Here is my post from Still Standing Magazine for the month. Since Father's Day was this month, I thought it appropriate to write about a father's grief. Hugs to all of you and all of the fathers out there who have lost a little one - for they grieve too...
FATHER'S GRIEVE TOO
I feel ill equipped to write about a father’s grief. Why? Because I’m not a father; I’m a mother.
But I live with a father. I share my life with a father who has grieved; who still does grieve. He is my husband. He is the man that I have loved for the last 14 years. I look back at us that long ago, as two young college students, falling in love with each other in our off-campus apartments where we met. We had no idea the roller coaster that would be in store for us.
This man, my husband, the father of my children, he grieves too. He grieves the loss of our beloved Marco. He lost a son too. His flesh and blood, taken from him. The baby he hoped and prayed for – gone. It was his loss too. His innocence is gone just as mine is.
People may not see it. Early on after our loss, people would ask him how I was doing. But what about him? Didn’t he matter? Was he not allowed to be sad too? Why didn’t they ask how he was doing?
Yes, it’s true, his relationship as a father to Marco, was different than that of mine, as a mother. He did not carry Marco as I did in my womb. He did not have the physical changes that come with pregnancy. He did not feel Marco do a somersault inside him. But that can’t take away the depth of his love for Marco, and the intensity with which he mourned his loss.
So, since my husband doesn’t write about his grief, or attend a support group, or talk much about it, how can I be sure it’s there? How do I know that he still grieves too?
I know by the shirt that would hang in his closet for too long. The shirt that he would only wear if he had absolutely no other clean dress shirts – even the ones he didn’t like. The shirt that would make him say, “I hate wearing that shirt”. That phrase right there – about that shirt – that’s how I know that he still grieves too. It’s the shirt that he was wearing the day he had to leave work early and dash to the hospital. The day that Marco was born. The shirt he was wearing when he stood by Marco’s side, tears in his eyes, with his wife in recovery after having had a c-section. He was lost in that shirt. He had to kiss his first born child, his son, goodbye wearing that shirt. He grieved heavily in that shirt. It’s too painful for him to wear now. It might look ordinary to our neighbor, a friend, or a stranger. It’s a nice shirt, after all. It fits well, technically speaking. But figuratively, it’s the most uncomfortable article of clothing he owns. It wraps him in the grief he has so desperately tried to shelve.
That’s how I know that my husband still grieves and mourns the loss of our son. So, I remind myself, that just because he doesn’t grieve the way I do, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t grieve.
Yes, he has grief. But his grief isn’t an old friend sitting next to him comfortably on the couch like mine is. Rather, for him, it sits in a box on a shelf. It’s neatly tucked away on that shelf, and there is probably a pair of shoes in front of it, or maybe two. There is dust on the lid, because it doesn’t get opened very often.
Why would he want to open it, if when he does, sadness and heartache seep out. Would-have and should-have beens come out and smack him on the face. He should have been talking to his 5 year old son about the World Cup right now. But alas, there is no 5-year-old son to talk to about the World Cup. Why would he want to feel the pain of that particular should-have-been?
He is aware of the box. He knows it sits there. But he rarely thinks about it. He knows that it has dust and cobwebs on it, which most likely makes the thought of opening it even more scary, because if he were to open it, he’d first have to clear all of that off.
Even though it’s a daunting task to open that box of grief, he still does from time to time. He can’t escape it. Every once in a while, it whispers for him to open it up and have a moment. And he does. And then he closes it up until the next time.
His way of grieving may not be my way of grieving. In fact, we couldn’t be more opposite in our grief styles. It hasn’t always been easy to accept that. Sometimes I wish his grief lived comfortably in him rather than hiding in a box. But alas, it is not that way. His grief is HIS grief. He has the right to live with it in any way he wants to and needs to. I remind myself that just because he doesn’t talk about Marco as often as I do doesn’t mean that he loves him any less than I do. Actually, his love for Marco is such a tender one, that he really likes to keep it just for himself.
So, when you see a father who has lost a child, know that he is grieving too. He might be back to work the next week, working away at the computer and talking to clients. He might not show up next to his partner at the local support group. He may not talk much about his child, but remember that his world has also crumbled. He grieves too. Fathers grieve too.
Wow -- Libby -- beautiful post. You are so right ... fathers do grieve as well, but it's not as outwardly obvious.
Thank you for sharing.
Thank you Libby for writing this. I was thinking about all of the angel dads and how hard Father's Day can be as well. They do grieve and walk such a tight rope of emotions as they try to stay strong for us.
I've said it before about your blog posts, Libby, and I'll say it again now: Your ability to find meaning a detail and explain that meaning to others is truly remarkable. I know a lot of writers and have spent many years evaluating writing and you have a talent. Thank you for using it to help other make a little more sense of an experience that makes no sense at all, and I thank Marco for bringing you to us. Love you.
This is such a beautiful, moving post, Libby. I love that you know your husband so well, that you accept that his grief is different from your but just as painful, just as real, just as deep.
He's lucky to have you and I have a feeling you're lucky to have him too.
So much love coming your way,
This touched my heart ! VERY well written; you should consider publishing it.
I am in tears reading this. Beautifully written, but so very sad anyone has to be in those shoes. I had a hard time accepting that Jamie was hurt just as much as I was by Ryan's premature birth and the almost loss of his wife. Just because he doesn't express those words and emotions, doesn't mean they are not there. We often forget the emotional toll it takes on the daddies. Big hugs and thank you for sharing.
Love and Hugs,
This past Father's Day was our first and although my husband and I rarely talk about Maddox anymore, I know he is still grieving too. Thank you for writing this...it was beautiful.
Such beautiful and accurate words. As grieving Mother's it is often very difficult for us to understand our partners grieving, especially when it looks nothing like our own. Its hard to remember even after all of this time that they still grieve too. Thanks for the gentle reminder.
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