Content warning: foul language (sorry Julie)
I used to do a lot of climbing and have always felt that being strong is such a positive attribute. Since Lenny died, I have started weight training with Mim, this has made me strong…. which is positive – side note – this is not a positive thing to come out of Lenny dying, NOTHING POSITIVE CAME OUT OF THE DEATH OF MY CHILD!!! Being physically strong has made a positive impact on my mental wellbeing. As humans we aspire to have strength, especially as a male, I assume this comes from an evolutionary advantage, stronger man, more food? (Sorry, I failed the evolutionary biology module!) We have a World’s strongest man and woman, but, we don’t have the World’s weakest man or woman – which according to Mim’s mum would be her – so she is missing out on a deserved medal there. Why is it so important to be strong in todays world? What do we need strength for anyway? Lifting heavy objects? Is it actually beneficial to be strong?
Since the death of Lenny and Bhai and even more so since we decided to make a grief documentary of our cycling journey in New Zealand – we get the comment ‘you guys are so strong.’ I assume that this means mentally strong, although they may have seen Mim looking jacked at the gym. However, I’m really struggling with the concept of mental strength? … what the fuck does that mean… you’ve not thrown yourself off a bridge yet? You don’t have any emotion? Or you are blocking that shit out and turning ‘something shit into something positive’? Side note- AGAIN THE DEATH OF MY SON IS SHIT, HE IS NOT SHIT, HE IS AWESOME!, AND I’M NOT DOING POSITIVE THINGS, I’M DOING THIS TO SURVIVE. our New Zealand trip is not a choice, its a matter of mental survival, if we stay here…….I don’t even want to think about that! Our two sons have died in different but equally tragic circumstances in the space of 8 months, I wish we weren’t going to New Zealand, I wish we weren’t setting up a charity, I wish they were here and we were changing nappies and covered in sick and were never ever described as ‘inspirational.’
To be a husband or partner to a mother who has lost her baby, is unbelievably hard. People say having children is the true test of a relationship, BS! Going through the death of a child whilst watching the person you love most dearly in the world also die a little inside, seeing the hollowness in their heart and being able to do absolutely nothing to help, whilst battings with your own head and emotions, now that is hard. The likelihood of relationships ending after baby loss is ridiculously high, I’ve heard up to 70%, but don’t quote me on that. I most certainly don’t have any answers to tell you how to navigate a relationship when your child dies – but we are still together. Many people think that it must be because I’m Strong….. Actually, it’s the absolutely the fucking opposite!- I am weak and vulnerable!
I think there is a misconception that the role of the man in a relationship is to be ‘the rock’, the foundation, the strength. The interpretation of this means that the man continues as normal after the death of a child….. what the actual fuck is wrong with people! How can you go back to normal, life is no longer normal. A CHILD DYING IS NOT NORMAL!!! When the man returns to work 2 weeks after seeing their dead child and the heartbreak of leaving a hospital without a baby, we all praise him for being strong, ‘well done pal you’re back at work’, ‘its a distraction’, ‘you can just get back to normal now’ – side note – YOU ARE NEVER DISTRACTED WHEN WORKING- YOU NEVER FORGET THAT YOUR BABY DIED, THERE ARE NO DISTRACTIONS IT IS A FUCKING HORROW SHOW! Also, if you are at work no one will ask you how you are or about your baby, because that’s the fucked up world we live in … so you won’t ever end up talking about your baby, because that’s also thought of as weak. Because god forbid, a man might have emotions…. no scrap that… man must be strong and have no emotion
To behave in such a way, where you continue as normal, and ‘crack on’, is literally the most unsupportive thing a partner can do. Honestly, this is not being a supportive, strong rock, in my opinion this is fundamentally letting your partner down! It implies that you don’t care, that your partner is the non-normal one and that they are completely alone in this grief loss journey. Its about time that this shit changes. We no longer need to view the gender stereotypes as ‘man be strong’, and yes I am STRONG, but not in the shit, crack on don’t give a shit way. I am a shoulder to cry on and a body for my own tears to fall on, I talk about how I feel to Mim all the time and she tells me how she feels, we air everything to each other, even the most fucked up thoughts without judgement, and by god this is freeing! We talk a lot about our boys and we honour them as much as we can. My advice is to do something similar.
PS. I love being physically strong it defo helps with the head. Also, if you read this and think I’m some sort soft shit millennial snowflake (thanks bro) that likes to talk about emotion…. GET IN THE REAL WORLD!!!