by Kelly Farley
I often hear from grieving dads that tell me they feel alone in their grief after the death of their child. After going through something as profound as a child’s death, these men feel so alone and isolated. As much as it amazes me, I can relate because I too felt alone after the death of my two children.
I felt so alone that I would go online and search for other grieving dads. However, I didn’t find what I was looking for or needed at that point in my grief. I didn’t see it because most men do not feel like they have permission to tell their story or share how they feel out of fear of being looked at as less than a man or weak. We all know that society is not comfortable with an openly grieving person, but they are even more uncomfortable with a man showing his emotions. This problem comes from men being taught at a young age that we should not show “weakness” and that we have to “be strong”. As a result of these “lessons”, we do everything we can to hide our pain. We try to take on the role of protector. We feel it is our role to help our wives through the loss and keep everything operating in the household. This approach only prolongs the grief process and can delay it for years.
Because most people in society feel uncomfortable with a grieving parent’s pain, they want to solve their problem but hey can’t. This isn’t something you can give a pep talk for and expect the person to walk away feeling differently. You cannot solve this problem.
It took me a long time and a lot of internal pain to realize I had to address my own pain before I could help my wife through hers. I realized it was important that we travel this journey together, helping each other when we can.
Once I realized I need to address my own pain, I started to open myself up to others that were there to help me. Once I started to address my pain, I made it my mission to reach out to other grieving dads. I started the Grieving Dads Project as a way to create a resource for men and provide a location where these dads can go to speak honestly and openly about what they are dealing with. This blog is a place where these men can go and not feel so alone and realize that other men are thinking and feeling the same way.
As part of building the Grieving Dads Project, I have traveled conducting workshops and speaking to child loss support groups, and conducting one-on-one interviews with grieving dads. These interviews were designed to help me capture the rawness of this profound grief. The information I learned and the stories I heard will be told with brutal honesty in a book that will provide a glimpse into the aftermath of what grieving dads deal with when a child dies.
As a result of the Grieving Dads Project, I have spoken to hundreds of grieving dads, and the one thing I have learned is people need to tell their stories. Not only do they need to tell their story, but they also need to be allowed to share their emotions while telling their story. The following are a few ways to provide support to the grieving dads you may know:
- Encourage them to talk about what they are feeling and thinking (even the really dark stuff).
- Remind them that they are not alone.
- Let them speak openly about their pain.
- Do not try to solve their problems; be a good listener.
- Encourage them to find support groups for men. These groups could be grief-related or a group of men that are dealing with various life struggles.
- Do not push them through their grief; allow them to tell their stories.
- Allow them the time to process what has happened to them.
- Allow them to turn to or away from their faith as needed.
- If they start to cry, let them. It helps cleanse the soul.
- Let them know you are there for them at any time of the day and mean it.
Keep in mind that people that are grieving are ultra-sensitive so it is crucial to think before you speak. Understand how your words may be interrupted by the receiver. If you really don’t know what to say, say nothing. There is healing in silence so it is better to sit quietly and listen than to fill the air with words that are not helpful.
About the Author: Kelly Farley is a bereaved father who has experienced the loss of his two children over eighteen months. He lost his daughter Katie in 2004 and son Noah in 2006. During that time there was a lack of support services available to fathers suffering such a loss. As a result of that realization, he started the Grieving Dads Project. Kelly has written several articles on the subject of men’s grief and has traveled throughout North America to interview other grieving dads to create a resource book, Grieving Dads to the Brink and Back, that captures other men’s experiences on this journey. His book features real-life stories from dads that find themselves on this painful journey. He is on a mission to bring awareness to men’s grief and provide hope to the many men that often grieve in silence due to societal expectations. Grieving Dads workbook is also available.
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