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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Tearing Down Tears

How would you feel after losing a loved one? Would your gender identity affect your grieving process?

“Grief Diaries,” a book series written by Ferndale author Lynda Cheldelin Fell, consists of entries compiled by people who have dealt with tragedy and their experience handling pain that followed. The series celebrated its one-year anniversary in December 2016, and has 20 additions to the series planned for 2017.

A new book in the series is titled, “Grief Diaries: Through the Eyes of Men.” The grieving styles of 14 different men are featured in the book and gives others a chance to experience their grieving process. It also shows men they are not alone when dealing with pain, Fell said.

Fell lost her youngest child in a car accident when her daughter was driving home from a competitive swim meet.

“The men who share their stories, they’re really courageous. They’re breaking out of that box that says men shouldn’t cry.”

Lynda Cheldelin Fell

“That put me on a totally different life path,” Fell said. “I found helping others helped my own heart to heal.”

Less than three years after the loss of her daughter, Fell’s husband suffered a stroke.

In our society, men are not conditioned to openly express their emotions, Fell said. When suffering, emotions can be kept secret, even from the closest family and friends. Fell said her husband’s bottled up emotions contributed to the event of his stroke.

Fell said her husband didn’t have stories to look to while grieving. “The resources weren’t there for my husband when we lost our daughter,” Fell said. “He kept it all inside. Silent grief is deadly grief.”

Ian Vincent, a men’s resiliency specialist, is in charge of the Men’s Resiliency Center on campus.

“My program specifically focuses on starting a conversation about masculinity and what it means to you,” Vincent said.

Infographic by Brie Cleveland
Infographic by Brie Cleveland

The program enables men to get together to read articles and watch informational videos. The program started as a way for people to come together and talk about issues revolving around masculinity. It has expanded into a program with full-time staff  and an on-campus space, Vincent said.

Chuck Andreas shared his personal experience with grief for “Through the Eyes of Men” after he lost his wife of 19 years. While dealing with the pain, Andreas said he wanted to be able to talk to someone about his mourning experience.   

“I didn’t know if I wanted to put my emotions out there,” Andreas said, regarding his initial hesitancy toward contributing to the book. “But how am I going to help somebody if I don’t?”

Through the book, the men were given an outlet to express their emotions.

“The men who share their stories, they’re really courageous,” Fell said. “They’re breaking out of that box that says men shouldn’t cry.”

“Men don’t cry because it’s not macho,” Andreas said.

One of the key videos shown by the center is “The Mask You Live In,” which focuses on the harmful notions about masculinity in American society.

“People are looking to make change, to change how we treat men when it comes to loss and grief,” Fell said.

Issues related to misunderstanding masculinities can be found in popular culture and media, Vincent said.

“Look at how the male figure is portrayed in media,” he said. “You [see] video games and movies and you’re sort of lumped with characters that don’t show any emotion, engage in risky behavior  or act out through violence or self destructive behaviors.”

Vincent’s work is focused on deconstructing what masculinity is and how we learn to define it ourselves.

“It’s trying to find positive role models, and sort of redefine what being a man is to us,” he said.

Fell said she is proud of what has been accomplished with the book series, but hopes to keep making progress.

The other books in the series focus on different issues like eating disorders and dealing with a brain injury.

The series is not catered to any individual group, and has contributors from around the world.

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