My Dear Readers,
Father’s Day 2014 has just passed, so I will bid it farewell with what I am about to share. For many, this a day to celebrate the presence of our beloved paternal parents. Yet for some, it brings forth the ongoing work of processing the grief and loss for those whose fathers who are no longer among us.
No one has the right to dictate how one should feel on such an important day. No one has the right to dictate how long one should grieve the loss of a beloved one.
However, life is nothing more than a journey. We can choose to be in the company of those who seek to share the road with us. Below is such a story.
Dear Visible Man,
My father died six years ago, several days after Father’s Day. As a result, this time of year remains difficult for me as I grieve the loss of my father. And this year, I am angry with my so-called girlfriends who always invite me to a brunch where they can celebrate their relationships with their fathers.
They are all aware that my father has passed away. I feel that it is insensitive for them to invite me to celebrate Father’s Day, drinking alcohol, acknowledging their dads and at the same time, ignoring my feelings regarding the death of mine. When I attended last year, I attempted to speak about my dad and I started to cry. I was met with silence. Later on, I was told that I had ruined the celebratory occasion.
All I want is for them to understand my feelings. Is that asking for too much? I may cry again, so this year I have decided to not attend the celebration.
Everyone has heard that I’m not coming. Some have remarked that I’m not being considerate of them. One of them called me and suggested that for the good of the group, I should put my feelings aside and attend the brunch.
I’ve known them since high school, but it seems that as we have grown older, we have grown apart. So now the pressure is on. Do you feel I am being inconsiderate? If it were you, what would you do?
In Tears, Spokane, WA
Dear In Tears,
First, please accept my sincere condolences regarding the loss of your father. Second, keep crying. Never allow someone else to dictate to you the depth of your feelings. It is clear that by your continual grieving that you were very close to your father. It appears from your writing that your friends (and in this case, I use the term “friends” sparingly) appear to view the ongoing expression of grief as a negative impact on the group.
There are those who will view this and may want to suggest to you one of the following:
- To hell with them!
- Grow up, woman up and move on!
- You are a fool. Stop crying over your father and get on with life.
- Grow a brain. Look at what they are doing to you.
These suggestions are not only reactionary and emotional. They are self-serving and create more emotional damage and psychological wounding for you through victim blaming. Given this, how does one respond in a manner that is proactive and healing to the psychological self?
Visualize yourself standing at the “Crossroads.” In doing so, it is up to you to make a decision in the choices as to which direction to proceed as you continue the Journey of Life.
The goal is to work towards empowerment by listening to the psychological self. The following model, ABC, can help with this:
- Advocacy-seek out what you want and what is in your best interest.
- Balance– finding stability in your mind and feelings
- Calmness-achievement of an absence of agitation in feelings and steadiness of mind when you are under stress
Relationships-The VETING Model
Relationships can be demanding and emotionally draining. The more intimate the relationship, the more demanding or emotionally draining it can become. The VETING model consists of the following components; vulnerability, exposure, trust and the constant state of doing, i.e. “ing”. The model is as follows:
- Vulnerability– the willingness to be open to censure or criticism
- Exposure– the opening of the psychological self to being uncovered or unprotected to censure or criticism
- Trust-the reliance on and confidence in the actions of another.
- ING– the constant state or act of “doing”
Both models can assist in creating and defining boundaries that can assist in maintaining self-empowerment in daily relationships.
There are underlying questions by the group, not being asked, but being insinuated:
- Are you being an emotional drain on the group?
- Can you come and leave the waterworks and drama at home?
- It has been six years. When are you going to get over it? Isn’t it time to move on?
- Can’t we just get together and have some fun times? Laugh and celebrate the past?
- Can you come and attend, without being a “Debbie Downer”?
I would like to respond to these underlying, unasked and insinuated questions by suggesting the following: Make your responses:
- About you and not about them.
- About them and not about you.
As you indicated, these relationships were formed during high school. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Why am I holding onto to relationships that appear to be insincere and non-supportive?
- Why am I keeping to the past (relationships) and not allowing myself freedom to move forward to develop new and more meaningful relationships?
- What am I getting out of sharing my intimate feelings with individuals who appear not to care about my feelings?
The name Debbie Downer is a slang phrase that refers to someone who frequently adds bad news and negative feelings to a gathering, thus bringing down the mood of everyone around them. That being the situation, consider asking yourself the following questions:
- Why do they continue to invite me to these gatherings knowing the intensity of my emotions regarding the loss of my father?
- Why are they unwilling, unable, or incapable of expressing empathy for me? Especially given the nature of the long-term relationships that have been maintained?
- What are they getting out of this?
Standing at the Crossroads: Possible Considerations
1) Understanding (Empathy)– Although understanding of another person’s pain or emotional wounding may be a human goal, at times it may not be attainable. Here, as indicated in the writing, NONE of the group members have endured the loss of their paternal parent. Furthermore, the shallowness of their behavior indicates a clear inability to understand the closeness between you and your father or of the depth of your loss.
2) Past vs. Present– It may be that your friends are holding on to the past as you seek to reside in the present. It appears you are seeking the opportunity to “honor” the relationship as it stands today, where they are looking to simply recall the exploits of the past.
3) The “secured self” vs. Debbie Downer labeling– the open expression of your pain and loss lies in direct opposition to the group’s desire to express compassion or work towards developing a comfort zone that would allow the group to better comprehend what you are feeling.
Earlier I suggested that you “visualize yourself standing at the “Crossroads.” It is for you and you alone to explore and come to terms with what you are seeking and what you are gaining from the friendships within this specific group. Are these travelers fit to accompany you on your present and future journey?
Using advocacy, balance and calmness; empower yourself as you stand at the crossroads. The members of this group have given you a very meaningful gift. It is the gift of exposure. In their actions, they have shown you the true fullness of themselves.
It is for you to see and accept what is real standing at the crossroads before you. In doing one, acceptance, or the other, rejection, you will choose the direction of your journey and those who will share the road.
As for your tears, continue to grieve for your father. Honor him in death as you have honored him in life. Let no one decide for you how long or deep your grief should be or amount of time it should last.
Our tears reflect the deepness of our feelings for those who are although no longer physically present, yet will always remain within our hearts.
“When a person exposes the true self to you, embrace the action and treat it as a gift.”
-Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life
The Visible Man