Don’t Let Yourself Get Too Far Down.

Suicide is a case of mistaken identity. Sheldon Kopp

It is truly frightening that as men we are much more successful at suicide than women. Don’t end up adding to that statistic. It takes guts to reach out just because our world has told us it is wimpy to need help. That is a problem with our culture, not with us. It’s the guy with courage who reaches out. The coward doesn’t. Everybody has a time of need. This is yours.

Strong silent type

Really means large and depressed

Suck it up, kid. Or, Quit being a crybaby. So many of us males heard this, so we learned to stuff our feelings early on. Funny how girls don’t get the same set of instructions.

Husband, father, son, in law – those roles can enrich, or deplete us, but we were given a sacred gift of life. For your mother’s and your father’s biologies to connect to create you, you were just a one out of 121 trillion who could have been born, instead of you. So don’t even consider wasting this opportunity.

In 1969, the great Swiss psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross gave us a model for dealing productively with grief of all sorts. In her landmark book, On Death and Dying, her model applies as much to emotional/relational grief as it does to physical death.

Here is the five part Grief Cycle Model first published in her book. Even though this has been the fodder for dumb ads worked in between quarters in pro football games, this grief cycle is no laughing matter and important for you to understand:

  1. DENIAL

You can see how much about Kubler-Ross’ model has moved into our culture as this one is featured prominently in a country song about denial not being a big river in Egypt. It is, however, a natural defense mechanism. The problem comes when someone becomes locked in this phase of the process. Pretending something hasn’t happened ultimately won’t resolve an issue.

  1. ANGER

When we start to break open the capsule of our pain, anger will begin to spew out. Anger with ourselves, with our ex, of course, and anger with anybody we are close to because of the psychological phenomenon of leaking where we spill our frustration onto others. You will need understanding friends and family who will let you be angry around them without getting scared.

To start with, everything wrong with your life may feel like your spouse’s fault. A change in your schedule with your children gets blown way out of proportion. A phone call five minutes late becomes a major sin. You are entitled to your anger. It isunavoidable, but KEEP YOUR KIDS OUT OF IT. You may want to belittle your ex in front of the kids, or humiliate your kids for what you perceive as loyalty to the other parent. DON’T, DON’T, DON’T.

I once had a very angry client who had some extremely incriminating photos of sex acts his ex committed with her grossly unprofessional therapist. The client wanted to hire the super-shark divorce lawyer in town and give him those. I assured him he would win the battle, but lose the war, since his children would never forgive him for what he did to their mother publicly in court. Fortunately, I finally talked him out of it.

From well-meaning people I’ve heard that anger is un-Christian. I don’t think so! Remember how angry Jesus was with the money changers in hisfather’s temple? There is one very important differentiation here. Anger is simply a normal and primary emotion.

Violence, however, is anger out of control. If you are violent, run, don’t walk to get help. Ironically it is usually in denying emotions that they become problematic or negative.

And no matter how angry you get at their mother, take your anger somewhere else. She may be your ex-wife, but she is forever their mother!

When it is time to take a break from parenting, be sure to have an emergency backup. There were times I was so stressed out with my own stuff I was afraid I would scream at my daughter or worse. Fortunately, friends and my motherwould step in and help.

  1. BARGAINING

Bargaining for those facing a physical death can be with whatever form of God the person believes in. For those facing relational death, bargaining can be an attempt at compromise. Something like, “Surely, we can still be friends!?” Bargaining almost always is a short term solution, really just a hedge or a dodge.

  1. DEPRESSION

A workable short term depression which does not leave you paralyzed can be ok and a natural part of the process of grieving. It is normal here to feel uncertainty, confusion, regret. Your job is actually to hang in with this passage. As long as your version doesn’t throw you to the mat where you think dark or suicidal thoughts, many depressions are passing storms. Even though you may curse me for saying that until it passes.

My own greatest teacher taught me that if you will hang in with the down cycle of a depression, three things will happen: 1) Inevitably you will hit the bottom and start to bounce back, 2) If you let yourself go all the way to the bottom of that particular passage, when you bounce back it will be with some new understanding, 3) The deeper the dive of the depression (again you have to hang in to the bottom), the larger the lesson will be when you resurface. But if you get to this point, YOU WILL NEED GOOD PROFESSIONAL HELP to get through this one – it can be dangerous to yourself and others. I have more to say on this in a few paragraphs.

  1. ACCEPTANCE

This is the final stage of grief, and it will often sneak up on you. Somebody who knows you well may comment, You seem to be more at peace these days. Or you may just look over your shoulder and see the whole tough processreceding like some cowboy in a Western riding off into the sunset. This is the payoff for all your work. On the other side of this you will be a larger person, more able to love and support your children, and men, or women, in the future who may turn to you for help.

NOTE: All the stages before this last one can spill into each other, or one can precede another, but the chances are best they will occur mostly in this order. Again, this is an important model for our age of much more accessible psychology and hands on healing. Actually the only other I know of this strong is the one for the alcoholic family. These models for our increased understanding are changing the world for the better.

Today we live in an age of spirituality which is more than you go to church on Sunday morning. Churches are taking on powerful new healing roles – like separation/divorce support groups. Of course, there is AA the granddaddy of all support groups which meet mostly in churches.

Which reminds me, sorry but liquor won’t work anyway. I’ve known too many who’ve tried, including myself. Nor will pain killers. They should be called pain adders because all they do is push out the date for dealing with the pain.

SPECIAL NOTE: I want to take a side trip to explain that there are only four real emotions: Joy, Pain, Fear, Anger. Everything else is some gummed up, unclear, poorly communicated version of the real things. I refer specifically to guilt, disappointment, depression, anxiety, to name a few.

So Depression is one of the stages of grief, but it still isn’t a real emotion. It just shows us once more how difficult it is to feel real emotion. It is often sadness stuffed inside, but it can be anger. On the inside we fantasize it won’t hurt as much. Actually it hurts more since it separates us from joy, from our children, and from getting on with our lives.

So these emotions aren’t emotions, they are the Attack of the Mutants. When you say to a child, I am disappointed in you. That mutant: disappointment produces confusion in the child and immediately another mutant: guilt. These bring us back to the negative emotions thing, or an emotion which has been pushed down inside and left to fester like an untreated boil. When it erupts, it can spew out pus in ugly or negative ways.

The cure is to let the emotions rise to the surface in you, knowing that at first they may feel strange if you’ve spent a lifetime shoving them away. It should help you to realize emotions are like sweat, after a while they will dry up and go away.

We live in an age where the old stuff about Crazy Uncle Tommy is ancient history. We all have something wrong with us. The trick is not to wait too long to identify whatever is going on with you so that it becomes dangerous.

I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in quite a while in the grocery store. He told me he had gotten very down and called the county mental health department, but told them he had to bring his dog to come in as he didn’t know who would look after him (there’s a clue that he had a problem), but they hung up on him.

A week or so later, his boss came into to his office and caught him on the suicide hotline. With that, the boss shoved him into a car, drove him directly to county mental health and checked him in. He now understands he has the condition known as PTSD, not unusual, but this is not a book on the latest in mental health. The good news is that most of these conditions are treatable and more and more of us are talking about it in the grocery store. As a culture, we have a ways to go, but we’ve moved light years from where our parents where. They just suffered in silence. Both my parents were classic examples of that. In those days they were Crazy Dad and Crazy Mom. Today they’d have help available.

IMPORTANT ADDITION – HOW TO KNOW IF YOU NEED MORE HELP NOW.

PLEASE, PLEASE, I AM BEGGING YOU, NOT TO IGNORE THESE:

Of course these include professional help or the free group support options in the next chapter.

So if any of these occur, get help.

  • You withdraw from friends and family.

  • Kids express ongoing concern about you.

  • You have very dark or suicidal thoughts on a recurring, daily basis.

  • There’s a significant increase in your liquor or drug intake.

  • Loved ones continually express concerns about your well-being.

  • You are going to bars for anonymous sex. Condoms help, but there is still plenty you can catch. I was dating a gal who called and said, My doctor told me WE have to get a shot simultaneously before we can have sex again because we could pass something I can’t pronounce, back and forth to each other.

I responded, That is the scariest WE, I’ve ever heard. So is this something men give women or vice versa? Either of us could have had it dormant for 20 years. Yes, that is how scarey the single world is. I was lucky there was a shot for that one. You might not be that lucky.

RESOURCES:

http://goodmenproject.com/author/jon-vaughn/

This is a great website for growing men in general. I hope you’ll study it and sign up for their posts. You may want to read this guy who of course I like because he agrees with me on lots of things. This link will take you right to Jon Vaughn who tells the story of his fight for custody of his two girls, inspiring him to help other guys by creating a mobile app for custody management.

3 KIDS IN THE PROCESS

If you got lucky and you have a simple separation, that’s one without children, you’ll be free to focus your energy on following these steps I’ve laid out for you. Trust me, I’ve been through both; and the ones without kids, no matter how contentious, are usually simple in comparison.

With kids, you have to do some juggling. Meeting the kids’ needs first. Yours second, but actually both of those have to be done simultaneously or you’ll run out of energy for the kids. You don’t have the luxury of waiting a year to get the kids straightened out, like you do childless with this step by step process. With kids you’ll have only half your energy for changing yourself. That change will be a big drain, but it will also feed you spiritually. The other half will be caught up in dealing with the many forms children’s fears and uncertainties will take. Another way of saying it is that an emotionally depleted dad won’t be able to console and direct a frightened, confused child.

Here are some of the basics you’ll need to start on right away with kids. You don’t need to be alone here. The problem is too many guys have counted on their wives for the emotional side (which often includes the disciplinary side) of things. Sorry that just went up in smoke. Time to get a handle on this fast.