“Never Show Weakness”
Men are often times programmed from a young age to believe that “big boys don’t cry” and that they should never show weakness. Because of this, it is sometimes difficult for men to “release” the emotions that build up. I often hear from dads that tell me that they can’t seem to cry. They feel the emotions welling up inside, but the release just doesn’t happen very easily. I try to provide ideas/tools that I have learned from dealing with my own emotions during the aftermath of losing my two children.
I am a firm believer that one needs to learn to be transparent and allow themselves to become vulnerable. This isn’t easy for men, but allowing yourself to seek professional counseling and participating in support groups can help with this process.
Another important part to the healing process is staying active, especially for men. Not as a tool to avoid dealing with your emotions, but quite the opposite. Using activities such as exercise allows you to not only burn anxiety, it can allow you to be in your own thoughts; processing what has happened to you.
I spent a lot of time riding my bike, jogging and taking on none time critical home projects. Early on, I would find myself breaking down and crying during these activities. Even years after their death, I still use these tools and from time to time I will push myself enough physically that I will feel the emotions build up and ultimately trigger a release.
I wish I could give each grieving parent the secret to surviving the death of their child, but I can’t. What I can do is share the things that helped me make it through the dark days and ultimately back to the path of healing.
Author of Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back
I lost my daughter Rose only 7 weeks ago. I spent a couple of weeks at home with my partner, before returning to work. Work have been really supportive, and I have had to leave on a few occasions – I’m a teacher so it’s not that easy to cover – but they’ve really bent over backwards to help out.
The issue I’m having is that I only feel able to cry in front of people I know really well, or when I’m on my own. I’ll find that all of my emotions get stored up until the end of the day, then I sob and wail in my car for the whole drive home. I’m sure that other fathers experience this but it feels like quite a lonely place.
When I have tried to open up and openly grieve with someone else, I find that as soon as they start crying, I immediately stop and adopt the ‘supporter’ role. I don’t think it’s healthy and after I resent myself for not being able to share my emotions. I’m know that the person who I’m sharing with then feels awkward that they’ve somehow brought on this role reversal. Has anyone else experienced something similar?
Oli – I am so very sorry for the loss of your daughter Rose. I wish there were words I could say that would take away your pain, but we both know there isn’t. However, what I can say is what you are experiencing is normal and many (including myself) has experienced it. It took a lot of practice and after a while I realized I couldn’t hold it in all day and it just started to flow over. Once that started and I realized it help me to just talk about it when I felt the urge (sometimes in awkward situation, for them not me). You are only 7 weeks into this journey and have a long road in front of you. Many of these things you are not use to feeling and dealing with will come and go and you will find your way to sort them out in a way that works for you. My main comment is let it out. Holding it in isn’t good for anyone. I know this because I did it after my first loss and it was not the right way to handle it and probably caused me long term damage. Wishing you peace.
I can still cry after these 7 yrs. since my son died. But I must admit that I still “suck it up” when someone approaches. Some may know what I’m experiencing, others may conjecture what the problem is, and others probably just think I have allergies. I don’t know. Its hard to start the conversation about his death and its meaning to me and how I’m coping even after all these years. I like to talk about his life but not in a quick chat. It opens a page that I am on many times during the day but it angers/saddens me to have another quickly change the subject because they cannot follow thru on the thread. It’s a big subject. And if you ask me right then how I’m doing , and I’m honest, I guess I’m not at the point in my grief where I’m brave enough to see where the conversation will go.
Thanks guys. I too now know to let my feelings out when I’m sad. I no longer feel embarrassed when tears flow & I do not hurry to wipe them away even in public like I did at first. Now I realize that the tears are a sign to me that my love for my son is still alive & that helps me cope. It definitely helps keep my sane too!
Dan – I think once you get past the “embarrassment” part of the public seeing you cry, it gets a little easier and a hell of a lot healthier to let it out. However, I have to admit, I still feel I would probably apologize to someone if I did cry in public. Not sure why we feel the need to apologize and what exactly we are apologizing for; sorry for making someone else uncomfortable, sorry for allowing someone else to see use vulnerable, sorry we are not in control of our emotions. None of them really seem worthy of an apology, but old habits die hard.
Thanks Kelly – as always, right on point. I deal with grief through my escapes – biking, walking, audiobooks, volunteerism and, strangely, listening to Paul’s music. I’m blessed to have many of his songs and his bands’ songs. His voice soothes me (even as it saddens me). I can hold my tears when necessary, but I also learned to let them flow because it’s absolutely necessary for my sanity.
You are welcome Jon. I am glad you connected with the posting. You are correct, releasing our emotions is absolutely necessary for our sanity as well as other physical health issue. I still have long term damage as a result of not letting the emotions out sooner, but now I know and prepared to seek help for the next time life deals me a really bad hand. I have no living kids, so the hand shouldn’t be as bad when it is dealt. Just for clarify, I am not challenging life to beat the other two bad hands I had already been dealt. Someone else’s turn.