Published on February 26th, 2014 | by Nathaniel0
Healing: For Men Who Are Grieving or Have Had to Grieve
This post was written for any man who has had to grieve and the women that love them through the process.
Two years ago today, one of my two best friends went to be with the Lord. And it hurt. It still does. Hollow, numb, vacant- just a few of the words that describe the recurring states of emptiness that I sometimes drift in and out of. But I’m supposed to be “strong,” right? “Tough, “bold,” “bravehearted”? Because that’s who we are as men are? (REPLACE caveman grunt)
How can men who are grieving experience healing? How are we supposed to grieve? What does “grieve” even mean?
I remember looking out into the full expanse of a church beyond maximum capacity. Stumbling over the eulogy I had so intricately crafted to remember my brother, my role-model, my mentor- only to break down in front of the crowd. After the service, a random (woman) came up to me in the often unnecessarily tough tone of a weathered African woman and said, “You’ve got to be strong! Okay!? You’ve got to be the man! The women need you to wear the pants!” Was I wearing a sun-dress lady?? …I just wiped away the tears and nodded my head.
Society coaxes us to believe that any form of vulnerability is contradictory to manhood- so where does this leave US in the grieving process? The Merriam Webster definition of “grieve” means to feel or show sadness. And according to PsychCentral, the trajectory of the grieving process includes five steps: isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But what I’ve realized through this process is that I’ve oscillated through every one of these emotions over and over, and if you have ever grieved or are grieving, I want to share my revelations with you.
- Men need to find at least one other man to partner with through this process.
When women experience pain, they’re more likely to reach out or have a community of women around them who sense their needs. Men? We barely sense when our ingrown toenails are cropping the flesh of our toes. We have a tendency to cut off and isolate when we experience loss. We then shield a façade around us because we think no one can possibly understand the type of loss that we’ve experienced. Yes, that may be true- but there are people who can relate. And healing can come through sharing experiences. It’s important to find at least one other man who you can reach out to, free of judgment or guilt when in your vulnerable state.
- Men need to channel their pain into purposeful action.
As men, we’re typically more action oriented than not. We’re more like to punch a wall or take a midnight drive than our female counterparts. So how can we use our brokenness to positively impact someone else’s life? It’s too easy to fall into the trap of acting out or turning to a vice (alcohol, drugs, food, porn, etc) after we experience loss. Making a conscious decision to create something positive out of our pain draws us relationally toward others and allows us to find healing in the process. For me, writing has been a great action step and Being Encouraged has allowed me to do that.
- Men need to understand that their “WHY” may never be answered.
In the grieving process, the recurring “Why’s” are rarely ever answered. But even if they were, would your pain subside? If you experienced a loss like my family did and you don’t know exactly what caused the death of your loved one, do you honestly think knowing would help with the pain?
- Men need to realize that God is not punishing them.
God isn’t in the business of allocating life or death based on our performance. We’re human- we’re a screwed up, messed up race- entirely guilty of sin. And don’t you think God knows that? I know we hear “God has a plan,” so much that it seems like it’s on repeat. And those words may never be as comforting as people think they are, but it’s important to realize that our loved ones are not just ours. They belonged to God and while things may have transpired in a way that seems contradictory to any plan that a good God could possibly have, God can use even the worst of situations to manifest good- if we let Him. For more on this check out my other post, My Brother Was Never Mine.
- Men need to find comfort in comforting others.
I think a great deal of the healing I’ve experienced has come in the form of being able to comfort others. Not in a way that neglects the pain we’re feeling, but in a way that puts it in perspective. When we isolate ourselves, all our pain does is simmer and then boil into anger and frustration.
I don’t know if the grieving process ever ends or if the pain ever goes away- there will be highs and lows and periods of joy and anger. I do believe, however, that the ashes can be traded for beauty and mourning can be traded for the oil of joy (Isaiah 61:3). That the shattered cracks can be colored to create a beautiful mosaic.