Grieving Men, Raising Boys

Last night I sat in a room filled with grieving men

Some missing a parent or sibling but most a spouse

For once not a minority sandwiched within a

group of women, but a part of a group connected to

one another by gender, death, and heartache.

This morning as I looked into the eyes of my

14-month-old grandson I couldn’t help but think

of those men who once were little boys and who

still carry many of their little boy hurts in their

grown-up hearts and adult sized bodies.

The pain I heard and felt in that room last night

was real, as was their voiced confusion,

questions, and doubts about themselves

and their future. The tears they let fall

did not look any different than mine.

They spoke of losses both past and present

Many of which they’d never grieved

Of being told they must be strong

That big boys don’t cry, tears were for

the weak, the sissies and the girls.

This morning I saw my smiling grandson

run and fall and tears start to come

I gathered him in my arms and gave

him a hug as I remembered last nights

men who as boys were told not to cry.

And my heart ached for them then and now.

Since that first “Men Only Grief Evening,” we have offered several more. Initially planned to be a one-time event, at the end of the evening those 25 men, without exception, asked us to please do it again. Seeing their hunger, we knew we could not say no. 

These grief stricken men come, having been friends, lovers, confidantes, soul mates, caregivers, now come as widowers, a term foreign and unacceptable but theirs none the less. A term they don’t know how to live with, just like the lives they don’t know how to live alone. Others come having lost a mother or father caught by surprise that at their age it could still hurt so much and unsure of what to do with their pain. A few come because the death of their child has devastated them and they don’t know how to talk with their wife anymore who is bowed down by her own pain.

Deb Kosmer 2012

Deb Kosmer

More Articles Written by Deb

Deb has worked at Affinity Visiting Nurses Hospice for ten years, the first two as a hospice social worker and the last eight as Bereavement Support Coordinator supporting families before and after the death of their loved ones. She provides supportive counseling, developed and facilitates a variety of grief support groups, including a well-attended group for men only as well as other educational events. Deb received her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from UW-Oshkosh and her Master’s degree in Social Work from UW Milwaukee. She received her certification in Thanatolgy through ADEC. Her writing has appeared in New Leaf Magazine, We Need Not Walk Alone, Living with Loss, Grief Digest, numerous hospice publications and EAP publications. Some of her poetry on death and dying will be included in a college textbook for social workers in end of life soon. New Leaf has also used some of her poetry for a line of sympathy and anniversary of death cards. On a personal level, Deb's 14-year-old son died after being struck by a car. Her 31-year-old sister had died in a car accident eight months earlier, and her 56-year-old father died from a heart attack exactly three years before. These three unexpected deaths within three years started Deb on a journey she never wanted to be on and she learned first-hand the importance of having the help and support of others. In the years since, she has experienced other losses, the most recent being the unexpected death of her 44-year-old step-daughter who died from complications three months after a routine surgery. Deb's passions are writing, reading, education, nature, and family. She is currently working on a book of her grief poetry. She recently moved with her husband to Waypost Camp, Hatley WI. Her husband accepted a job there as Property Manager and his position allows them to live on-site with acres of woods and a lake. She anticipates the quiet beauty to be a strong catalyst for writing. Deb can be reached at debrakosmer@gmail.com.

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  • Janet Macy says:

    This is beautiful. I’m so glad I never told my son that ‘big boys don’t cry’.

    Men Only Grief Evening sounds like such a needed project. Thanks for all you do.

  • Cathy Seehuetter says:

    Deb, Beautifully written, of course! Men are such forgotten mourners and that horrible “thing” they have to live with – crazy macho baloney society has forced on them needs to go away. One of the things that I do see is that it is ever so subtly changing just by the number of men who attend our TCF meetings. When I started going back in 1995, we were lucky if 2 showed up. Now, it is almost 50% men! That part, in and of itself, gives us some reason to hope that men will be allowed to show their emotions and not be looked at as “girly men”…let’s cross our fingers.

  • As always Deb, written from the heart. Thank you for bringing to light the issues that men face when grieving. I am a firm believer that men have the same intensity of feelings as women…… We just deal with them differently.