There’s a saying in some cultures that “heaven lies under a mother’s feet” – I think it reflects the sacrifice that mothers make as child bearers. Please dads, don’t feel left out. Recently I’ve witnessed overwhelming paternal love that is so full of heart breaking worry, that it hurts. This type of fatherly feeling has no cultural or geographic boundaries. Six current cases come to mind, three of them of Western ethnicity, and three from Eastern traditions. Even though their world views, languages, and outer appearances vary, these men all share a common internal state: a feeling of desperation and a willingness to do whatever it takes to help cure their emotionally unwell kids (who range in age from 15 to 34).
The parallels are amazing. Each of these cases is very different in terms of family history, life situations and diagnoses. But each of these ethnically diverse dads is brainstorming, searching, and acting in a way that can only be driven by unconditional love. Make no mistake, they are not weak or lacking in resiliency. Each of these men is psychologically hardy in his own way. But the pain shows on their faces, and I can hear it in their shaky voices as they struggle to try to understand what’s happening to their children. For the Western -oriented dads, when their adult “child” has debilitating OCD behaviors, or alcoholism, the cultural ideal of fostering independence and self-sufficiency in one’s off-spring seems to melt away; when it’s their flesh and blood who may be suicidal or in the downward spiral of depression these dads will do whatever it takes to rescue their kids.
When faced with similar trauma, Eastern dads let go of the stigma and shame linked with DSM Axis 2 personality disorders. I see them side-stepping family and community support typical of collectivist cultures – in an effort to seek the best possible empirically proven treatments. It’s heartbreaking to see a dad’s despair. It’s also a reminder that we are all just human. Sometimes we are stripped of the protective layers that culture surrounds us with, stripped down to bare emotions and vulnerability that is universal. After seeing what these brave, committed dads go through when faced with the possibility of losing their children to mental disease, I’m convinced, heaven must lie under a father’s feet too.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA