Like it or not the stereotype often rings true: women emote and men clam up.
I see it play out every day in the online support groups to which I belong. If you check the member list there are quite a number of dads in the mix but it’s exceedingly rare that one of them posts or comments.
I get it. I’m a wife and mother to three boys (now men). All of them are better at compartmentalizing difficult situations and pushing down emotions than I am.
When I have something heavy on my heart it almost always spills out and splashes across everything else.
They, on the other hand, will sit on sadness or anxiety or the never-ending missing that makes up child loss/sibling loss until it finally becomes more than even their iron-clad emotional chests can hold.
Even then they often weep in private, mourn in secret.
That’s unfortunate because it means they are frequently forgotten in society’s rush to comfort parents whose children make it first to Heaven.
Much is made over bereaved moms and Mother’s Day. There is even an International Bereaved Mother’s Day on the Sunday before Mother’s Day (U.S.). I (and others) take that opportunity to have a separate day to think about, mourn and celebrate the life of my child gone too soon.
But dads kind of get short shrift.
While there IS an International Bereaved Father’s Day ( August 28, 2022), it’s nowhere near as well-recognized as the one for moms.
I’ve written often about how important friends are to our grief journey. They can encourage, provide practical help and simply by their presence remind a heart that darkness and despair is not all there is.
Men need friends who will step up and step in. They need masculine examples of sharing and caring.
They need grace and space to unlock the chest of emotions that they sometimes keep tucked away and hidden from their family because they think it’s their job to “be strong”.
So if you know a dad whose child has left for Heaven, reach out in the next couple of weeks before Father’s Day.
Take him fishing. Go for a ride. Tackle a project together.
Be a safe place for them to let their guard down, to open up, to release pent up emotions and (possibly) frustration.
Dads grieve too.
Don’t forget them.