This is an excerpt from Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back, which is available at Amazon.
A grieving dad must face many hard truths after the death of a child, but for me, perhaps the most sobering one is the fact that I received more help from strangers than I did from people I knew.
Maybe that’s why psychiatrists make so much money. After all, many of us are more comfortable talking about our problems to strangers than we are talking to friends or relatives. Alcoholics and gamblers, when you think about it, often find more real help in support groups like AA and GA than they do from their own families. Why should we think it would be any different when it comes to the death of a child?
Well, the passing of a child is “different” for sure, but there is one important constant that can’t be denied. When people need help — real help — they are never very likely to find it within the confines of their own homes or the limitations of their own thought processes. Instead, people who need real help often don’t get it until: A) they’re willing to admit they need it; B) they seek it from sources outside the ones they know best; or C) they hit rock bottom so hard they don’t know what else to do.
Coming from a man with an unfortunate amount of experience in this particular arena, I’m here to tell you it’s the same for grieving dads. If you need a few reminders about why, flip back to chapter four. Yes, in chapter four you read plenty of positive things about the help grieving dads can get from their families and friends. But lest you forget, there is also lots in chapter four about how strained the relationships can be between a grieving dad and his existing community.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that a grieving dad shouldn’t turn to his friends and relatives for assistance with his pain. Not at all. Nor am I saying that reaching out to a shrink, a counselor, or a support group is an absolute must for every grieving dad.
Enough about what I’m not saying. From my point of view, a grieving dad shouldn’t stop with the people and places he already knows in his quest for real help. If I had done that — if I had relied exclusively upon my existing circle of friends and family to bring me back among the living — I don’t know if I would have survived, period. It’s important to surround yourself with people that have compassion and understand what you are going through. Oftentimes, people who are close to you just want the old you back so they try hard not to “bring up” the subject of your child who has passed away. In reality, sometimes all you want to do is talk about your child, so it’s important to find someone who will listen, whether it’s a stranger or someone that listens for a fee.
This I say because despite my attempts to “man up” and swallow the pain all by my macho self in the early going as a grieving dad, I now know that I couldn’t have survived without the friends, family, co-workers, strangers, professionals, and support groups who reached back when I reached for them.Tags: grief therapy