Before we begin… I don’t want to ruin an illusion for you.
But illusions are meant to be destroyed. Just take a look at the following ways it’s defined.
- a thing that is or is likely to be wrongly perceived or interpreted by the senses
- a deceptive appearance or impression
- a false idea or belief
Now family, you can’t assume that just because I have an audience that I automatically have a support system that takes care of my family. Those are two different things. You’ve seen folks struggling with being a public figure while going through real-life shit. They often receive the same kinda support you probably get. Maybe less. Most public figures struggle for years. Including a lot of “influencers” you may even be keeping up with on social media. So no, I don’t do this from some crystal throne. Although, yes, you can assume that I’ve got a few people who are always in my corner. But all my loved ones who have known me for years have struggled like me. So people can only ever want to do what they can, but not everyone can always do what we need most.
Even so, it took me 7 months to begin to make peace with that. To make peace with the anger I’d been experiencing from feeling abandoned since it all went down and it was honestly some toxic energy. All of which I had to get outta my system. I had to say it on the record back then too, cause I didn’t want anyone to remain in the dark about why I wasn’t fuckin with everybody hardbody like it used to be. Because since that time, I’d had people reach out and say things like, “Sorry if I left you hanging, I was going thru my own shit, and I didn’t know what to do for you. I love you though, and I want to do more cause u family” and that was enough for me. More than enough.
Because some people aren’t at a point in their personal lives where they can even do that much for the others in it, so I had to learn to honor them too, regardless. So letting go of that resentment was for ME, and those who relate know you don’t want any of that toxic shit inside you. Cause no matter what you put in your pot, all that other shit will seep in and change your chemistry. Sound relatable? You might not even have to know exactly which one of my person life experiences I’m referring to for you to understand the feeling yourself.
Like how I thought I forgave everyone at the funeral, but I had to forgive everyone who never showed up after that! Of course, I didn’t mind. It was my journey, my children, and my responsibility to decide our emotional latitude no matter our longitude. Yet, happiness is all I’ve ever wanted for myself and mine. So that anger couldn’t live within me. Because how do you think suppressed emotions express themselves?
So I had to work on learning to not care what anyone did. All my grievances had to be done, and the slate wiped clean. In the same way, I’d hope those I’d hurt along the way could do the same. Why? Well, because it wasn’t for me. It was for them, and it’s the same with everyone in our lives. I hope y’all understand.
Although, if you don’t, understand that one of the most challenging parts of this life experience has been dealing with the lack of emotional support available to a man raising kids on his own. I’ll further explain. Though many people know me, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I always feel supported. It was crazy for me to consider what a mother must do for her babies. So for me to have had to do that, I struggled. There was a point when my mother could hear that it was a challenge to do it all on my own, and all she had in response was negativity. Not one supportive word. It was all about her. Still. Over 30 years later.
I wondered how I could emotionally support someone when I’d never experienced it myself? When I didn’t know what it should look like? When I didn’t know how it should feel? Or if I’m doing it right? Of course, I didn’t need the answers, but I still shared all of this with the audience even then so they would understand it wasn’t and still isn’t an easy road.
I had brothers, but they couldn’t relate to raising girls into adulthood without their mother. And she had a handful of people who she considered her sisters. However, most of them stopped coming around before she left us though. The others never showed up. It was as though some women who knew her didn’t give a fuck about her kids.
So I quickly grew tired of trying to piece together all the folks who said they loved us and coercing them to do shit. I didn’t think I should’ve had to ask them if they understood. I felt like it shouldn’t have been so much work.
Over time, I was grateful my daughters had slowly gotten to know new people they began to call “auntie” because it had been tough doing it without any women being around. There were times I wished I had someone to come through, cook some solid meals, clean up, do the little ones’ hair, sing her a song, help me organize our bills and finances… But that was tough, when the ones who knew her all flaked out, while with the new ones… I couldn’t discern who wanted what and why. When sisters did try to come through, it tended to be all about me, not supporting the girls. Sometimes they didn’t even speak to my daughters. Imagine that. It was a trip. Some of them were so disconnected from their maternal natures that it was rare that one would even authentically engage with my girls, despite their claims of sisterhood or whatever word made it feel real. So when it did happen? I was thankful.
But it revealed to me just how much a lot of our women are still broken. That maternal instinct, that caring, that nurturing, it’d been so damaged. So many women can’t bond with each other, can’t relate to children, and can’t find joy in cooking or making a home into heaven. The pretenders couldn’t imagine relating to other women because of all that emotional trauma they had never dealt with. Why do you think that is?
So it was sad, but it also showed me just how much work I had to do. Many men go without emotional support because it’s just expected that we can soldier through it. But we need more. Just honest, platonic, humane, concern, and support for the issues that ail us. I grew up without it, so I barely knew what it felt like. What’s a false idea or belief you think society subjects boys to that influences who we become as men?
Still, I learned to be humble and not so quick to anger. Even with the frustration of being tasked with the emotional well-being of all those souls. Even with no one I could turn to… It was a cold place to live in. Which part of myself do you think froze or went numb first? I couldn’t imagine how I ended up with a job contrary to my mental landscape, but I was always willing to learn.
It was cool when folks asked me when the next book was coming out, but those were the same ones who had no idea what was going on. Even brothers who were around for years were like, “at least business is good,” and I was like… we nearly went OUT of business. I almost lost everything. Almost couldn’t get my eldest into college. Couldn’t afford tuition for my youngest. Couldn’t afford to fix the car or to ask for daily rides. So what are you talkin about? Did the grass seem that much greener to them? Who would’ve wanted to run a business at a time like that? So when was I supposed to grieve? To detach? To be angry? To find peace? Who afforded me that space? There’s more to a man than how confident he walks, his ideas, or even his work.
To be clear though, I’m not complaining about the alone part. Sometimes it’s wiser to keep your circle small than to get “help” from the wrong kinda folks. I’m only seeking to address the reality of what happens when you see someone grieving a loss this big. They don’t bounce back overnight. I think I’m made of iron and bamboo, but *what started with 7 months took me years.*Some people need more. Some never bounce back. I just want you to consider people you know who are grieving, who might not be able to talk about it like I can, who need your support. Or be let’s be real, are you one of those people yourself?
I don’t share these stories so you can be sad and want to fly down to Atlanta to make us dinner. I share these stories so you can do the right thing for the people around you. The change in the world starts with us. I want you to understand the depths of this struggle so you can adequately support those who struggle around you.
We can heal each other, every one of us. But what’s in the heart? Some of us can’t see.
So why not share? Someone will get it and do better for others who need it. In what ways can you relate? What’s an illusion in your life that clouds how you or others perceive your grieving process?