Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you hug me

John McCain gave an eloquent and gracious concession speech this week, and while I'm a Barack Obama supporter and part of the "yes we can" daddies-for-change bandwagon (imagine what that looked like), I know John McCain loves his country and truly believed he was the right person for the job.

But he lost. Decidedly.

How does one deal with that kind of loss at that level? Or any level? More specifically, how does a dad deal with loss and his family? We talk a lot about helping our children deal with losing, as Daddy Clay at DadLabs did recently, but what about the dads?

Whether it's losing the presidential election (kinda high-profile), or struggling families whose fathers (and mothers) are losing their jobs, or losing their homes, or divorcing, or losing one of their children, or losing the big company softball game, or no matter where the loss falls on the spectrum – how do we cope with our families and children?

I've never had a child until now, but one thing I remember clearly was the open communication my mother had with me when she divorced my father. That was key. My early experiences with daddies weren't so hot, so Mom was the provider and caretaker for a few years.

But when my later father (adopting step-father) suffered one physical loss after another, his courage and strength and "fighting back for life" overshadowed any sense of loss any of us felt for him. No anger or depression or withdrawal or chemical dependence. Just straight ahead "you can't keep me down" marching orders. That's inspiring.

Most of us have some knowledge of psychiatrist Kübler-Ross's proposed stages of grief:

Denial: "This can't be happening to me."

Anger: "Why is this happening? Who is to blame?"

Bargaining: "Make this not happen, and in return I will ____."

Depression: "I'm too sad to do anything."

Acceptance: "I'm at peace with what is going to happen/has happened."

What I didn't know was that Kübler-Ross herself never intended for these stages to be a rigid framework that applies to everyone who mourns (and of course that makes sense). I just read that in her last book before her death in 2004, she said of the five stages, "They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss, as there is no typical loss. Our grieving is as individual as our lives."

Our grieving is as individual as our lives. Although I'm glad that more and more fathers are being responsible and sensitive and communicative and open to healing when there's loss. It does take time, but take time for your families as well. They're there for you just as you're there for them.

At least that's the case with the hip cats I'm hanging around. Give us a hug, Beck.

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