My wife died of ALS; during her final 13 months, my mom and dad also died. It was almost overwhelming, and I learned more grieving than I ever thought I would. My most effective way of dealing with this was writing and the strongest feelings emerged as poetry.
In the months following, I worked with others as I was going on my own grieving journey. How men dealt with things differently became all too evident. How they handled grieving can be summarized in three poems I wrote:
WE TRY TO FOOL OURSELVES
When we are grieving, often times,
There’s obstacles we’re making;
And what is done most commonly,
Is simply that … “We’re faking.”
Not saying how we really feel,
Is helpful, we’ve discovered;
We’re more accepted by your peers,
If we can “act” recovered.
“I’m fine” is often such a lie,
Such words are mere pretending;
When deep inside there’s loneliness,
And hurt that isn’t mending.
Suppressing grief’s emotions mean,
That we are being cheated;
By glossing over what is felt,
Just symptoms are what’s treated.
All aspects of relationships,
Are what should be included;
To fake some good…deny what’s bad,
Makes grief not well concluded.
Denying feelings, buried grief,
Saps energy for sure;
It leaves us drained and makes our life,
Much harder to endure.
So…sharing only partially,
Concerned how others feel;
Suppressing grief, we fool ourselves,
And makes it hard to heal.
MEN GRIEVE DIFFERENTLY
No one’s immune from strong effects,
When someone loved has died;
The grief you’ll feel can overwhelm,
And cannot be denied.
Both men and women feel the same,
But, outwardly are not;
Most men hurt just as much, but they,
Don’t show their grief a lot.
When someone special dies, a man,
Especially can be troubled;
Behavior expectations cause,
His problems to be doubled.
First, there is the loss with which,
He struggles to be dealing;
And then the turmoil deep inside,
From all the ways he’s feeling.
Remaining mostly silent as,
They grieve can seem uncaring;
Or grieving mostly privately,
When focus should be sharing.
The way most try to handle grief,
Is “manly” coping styles;
But, when they try to act like this,
It’s much more like denials.
This causes men to lose control,
Afraid and hurting, too;
This certainly’s not masculine…,
Just what’s a man to do?
These ways that most men cope with grief,
Denies what they are feeling;
But really, these will tend to hurt,
Their healthy path to healing.
This is a man’s dilemma, it’s,
Quite wrenching to be sure;
It’s why men struggle so with grief,
And seldom find a cure
THE VALUE OF TEARS
To cry’s completely normal, to
Shed tears is apropos;
When you’ve got strong emotions, tears
Will lubricate their flow;
Most women cry more often while,
Most men don’t cry enough;
No tears keep feelings bottled up,
Makes coping much more tough.
You tend to weep at times when life,
Is filled with expectations;
Like birth or graduation or,
At wedding celebrations.
Your tears will come those times for you,
When life seems most intense;
They function like a safety valve,
For feelings, in a sense.
For grieving, tears are valuable,
To weep needs no permission;
You find you’ll cry more often when,
You’re in a stressed condition.
Your feelings can be volatile,
When you are deep in mourning;
You’ll find that tears can be intense,
And show up without warning.
Do not inhibit crying, though
It may give friends distress;
To cry gives clearer thinking since
Tears cleanse and conquer stress.
You’ll feel relief, when crying’s done,
They help you gain composure;
Your tears are therapeutic, they
Can give a sense of closure.