Archive for February 2014 | Monthly archive page
This little observation about life after loss came to me via Andrew Sullivan. The full piece by Roger Angell appears in the New Yorker.
A few notes about age is my aim here, but a little more about loss is inevitable. “Most of the people my age is dead. You could look it up” was the way Casey Stengel put it. He was seventy-five at the time, and contemporary social scientists might prefer Casey’s line delivered at eighty-five now, for accuracy, but the point remains. We geezers carry about a bulging directory of dead husbands or wives, children, parents, lovers, brothers and sisters, dentists and shrinks, office sidekicks, summer neighbors, classmates, and bosses, all once entirely familiar to us and seen as part of the safe landscape of the day. It’s no wonder we’re a bit bent. The surprise, for me, is that the accruing weight of these departures doesn’t bury us, and that even the pain of an almost unbearable loss gives way quite quickly to something more distant but still stubbornly gleaming. The dead have departed, but gestures and glances and tones of voice of theirs, even scraps of clothing—that pale-yellow Saks scarf—reappear unexpectedly, along with accompanying touches of sweetness or irritation.
Liam Neeson is starting to speak about the loss of his wife, Natasha Richardson, five years after her death. (He is so articulate. I hope he speaks more. …Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to get an interview at some point.)
I love it, of course, when men come forward to share their journeys! They are providing guides to other men and some comfort whether they know it or not. I also was glad to hear Anderson Cooper’s observations about how little we discuss grief publicly. That lack of “grief talk” increases the social isolation felt by so many.
Finished up Widower and am now a quarter of the way through Fatherloss. I enjoyed Widower so much…or at least can say I found it moving and informative. I think this is because the interviews in the book preserved the voices of the men as they relayed their stories and experiences. The author let them tell their own stories straight from their own mouths. All the different voices and personalities came through. (For me, it was just like going to bereavement group!)
Fatherloss, however, draws on the interviews of 376 different men and Neil Chetchik, the author, paraphrases all the interview. The first-hand words of the subjects are only referenced in pull quotes here and there. (Chetchik bills himself as an “Expert on Men” which seems like a mighty inflated claim. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t let his subjects talk!)
What is nice about Fatherloss so far is the sprinkling of stories of public figures dealing with father loss as a way to introduce new segments. For example, JFK Jr. who lost his father before he had any memory of him experienced one kind of grief. Someone like Michael Jordan, whose father died when he was thirty had a very different kind of grief. (e.g. He instantly lost all interest in basketball and took up baseball to fulfill what he thought was his father’s wish.) These narratives are ones with which we are all vaguely familiar but they take on a new dimension when viewed through the loss of their fathers.
I’m still hoping to find some good research material on men’s grief in relation to the loss of a mother. No one has written a book about this it seems. Some kind of taboo maybe? If it’s still considered awkward and/or verboten for a man to experience prolonged grief at all, I guess it’s even more forbidden for a man to be grieving his “mommy” in any on-going way.
Also, still looking for some meaningful material on sibling loss for men. As one blogger I came across noted:
I have actually found more support for people who are grieving the loss of a pet, than I have for people who have lost a brother or a sister.
In my experience, sibling loss definitely gets low ratings on the empathy and attention meter. What would have been my sister’s 51st birthday passed recently. Even though I was my sister’s caretaker, health care proxy, power of attorney, etc. etc., even though I’m the one who planned the funeral and cleaned up her business, all the calls of remembrance, every single one, went to my mother.