Men Don’t Cry…or Can’t

Just a few minutes ago, I found myself weeping.  Not crying.  It is not easy for me to cry though I feel as if I am constantly feeling tears ripping throughout every part of my body.  Yes, I am depressed and I feel it relentlessly.  Every minute of every day.  The “it” here is not from the depression.  It is the cause of the constant depression.  It is the death of my son.  My Isaac.

I might be able to relieve some of the depression if I could cry.  But as a man brought up in our American culture, crying is something that has been nurtured out of me.  An odd choice of words perhaps but perhaps apt.  Men don’t cry.  John Wayne and all.  Play hurt.  Only girls cry.  So men die early from the inflammation of repressed pain and grief.

I have not been able to let loose that gut wrenching wail of pain and agony I live with.  It builds and intensifies every moment.  It is an agony with no end.  Relieved only by brief moments when the tears build so strongly behind my eyelids that they overwhelm my culturally imposed ban on allowing grief to show.  Then I weep.  But just for seconds.

Isaac deserves more than that.  But I do not seem to be able provide it.  It’s not that I don’t wish to.  Other than having my son back and alive, I wish I could cry for him.  But I cannot have him back and I cannot cry.

I know I am not alone.  Unfortunately there are hundreds of ex-fathers who need to cry.  Cry and scream at death which is the horror of life.  Death of a son, of a daughter.  We all know that the penalty of living is that we have to accept death as inevitable.  And we all can understand and possibly even accept the death of a mother or father.  It is the natural order.  People live a life.  Then they weaken and die.  Our parents, uncles, aunts are all older.  When they die it may be sad.  Maybe the death will be greeted with grief or after an illness, expected but not desired.  It may be too soon or not soon enough to avoid the anguish of a slow painful exit.  But, they were older and it is the natural order that an older person will die.

Yes, there may well be tears, lamenting, expressions of grief, some wailing and breaking down as one becomes a widow or a widower.  But we all know that older people, older than us or at least as old as we are, that is to be expected if still painful.  If the deceased is a young father or mother, the pain is more intense.  We feel the loss more keenly as children are now without a parent.  The strength of the sorrow is for the children, the remaining young parent.  But the children will be a comfort to us in our sorrow.  They remind us that there is a tomorrow and years ahead.  They are a statement that though the sun has set today, it will arise again and again to chase away the darkness.  A statement of what can be.  Of the fact that though the present has been taken away for the deceased, there will be a future.

But when a child dies, when a son or a daughter is stolen from us, the future is taken away.  And you don’t care if the sun will rise tomorrow.  For what?  Tomorrow does not matter. Isaac is gone and for that I should cry.

But the best I have been able to do is weep.  Just weep damn it.

Written by Neal Raisman

I know how Neal feels.  I took me a long time to cry without fighting it.  Holding back just a little does allow one to fully release the pain.  Most men agree that we have been programmed not to cry.  So we find it difficult.  The one way I was finally able to cry.  I mean really bawl.  Box of tissue type a cry.  When ever I sat down to write them a letter.  As soon as a wrote the words Dear Katie or Dear Noah, the tears would start to fall.  As stated by another father “go to the pain…but not the torture”.  Thank Neal for sharing this article. 

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User Comments ( 8 )

  • Raj Parekhe,

    Some thoughts lie too deep for tears. Perhaps, you should cry. Only you can determine the expressed need, or God, if you believe. Crying as a biological function to relieve stress and pain is legitimate, I believe, but I also think that even those who have skills of such expressive catharsis (I actually cannot cry much either), like my father-in-law (I was impressed/astonished to learn this quality of his), grow silent in the light of deep values, such as spiritual beliefs and hard realities of the world or relationships. My father-in-law cried when he met his daughter (my wife) and me after a long time, as did my wife, and mother-in-law, but I simply could not muster any tears. At the same time, he looks at me with respect for my inquiring mode to be compassionate or caring to him or anyone else around me that cries. The first point is that he is learning “not to cry” gradually, as much as I am teaching myself to cry or critique myself for not crying. The second point is that crying or not crying is a function of deeper understanding, not the other way around. Ask yourself if you have a deeper understanding of your reality. For this, you need not cry, or you may choose to; it depends on your choice. This seems true for some conditions.

  • Jody Dark Eagle Breedlove

    Grief on the reservation shows the extreme stoic side of men. But many Indian men cry.
    Getting help on most “reses” is laughable. There is always some idiot out there trying to sell us books to help us, not realizing (or they probably do but don’t care) that we are all penniless and even if we had the money, a lot of us can’t read. So help from the outside comes from people with their hand out first. Pay me and I will help you. Just adds to the pain. We sit alone in empty trailers wondering how long we will live among the ghosts.
    Better not to cry to loud, here come the vultures. Better not to cry to loud, someone will tell you that you will get over it. But the graves around us speak differently. We walk on the dead that never got over it.

    Jody Dark Eagle Breedlove

    • Jody – Thank you for providing insight into the world most people never see and that’s life on a reservation.

      What can I do to help you bring awareness to this issue? To provide the resources necessary to help. What resources are needed? Counselors willing to donate some of their time? I know there is an organization called “Give and Hour” which allows mental health professionals to donate time to help returning service men/women. Is there anything like this that you know of that exists on the reservations? Lets talk a little more about this to see if there is a way to brainstorm some ideas that can make a difference.

      Thanks again for offering your thoughts on this blog.



  • It might surprise you to know that many women find themselves unable to cry.

    Though tears aren’t a requirement for grieving (some people never shed a tear), being able to let loose the floodgates can certainly relieve that build up of emotion that feels like an ever increasing weight bearing down on you.

    And you’re right men have been socialized out of their tears for centuries. The desire to reclaim the capacity to cry shows great courage and strength, but you can’t force it. All you can really do is allow it.

    As with most things related to grieving, following where your grief leads, is almost always the best approach. Having walked with so many grieving people, I have developed a deep and abiding trust in the process to heal even the most egregious losses.

    Take good care,


    • Some of the best advice I received was from a counselor that told me to “just let it be, don’t fight it”. It took me a while to understand what she meant. If you have a bad day and dont feel like going to work. Don’t. Call in sick if you can. Be kind to yourself. I would tell her, “this isn’t me”. She responded with “it’s who you are right now.”

      Thanks for sharing.


  • Jody Dark Eagle Breedlove

    God I am so sorry for your terrible loss of beautiful Issac. I don’t know how long it has been for you (not that time really heals all wounds) but when I found myself finally homeless from not being able to function, the isolation in the mountains by a campfire brought on an avalanche of tears. I screamed and cried for days and thought that I would finally find some relief but it never made me feel better. But I do cry now. Everyday. I am a big guy, stoic Indian…but I cry because my son counted and no culture will guide my crying. You are who you are and you carry this black pain in your own fashion. No fault in that.
    I cry for my son, for my pain, and for all of us who have had our children ripped from us by the enemy ghost. And if you cannot cry brotherman, then I will cry for you.

    Jody Dark Eagle Breedlove

  • Jack Hobby

    “It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, (protecting its sanity), covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But, it is never gone.” – Rose Kennedy my favorite saying

    • Jack – Thank you for sharing this. It is very true and I do believe the mind has a way of protecting itself. I think that is why many people say the first year after the loss is a fog. Its teh bodies way of protecting itself.