I really don’t want to go to church this Sunday. That may sound extreme to some, especially since I’m a pastor, but with Father’s Day on the way I find myself a mix of emotions. Part of me screams for people to recognize that I am a father; that my son not being here doesn’t negate his existence. Another part of me just wants this day to vanish. I want to crawl into a hole and to emerge on Monday as if nothing had ever happened.
As I struggle with these emotions I feel very alone. I know I have a loving wife and family who are there for me, who love me, and who support me. I know that when Father’s Day comes, they will accompany me however I need them to. Even so, I feel alone…and I’ll tell you why.
In the week leading up to Mother’s Day, there was a flurry of blog posts about respecting mothers for whom reproduction was difficult, who had lost children, or whose lives just didn’t lead down the motherly path. People were writing, posting, and re-posting on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, and there was a network of people that understood and supported struggling moms.
In turn, this week has been complete radio silence.
Aside from a few expected posts about how great dads are, or what to get dad for his special day, I’ve seen no one talking about those dads for whom this day is less than happy. It’s as if struggling with loss of children or infertility is a uniquely feminine quality. Like moms are moms at conception, whereas dads become dads somewhere between the birthing room and the car ride home.
So when there is a loss we need to care for the women; after all they are the “weaker sex”. Men, however, just need to man up. Get over it! That happened months ago! At the very least we’re supposed to put on our poker face, acting as if nothing is wrong. Men are expected to be a rock on the outside, even if their soul is rotting inside.
I refuse to do so.
For myself, and for any other men out there who are just like me, I won’t play this game. I won’t put on the poker face; I won’t act as if nothing is wrong. It’s time we learned that men are parents at conception as well, and loss hurts us, too. Father’s Day sucks for us men who have suffered loss or inability to procreate just as much as Mother’s Day does for moms who suffer these things. And the church needs to recognize this.
So I reiterate what many said on Mother’s Day, but that so few are saying now: as you celebrate Father’s Day at church on Sunday don’t forget to leave space for grief. Men grieve too, even if they don’t always show it, and you, church, are responsible for helping all people see God in their lives, whether in the joy of life or the tragedy of death.
So, church, choose your words with care on Sunday, and remember those of us for whom this day brings more pain than joy.