Saturday, May 2, 2009

Myth of Silence

Myth of Silence
by Rob Steiner

The modern image of a man has certainly evolved from our culture. More and more we have seen an enigma on how a ‘man’ is supposed to behave. Long gone is the image of yesteryears of man off to work and wife stays at home tending to household duties and mothering the children. Fatherhood seemed to be somewhat more of a hat or a role that men put on. Children approached dad as they would approach a boss or manager. Social rules were more defined, clear cut; it was well known how children were to behave around parents, how women were to behave in front of men and in retrospect how men behave towards women and children.

Over the years, we have literally seen an evolution, a shifting of social expectations between men and women. More women have gone out into the work force and became co-workers with fellow men. We have seen more men participating and being active in the home. However, there is still a paradigm that has not followed the tide as closely, despite the age of information that has been passed down. There is a stereotype that plagues men despite our modernization. To this very day, tears are still considered a sign of weakness. Still prevalent is the myth of the ‘strong silent type’. Media continues to show successful, masculine, virile heroes as anyone who is able to face any situation head on with either rational or excessive violent passion. All we need to consider are past blockbusters as the Rambo and Rocky series, the popular Schwarzenegger films, Braveheart and more recently 300. However, submitting to such a stereotype may also cause conflict, not only within us, but with our significant other.

When grieving the loss of your child, it is natural for men to want to “keep it together” for the sake of our partner. And that is certainly a plausible cause. However, grief is patient, and if left unattended, will rear her embrace soon enough. In fact, it is reported that the average man usually experiences the severe pangs of grief 6 months after the initial event. This is partly due to our setting aside our own feelings to take care and protect the mother of our bereaved child/ren. This is okay, as we are instinctively hardwired to protect our family in such a manner. But heed the warning: do not ignore the grief. In fact, I would encourage embracing it as quickly as possible.

To accept your loss is not about trying to block it out of your mind. Instead, it has to do with realizing the loss will change your world, and that you’re still meant to have a whole and healthy life in this new and different world. It is just that the new world is composed of a new “normal”, one without your little one(s). You can identify all your losses in your brain, but true grieving requires you to use your heart.

To be silent may be golden, but to stay silent may be costly. Love’s natural tendency is to flow outwardly with expressions such as smiles, kisses, touch and comfort. Grief is also one that has a natural nature, one of sorrow, loneliness and isolation. But the healing process is the giving a voice to and crying through sorrow and pain. A man needn’t feel ashamed of the tears shed, for every tear that I have shed for the loss of our little girl was the result of my love for our little Zoe. What father doesn’t share a special place for his daughter? A tear shed before your partner serves to confirm that she is not alone in her grief and sorrow. It also demonstrates that this is just not a bad dream to awaken from, but a reality that you are willing to walk through with her.

Indeed, a man’s courage and strength is not measured by how strong and silent he remains, but his strength is measured by the compassion and tears he is able to share.

The shortest verse found in the Bible is located in John 11 verse 35 where only two words are written, “Jesus wept”. Whether you believe that He is real or fiction is immaterial, the fact is that entire civilizations, laws, and moral compasses and teachings were formed based on this man. Certainly, if he was able to shed a tear, I can to.

Written with love in memory of Zoe Reta Mary Steiner, born with angel wings on August 4, 2006. Rob is one of our new volunteers. If you would like to correspond with him about father's grief, you may email him at