Marion Robert Morrison starred in more than 178. He was better known by his professional name, John Wayne, or his nickname, the Duke. One of the most noted aspects of his film career was that the Duke never cried. His eyes may have gotten moist, and he might have wiped his nose a few times, but he was a tough guy who never shed a tear.
In our society, men are expected to be strong, and crying is often interpreted as weakness. Yet no matter who you are, what position you have at work, how much money you have in the bank, whether you’re a person of faith or considered a strong man, the emotional trauma of losing a child can feel overwhelming. And you will cry, because crying is a natural and healthy part of grieving for all of us.
Here are three situations men often face as they engage with this emotional trauma.
Deep grief. This is the type of cry that feels like it rips your heart into a million pieces and leaves your guts all over the floor. It’s the one you have in the middle of the night when no one else is around. I encountered the deep grief cry between 2 and 5 a.m. while I was trying to sleep. It felt like a ship that was taking on water as it began to sink and waves crashed violently against the hull. Each thought of no one caring about my pain and suffering would cause the ship to sink a little deeper into the dark water. With this cry, you need to look into the mirror to find direction, peace and hope from Someone who has much more strength than you do and knows your soul down to its core.
Isolation. This is the cry that deals with your mind, not necessarily your heart. It starts with thoughts that move a million miles per hour, and before you can take another breath you feel consumed with the thought of total darkness and seclusion. I experienced this during particularly difficult times, especially when I was dealing with grief that was triggered by the loss of Abbie or my own divorce. The thought of having to pull yourself out of this pit of hell will cause you to start a downward spiral that seems to last for hours and or days. Your strength, both physically and mentally, is depleted, and you are just a shell that is going through the daily routine of life. This is the cry you can have with the One who knows you best. He is the one that will hold you and feel your pain as you wail in total agony.
Expectation. This is the kind of cry we men have the hardest time in keeping in check. It’s the one we keep from showing in public or even to our closest friends and family. It’s the blurry eyes with a few wet tears we allow ourselves as we pick out the casket, decide what clothes our child will wear and all the decisions that must be made for a funeral. As we are doing these tasks, the expectation we have of ourselves goes like this: It’s my responsibility to provide direction and calmness amid the chaos occurring around me. This cry is the one that you must deal with yourself. You will learn it and become very good at it, because it will be the cry that you will have forever.
Men do cry. We just have different ways of expressing it and moving through it.
P.S. If you have lost a child and are willing to share a story, please visit AJourneyWeShare.com for a new book we will publish in 2022.