My daughter Jennifer and son-in law Kevin, just lost their son Kody Lee Harris about 6 months ago. Kody passed away 12/2/1999. He passed away at 3 years old. Through your grief site I was able to recognize the different stages of grief, it helped me to recognize my own stages of grief I was going through and other family members as well. From the adults to the children, even the toddlers. ( I didn't realize toddlers go through grief too!)

    Anyway, I noticed Kevin (Kody's Daddy) seemed to experience it different than the rest of us. He kept his grief to himself. He didn't want to open up to anyone. But I could see it in his eyes and his body language. I Knew he was hurting deep inside, and I also felt that he held a lot of guilt inside. Kody and Kevin were very very close! They were best buddies. Kevin was Kody's safe place. Whenever Kody was sick or going through surgeries, he always wanted his daddy. When Kody had major heart surgery, Kody wouldn't let his dad out of his sight, Kevin would sit by his side nonstop for over a week after he came home from the hospital. He had even missed work and lost his job because of it.

    Because of a rare syndrome Kody had, (the doctors still don't know that much about it, they learned mostly from Kody) we found out after his heart surgery that Kody's windpipe would collapse, due to him having soft tissues. and he would stop breathing. Crying or coughing would set this off. We lost him twice at home because of this...each time getting worse.

    Kevin and Jennifer discussed this with different specialists and his pediatrician, and heart cardiologist to see what the options were. One was too life threatening and the other would have left Kody totally bed ridden on a ventilator, which wouldn't give him any type of life. Kevin and Jennifer made the choice not to have either done. It was a painful but loving and unselfish choice they made. They knew if they made the other choices, they were making them for their benefit, not Kody's.

    In Oct. of 1999 Kody was set up with Hospice, but we kept him home with us. In Nov. he was getting worse and worse. At night you could hear him struggling to breathe, even with meds. It got so hard for Jennifer, she could no longer be in the bedroom with Kody and Kevin, she slept in the living room in ears range in case Kevin needed her. But Kevin stayed with his son. I thought over and over in my mind how hard that was for Kevin! Two days before Kody died, he went into Hospice to try and get his meds regulated to help him sleep better. He never made it back home.

    After Kody's death, Kevin didn't really show his grief outwardly. It wasn't until after I made a web page dedicated to him and Kody, and I wrote a poem for him called, "Thank You Daddy" that he started showing his grief. Before, whenever Jen or someone would ask how he was feeling or doing, he would say, "alright" and leave it at that. He finally opened up to Jennifer, saying he didn't know if he could go on without his son, and he really broke down crying. But before he did open up, he showed a lot of anger, and he turned it toward his wife and daughter Jazmine. He didn't have patience for anyone,especially Jennifer and Jazmine. It caused them marital problems, and so they separated for about a month. It really tore me and Kevin's mother and Kevin up, thinking this wasn't good timing, because Kevin had just lost his son, and now his wife and daughter too! But I also understood that things had to some how change. Jen moved out of state for awhile. But by this happening, through phone calls and talking on the web, they opened up to each other more and more.

    Kevin admitted to Jen, that he was angry at GOD. He wanted to know why God had sent Kody to them, only to take him away. And helped him make it through major heart surgery ( which the doctors thought he wouldn't make it through the first hour) and then turn around and take him 7 months later. Jen's response to this was, " If this is the only way we could have Kody in our lives, then I would choose this. because it is better than not ever knowing Kody at all.

    I feel the guilt Kevin might be feeling is that he wasn't able to help his son this time. That maybe he even gave him a death sentence by making the choice him and Jen made. I hope some day he will realize that he didn't choose the time for Kody to die, God made that choice. I've talked to Kevin about this. I pointed out all the other times when the doctors didn't give Kody much of a chance to survive through any of his surgeries and was waiting for his heart surgery and he was passed his limit, that he made it. But this was Kody's time. He was brave and strong and had a beautiful loving spirit and a smile of an angel! But the last 2 months of his life, you could tell he was tired of fighting.

    Most parents feel some kind of guilt about their children, whether it is because they feel they didn't spend enough time with them, give them all they could, loosing patience, or what ever the case may be....they feel they haven't done enough for them, after they loose a child it hits them "ten fold", but their child is gone now, and there is nothing they can do now, so now they replay different things in their minds on things they wish they would have or wouldn't have done.

    I feel Kevin has many regrets that he holds inside. I think they are too painful to share with anyone. And also I feel that he thinks if he shares them with anyone, he might be judged. The only one that is judging him is himself! When he is doing this, he is assuming others are judging him also. So the pain and guilt and anger goes on.

    As a mother-in-law who has witnessed this.... my advice to fathers everywhere who are going through this is.... Don't try to be strong for your families this way. You aren't helping them, it is only hurting them and you. All they see is your anger, and you shutting them out, but they don't know why because you don't share this with them. They think they have done something wrong. Please don't think you are weak because you feel like crying, those are honest feelings you have from loosing someone you love. God gave you tears to help you heal. You laugh when you feel like laughing don't you? God gave you that emotion too! It's ok to cry in front of your wife and children, they won't see you as weak, but as the same way they feel. It will only bring you closer, You all need each other at this time, not isolation. Together your family can get through this and even be stronger. The more you share, the more the pain eases up. Please don't let your family go through another loss!

    I'm sorry this letter is so long, but this "is" a hot topic in our family right now. My heart goes out to Kevin and all the other fathers who are going through this.

    May God Bless you all and help you find peace and comfort.
    Sincerely,
    Debra K. Weatherbee
    Kevin's Mother-in-law

    My husband is the Grandfather to the baby my daughter lost....but that was HIS baby that was in pain to deliver the son we already knew has passed away. It was pure torture on him, because Daddy could always "Kiss" it better, or could fix it somehow. As we waited the 4 days for the birth, he seemed to age right before my eyes. You see he had his baby girl in the hospital in pain, and me, all to pieces, trying to be brave for my daughter, but falling apart every time I left the delivery room. He was torn between who need him the most. After the funeral, he finally got his chance to grieve, he would go to Codys grave after work, he said to make sure his flowers and things were ok. I went out there one day and he was on his knees rubbing the ground...just smoothing the fresh dirt. He felt he had to be the strength for the ones he loved, but Fathers and Grandfathers are often overlooked...after all they not only lost someone also, but they try to make us, the Mothers and Grandmothers be Ok. I don't remember seeing my strong husband look so sad.

    Unsigned

    Just wanted to say I think that this is a great topic for the upcoming newsletter.

    In our case, Bruce cried right away (which for men - I think is a blessing) - however I couldn't release all of sorrow and pain until about a year later. I then crashed for that year and found it difficult to find joy in anything. This year, 2000 - we are both doing better somewhat.

    We joined a private support group in Sidney, BC, for the first two years and this was a wonderful comforting place to safely release our emotions and cry with other grieving parents.

    Hope this little bit of info may be helpful,
    God bless to you,
    Love Jo Walker
    Mom of Krissy
    11-16-89 to 03-Jun-97

    I especially appreciated this -- in that my two oldest are not talking to me since their father divorced me to run off with our business partner. I was a full-time mother for 13 years, until my three children started to school. My first paycheck went to buy my son a much-needed guitar. My second paycheck went to buy my middle child an entry in a teen contest. My youngest have been supportive, and she is newly married.

    It has been very painful. However, it is the caring of people like you who make the difference.

    Beverly Merrick
    bmerrick@nmsu.edu

    I hate to sound negative about dad but in my case we were divorced at the time of death 3 years. He did come to the hospital and sit with our daughter so I could stay with our son and that was good.(He was already dead, but I would not leave him till they took him away) I know the father grieves in his own way, but I keep fresh flowers at the grave and light a candle every day. I am not sure what he does. I told him about being on the computer and how it was helping me and wanted to do a web page but he is not interested. I just have to do my own thing and remember our son my way and he has to do it his way. I know there are a lot of fathers that want to participate in the grieving, but I was a Mom on my own and now I grieve on my own.

    Unsigned

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    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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