This is an excerpt from Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back, which is available at Amazon.
Fathers aren’t supposed to grieve the same way that mothers do. Society has placed certain demands on men that preclude them from dealing with loss or disappointment by wearing emotion on their sleeves or even talking about it openly. For sure, men aren’t supposed to lose control. They are expected to toughen up, get back to work, take it like a man, and support their wives.
And if they must cry, by all means they should do so in private.
My own journey through these dark expectations began with the crippling anxiety that comes from losing not one, but two children. If I thought that the death of Katie, the cherished little girl that I would protect and love forever, would be the worst I’d have to deal with in my life, I stood corrected just 18 months later when my son, Noah, died, too.
After Noah’s death, I could no longer hide behind the denial that sustained me through Katie’s passing. In dealing with the loss of Katie, the luxury of plunging myself into my work and the needs of my wife insulated me from my own buried emotions, as I told myself above all else to simply keep moving. There was no time to stop and think about things or allow myself to feel anything. If a chink started to appear in my carefully constructed armor — if I began to “let my emotions get the best of me” — I just hit the gym or dove into a home improvement project.
And of course, I never, ever talked about how I felt.
But when we lost Noah, my body and my mind completely shut down. None of the things that helped me to reject the reality of losing a daughter would suffice in the wake of losing a second child. Forget the gym — I barely had the energy to get out of bed. Forget work, too. I saw no point in it, and couldn’t have completed the most mundane tasks even if I could have made it to the office.
For the first time in my life, I really didn’t care if I lived or died. In fact, in the three months after Noah’s death, the greatest effort I exerted was making a phone call to my office to take a leave of absence. I wasn’t asking for permission, either. I was making an announcement, and if the job was still available should I decide to return — fine.
If not, I couldn’t care less.
Tags: dads, grief fathers