Today I was struck by another question. On a typical day, I’ll either find myself thinking about how did “That Guy” think up “that idea” and gift it to the world or I end up musing about the lyrics to songs going through my head. Since I started this men’s grief series that I am calling the ammo box, some of the songs going through my head have been Chicago, Jethro Tull and Paul Simon (with or without Garfunkle).
The ammo box was the place that I stuffed my feelings into. Anyone who worked with me, knows that the Pink Floyd song, Comfortably Numb was a go to for me. Stuffing my feelings made me feel comfortable and it numbed the senses. So for a while it worked to “help me get by”. That is, until it didn’t. Then the feelings came back and demanded to be seen and acted upon.
So I use the image of an ammo box like the Grief Recovery Method uses a pressure cooker image. Or for any guy who is reading this, a boiler or an ICE radiator. It brings me back to thoughts of my origins, my family and my father. This also leads me to the Simon & Garfunkle song, ‘I am a rock.’
The refrain towards the end of the song:
And a rock feels no pain
and an island never cries
The entire song is such a powerful expression of avoiding feeling and a suffocation of emotion. The idea that as a stoic rock you can avoid pain and as that as an isolated man, you never have to cry. Now that idea makes my blood run cold. Especially, with what is happening in the world. Our attitudes and approach based on never being hurt also prevents us from being sympathetic and compassionate toward the less fortunate victims in Ukraine.
I grew up in a household where my father’s father lived with us. I got to see my father interact with his father. As a grandfather, Herman was not the kind of grandfather that I am. Then again, think about growing up in America after WWII and being called “Herman, the German” (I need to cut him some slack).
Needless to say, the refrain of the song applies to him. I never saw him express any other emotion than maybe disdain. I don’t know if the was because of something that happened to him and he resented us or his situation but he was not a happy man. As for crying, it was only into a bottle of Old Crow that he kept in his closet. Gives me another appreciation for, “You are what you eat or in his case drink.”
Not to judge him, but to use these images to place a comparison on the evolution of expression that occurred in my experience. The choices that I made to be more conscious and aware of the moments in life that give it richness and meaning. That day almost 21 years ago and the meaning that hit home. The day my daughter got into an accident on the way to school. The 5 days we spent being bombarded with crushing emotions and tidal feelings; waiting to hear if she was going to make it. Then the ‘coup de gras’ of having to remove her from life support. I did not have the experience or the emotional bandwidth then. So like Herman, I chose to feel, no pain. I used the only method I had, which was to bottle it, box it and tighten the seal. To store it until a time I could process it or it consumed me.
Because, it was what I knew,
It was what I had seen. I was limited in understanding or any teaching that my parents could impart. I had to choose and I chose to grow and successfully handle my grief process. Over the course of time, I have come to understand the importance of expressing these to the people I come into contact with.
It is another reason to have conversations about this kind of topic. “Because, it was what I knew,” and now I am ready to successfully incorporate these messages, these data points, and experiences into a better version of myself than it was when I started this life. That’s what Nancy and I hope to do for anyone willing to do the work and engage with “Being with Grief”. Helping your process of grief has become our mission. I know there is a lot of hard lessons we learn in our lifetime. Having tools and cultivating the desire to successfully handle what you are thrown. So like the little league coach, Go out and practice practice practice. You can get better at being with grief.
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