Sometimes the action that helps the man to tell his story and to help connect him with his loss is a very practical matter. One of the most common is when the man uses his work as a means to tell his story. That’s what Michael Jordan did.
In August of 1993 Michael Jordan’s father was tragically murdered in rural North Carolina. Two months later Jordan announced to the world that he was leaving basketball. In another two months he announced he was going to make a huge switch and play professional baseball. People were shocked and saddened that Jordan would leave basketball and the thought of him playing pro baseball was even harder to fathom. Why would he do such a thing? What we now know is that Jordan’s father James, had always wanted him to be a professional baseball player. Before his death he had urged Jordan to drop basketball and move to baseball. Now just four months after his father’s death Jordan was announcing that he would be playing pro baseball. It seems clear that Jordan was following the masculine path of honoring through action. He may not have gone to a support group to “tell his story” but instead told his story through the actions he took. Jordan was close to his father as a child and as an adult. It seems clear that a part of his grief for his father was connected to his honoring of his father and his father’s wishes for him to play professional baseball. Michael Jordan offers us a beautiful example of how the mature masculine deals with the difficulties of a powerful grief: We honor.
Bob Greene quotes Jordan talking about his time in the minors in his book Rebound13. Jordan said, “So on my drive to practice in the morning, he’s with me, and I remember why I am doing this. I remember why I am here. I am here for him.”
Jordan was clear. He was there for his father, to honor his father’s wishes, to honor his father’s love for him and to honor their time together. It is through the honoring that his story is told. Not unlike someone going to a support group and relating their story but Jordan did it through his actions. Actions that honored his father. I can imagine him standing at the plate waiting for the pitch to come and having a conversation with his father in his head.
Jordan’s actions to honor his father were practical; in essence he was dedicating his work in honor of his father. This is grief. Mature masculine grief. There are numerous other types of practical healing actions; lets have a look at just a few.
Excerpt, The Way Men Heal page 27-28.
Below are links to excerpts from Helping Mothers be Closer to Their Sons.
Examples of two of the suggestions and tips found in helping moms to be closer to their sons:
Excerpt: Teaching boys about emotions
Excerpts learning about boy’s uniqueness:
Excerpt: Precarious Manhood
Do you sometimes wonder why he is the way he is? Do you struggle in understanding him? Listen to the words of youtube sensation Karen Straughan:
“For any mother of boys who has ever been perplexed, flummoxed, bewildered, dumbfounded, flabbergasted, confused or stymied by the things they say and do, this book is a must read.”
Learn the secrets that make boy’s emotions invisible. Learn the reasons he seems so different from your daughters. The author has spent over 30 years working with boys and learning their nature. This book will open you to their world and in so doing bring a deeper closeness.
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About the Author
Tom has appeared on a wide variety of media including CNN, CBS Evening News and many others. Shown here on ESPN and the NFL Channel for a special through NFL Films bringing the message that men have unique healing paths that are too often unseen.
The following is an excerpt from the section on teaching boys about emotions and focuses on helping him use his body to track his emotions.
Excerpt: Helping Mothers be Closer to Their Sons, page 90
“The other thing you can do to help is to get him to connect his bodily experience with the emotion. Boys are usually very aware of their bodies and this can be a great way to help them understand their emotions. Show him that when he is angry he will likely hold his breath a bit, will likely clinch his fists and have tension in his upper body and jaw. When he is anxious show him that his breath will be quick and shallow, and he may feel a little shaky and timid. When he is glad show him that everything is pointing up! Literally. Watch football players after a touchdown and you will see that they are pointing up, bouncing up in the air etc. Everything is up, high fives and all. Note also that the opposing team is looking downward, feeling the weight and burden of gravity. When we are sad the pull of gravity is heavy, we don’t want to move, and we can feel stuck. By learning the body correlates of emotions, he will be in a much better place to understand his emotions and identify them through his body experience. I have used this in my practice with adolescent males many times. They come in with a great deal of emotion but are having are hard time becoming conscious of what they are feeling. I just ask them what they are feeling in their body and they start explaining in detail. My arms are tight, my jaw is tight, or my upper body is tight. I’m just tight. Then a simple question like, when someone is feeling tight like that, what might they be feeling? Then bingo! Often times the realization is so sudden he will shout, “I’m Pissed”, with great satisfaction. He realizes he is angry and starts making connections.
It will be much easier to ask your young son about what he is feeling in his body. Asking about emotions directly will usually end in frustration. He will likely respond positively to the body question but not so positively to the feeling oriented question. Not because he doesn’t want to tell you the answer but because he doesn’t understand. This is at least in part the case since the emotions are confusing for him and admitting that will drop him in the hierarchy. Talking about his body is a much safer place. Just ask him, “What are you feeling in your body right now?” This is a non-threatening question for boys and may help to get the conversation going. Keep in mind that some boys will have a very easy time in naming and discussing emotions while others will be stumped. Know where your son falls in this area and adjust your interactions based on his strengths.”
Excerpt: Precarious Manhood