Not long ago I was asked to speak to a grief group. One of the participants was a relatively new widow who talked of her total ignorance about how to handle the ordinary tasks of day-to-day living, apart from cooking and cleaning. As a result, she had become excessively dependent on help from neighbors and friends who were increasingly burdened with things she should have been able to do herself. In this case, her deceased husband was the lord and master of the house and made all the decisions. It left her with no knowledge about their finances, how to pay a bill, what to do about license tabs, insurance, lawn and house maintenance, or anything else.
I’d like to believe that she is one of the last of a dying breed, but I’m not so sure. Around here there are still churches that preach and teach the total submission of wives to their husbands, thus creating another generation of girls who will grow up to believe that they can do only what their husbands tell them they can do. The popularity of home schooling creates a levee against the flood waters of secular culture. At least this particular woman was in a support group that will help her navigate a new way of life to include basic life skills along with dealing with her grief.
A few of the men I know go to one of those churches. They were brought up to believe, and believe now, that the man is to be the undisputed head of the household, and that they have a sacred duty to see that everyone is taken care of to the best of their ability. Most of them have also become comfortable in delegating a good deal of that responsibility to their wives, with full recognition that it is a delegation of their authority. They are in loving marriages (mostly) with spouses who are willing to play the game for the sake of good standing at church, but otherwise make their own decisions about life. It seems to work.
Now that I’ve mentioned men, it has struck me that most of the grief support groups I know about are made up of women, not men. It’s not like there are no grieving men. We have our fair share of men whose loved ones have died: spouses, children, parents, siblings. They would not have fit in with the women’s groups. Men simply do not share personal intimacies as quickly or as deeply as women tend to do. It takes them a long time to build up the trust needed to admit and reveal emotional vulnerability. Too many have been taught that big boys don’t cry; suck it up and walk it off. Grief support for them has to accommodate a different process. In years of working with first responders on issues related to post traumatic stress I’ve learned that men need to get clear about what happened before they can articulate anything about what they were thinking and how they felt, and in that order. Maybe a men’s grief support group would benefit from something of the same. Just a guess. I’ll leave it up to the local hospice.
That’s all. No it isn’t. One of my friends noted the other day that some of my articles have no ending, and don’t seem to flesh things out enough to reach a decent conclusion. It’s true. I think of them as conversations, and hope that readers are adding to what is missing, if only in their own heads.