My Dad was the loveliest man. He was kind and he was funny, he made everyone laugh and his moves on the dance floor were embarrassingly like Jagger! He loved his life as a golf pro and never wanted for anything as he breezed through life with the woman of his dreams- my Mum at his side.
On the 1st July 2008, he changed. Following a car crash on the way to their holiday home in France in the car Dad was driving, he lost the love of his life and he would never be the same again.
Talking about it was, he said for our generation, not his. He came from the school of Stiff Upper Lip and he would cope he told me in his own way. This meant he could not process the trauma of what had happened and remained locked in a circle of guilt and sadness relieved to some extent by the love of his family and a new partner who loved him dearly.
Once fit and virile, he undoubtedly began to suffer physically as well as mentally because of his desire to keep his feelings in. Movember focuses on male mental health and encouraging men to share how they feel.
Encourage the men around you to share their thoughts and give them space and opportunity to do so. I found simply repeating the last line of Dad’s sentence would give him permission to speak more on the subject. I found he hated being told what to do or how to think. He felt comfortable when he was emotional because I would sit and hold his hand rather than panic and run for the tissues. Let those needing to cry do so without a reaction that may stem their release of emotion. Society has shown us cowboys and indians and damsels in distress, even in current times strong role models and leaders are mostly male and it is rare to see a man cry. When we say “be strong” we are actually asking someone to cease showing their emotions. Instead, we can be with someone, give them the space and time they need to grieve or process their emotions.
My Dad died of a broken heart and I cannot help but think, had he accepted support from a professional he might have had a happier time following the loss of his wife. Processing difficult events and traumas to the mind prevents PTSD and unhealthy ways of coping such as addiction or self-harm. Every man deserves support and even if they do not accept it (I find teen boys are good at not accepting it either) we need to show them through enquiry that we are there for them should they need it.
To help the men in your life open up I recommend the OARS model:
Open questions are better than advice, or closed questions based on our assumptions. An open question allows the person to think more deeply on the subject rather than give a quick “yes” or “no answer. Eg. “What is the most important aspect of this problem for you now” or “Who do you think could help you with this?”
Affirmations from you will build confidence. Normalising the emotion, recognising what the person has already done well and acknowledging how hard the situation must be for them will encourage them to be open.
Reflect on what you are hearing so that the person feels seen, heard and valued “I can see this is really difficult for you” or “I can’t imagine how you must feel but I will help you through this if I can..”
Summarise what you have heard so the person feels understood. “So what you are saying is…” or repeat the person’s words to reflect back to them what you have heard. Often hearing our own thoughts said out loud can help us see the unhelpful thinking errors.
Let’s take some time out this month to pay more attention to the men in our life visit www.uk.movember.com and click here if you would like to subscribe to our newsletter for more hints and tips we would love to hear from you!