I have been thinking about the “grieving mode” for men, since life circumstances have brought me into the grieving mode as of late. There are times when you cannot do anything about relationships and circumstances in life. You would like to change the situation or at least have some understanding of the dynamics. But that is not always possible. It is then that allowing yourself to grieve can be a practice that will give you loving resolve and grace what simply “is.” You will grieve when you cannot change the circumstance or relationship.
David faced intense opposition from even those who were close to him. Some of his psalms were laments, which is another way of talking about grieving. He express his grief from being betrayed by close friends in Ps 59:13. “But it was you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship…..” But David had learned to bring his grief to God. “Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught…” (verse 1).
I am talking about my experience of grieving for two reasons. First to share my testimony of the help I have found in coming to a somewhat healthy practice of grieving and secondly to encourage men, reading this blog, to do their “grief work.” Grieving is not easy for us men to process or experience. Much of men’s anger is really unprocessed pain and grief. Buried grief is unfinished hurt. Many men don’t know they are sad, living with a well of unfinished hurt. So often men will mistake this unprocessed grief for anger. Without some grieving process however, men will tend to be angry and want to control, especially in relationships.
In a nutshell this is what I am learning about grieving. It is a normal part of being a follower of Jesus. I have had to be honest about my real feelings, learning to express them to others who have loved me. This helps me in the sorting process, to discern the difference between anger and hurt. Anger is something that I have to repent of, while grief is something that I need to learn to bear. I will simply be in situations where I can only grieve. When I know this I can find strength and grace to keep on keeping on. But the key is opening my heart to the light and love of Jesus, so that my confused and frustrating emotions can be straightened out. Space is created to respond with grace and love. I can testify to the wonderful grace that is given to grieve in life’s situations.
Men when we neglect or skip the grieving mode tend to go into either the fixing mode or understanding mode. Richard Rohr maintains that without grief work “the soul remains self-enclosed, rattling around inside its limited logic and basically disconnected.” Yes it is true that the grieving mode will feel like dying. But without the honesty in which we release our pain and hurt, men can easily suffer through the neurotic pain of aimless depression, desperation, addition and temptation. The pain becomes too great to endure, so men will act out.
This is why Richar Rohr in his men’s work has chosen the sign of Jonah for his work. The only way, at times, for God to get our attention is for us to go into the belly of the whale. There we sit in darkness and silence and come to the realization that we are running from God and his help for us. Rohr observes, “Much of early men’s work is teaching men how to trust their time in the belly of the whale, how to stay there without needing to fix, to control or even to fully understand it, and to wait until God spits you on a new shore.”
If today you are a man absorbed with a kind of aimless pain of anger, sorrow and disappointment, allow yourself the freedom to be into the belly of whale. That will entail facing your own darkness and let God sort it for you. My strong advice is to find someone else to sit with you as you go through the sorting out of your anger and grief. You will not be able to do it alone. But I promise you, you will have a new inner strength to face the occasion when you will have to grieve.