From as far away as Australia to the British Isles, from Canada to Nigeria, the Widowers Support Network hears the cries of men who mourn the loss of their wife, their soul mates, their partners in life. They don’t ask for much, never have, never will. After all, men who mourn are expected to “get over it,” right? You know, be a man. Motcho, if you will. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it was meant to be.
It is said that to grieve, you first must have loved. For without love, grief does not exist. To have loved is among life’s greats joys. As such, it is unrealistic to think one who once loved doesn’t grieve. And with grief, comes sorrow, tears, fright, despair, pain, loneliness, depression, aimlessness, and more. Each of these behaviors can be dangerous, even life-threatening. Yet for some reason, men continue to be held to a different set of expectations when they experience loss of their beloved spouse.
Following a speaking engagement I had in Connecticut before a gathering of widowers, it hit me. “Men don’t think they have permission to grieve.” This is why they retreat to the shadows of society to mourn, many in total despair in private, for they wish not to be viewed as less of a man, then society would have them be. How sad for the widowers of the world; our fathers, brothers, uncles, nephews, grandfathers, neighbors, and colleagues.
In the Gospel of John (John 11:1–44), we learned of the story of Jesus’ dearest friend, Lazarus of Bethany, also known as Saint Lazarus or Lazarus of the Four Days. Jesus loved Lazarus. When Jesus learned of Lazarus’ passing, Jesus wept. So painful was Jesus’ loss, he decided to perform one of his most prominent of miracles in which Jesus restores Lazarus to life four days after his death. For those of the Christian faith and I invite others as well, ask yourself; does anyone see Jesus as less of a man for his tears? Jesus’ reaction to the loss of his beloved friend reinforces the view that grieving is a natural extension of one’s love for another.
As we approach Christmas, when all of the Christian world celebrates the birth of the Christ child, and presents are bountiful, do so with a new awareness of the plight of the widowed man. He grieves because he has loved. And like Jesus, a widower’s grief is an expression of that love.
A Widower’s Christmas Gift Wish List
Understand that I am doing the best I can. With God’s grace and your support, I will endure.
Afford me your patience as I know not how long my grief journey will take nor how many emotional valleys I will enter.
Permit me to speak my wife’s name in public. Share my enthusiasm for the life and the years she shared with me.
Eliminate any expectations you have for me for I fear I may cause you disappointment.
Check on me every week or so. A brief phone call to see if I’m okay would be most welcomed.
Include me in events, occasions, and gatherings as you had in the past when my wife was still alive.
Pray for me that I learn how to celebrate my wife’s life by living mine.
Herb Knoll is the author of The Widower’s Journey.