“Grief, no matter where it comes from, can only be resolved by connecting to other people.”-Thomas Horn
When a loved one dies, people react to you in one of three ways:
1. They offer their condolences and awkwardly try to have a discussion about the situation.
2. They offer you support and comfort.
3. They send you an impersonal message and avoid you as much as possible.
The funny thing is you never know how anyone will react to your grief.
When my dad passed away to years ago, I experienced an outpouring of love from people; online friends and friends I’ve known for years. I was unprepared for the reaction from people I assumed were friends. I understand that death is a delicate topic and even I’ve been uncomfortable with discussing it with others. However, as a parent, I know that I have to set an example for my sons that grief is a natural process.
My parents raised me to be emotionally resilient and my mom always reinforced the need for me to be “strong”. There were times when I hid my sorrow from my sons because I didn’t want them to see me sad. I felt that I had to put on my own mask to cover my grief. I did my best to cry privately because I didn’t want to burden them with my pain. Until one day, my teen son was feeling sad and needed comforting. I realized that I was being a hypocrite. Even in the times that I wanted someone to reach out to me, I closed myself to even my husband. I didn’t allow him to be there for me the way he wanted because I thought I had to be strong for my family. Although my inner world was crumbling, I maintained a mask of outer competency and courage. I didn’t allow my family into my inner grief for fear that they couldn’t handle it. I didn’t think about their grief and how they needed my support too.
What was I teaching my sons about grief if I was not being open and honest about my feelings? How would my sons deal with grief as adult men? What was I teaching my sons about a man’s love by rejecting my husband’s comfort?
I don’t want to raise stoic and emotionally detached men. I want my sons to know that grieving is natural and talking about your grief can be cathartic. I want my sons to know that a strong man can cry, be vulnerable, and also be a comfort to someone who is grieving.
I’ve met many people who are unable to deal with grief because they have not learned how to effectively deal with their own emotions. I’ve known men and women who appear cold and indifferent because they were shamed into believing that showing their emotions is a weakness. These same people often find it difficult to reach out to others who are hurting. I also want to remind you that when someone is grieving, reach out to them and let them know you care. If you are grieving, don’t shut out those around you. Most importantly, remember that grief is not contagious.
Originally appeared at Raising Great Men.com