Many families avoid talking about feelings. They distract with humour, talk sports, drink booze or just avoid each other when emotions are strong. Solitude can be your only companion when terrible things happen. While it’s tempting to call on a family member at times like this, you just know you’re not going to get that support you need.
As I wrote in an early post, parents raised with this awkwardness around feelings often pass these avoidance behaviours onto their children, and those children grow up to parent their children in the same way. It’s a cycle that leads to a lot of migraines, drug/alcohol dependency, ulcers and autoimmune illnesses.
When my dad died in 2008, a family friend wrote that he was a person who often sensed what another person was feeling without saying anything. I never saw Dad cry. The loss of his sister in 2000 must have been huge. I remember him comforting me as I cried over her body at the hospital. He kept it together, as they say.
My mother always described herself as a woman who doesn’t cry, and I certainly never any evidence to prove otherwise — not when her sister, mother or even her own husband died. I know the loss of her father must have been immense, and that happened in 1940, when Mom was in her last year of high school. Mom seemed to adore her father, who was in his seventies, and nearly three decades older than her mother. His death followed an illness of several weeks, much of which he spent in hospital on the mainland.
He died at 10 pm on Oct, 5, 1940. Mom went to bed that night feeling unsettled. In her diary, she wrote: “I think something is wrong, cause I can’t pray for Daddy as I should.”
The next day, word came that he had died — Mom wrote that knew without being told. Then a few days later, she wrote about seeing her father’s body at the funeral parlour. “I’ll never forget how good his soul was, and is, for it will always be my inspiration.”
I have no way of knowing if she cried, but she doesn’t make note of her or anyone in the family expressing their grief through tears. Maybe that loss was just so great, she couldn’t bring herself to release the grief. I don’t know. What I do know is she was always uncomfortable when, as a child, I cried. I suffered from headaches and depression while still very young. I learned to find peace by being alone.
I often weep when I lose a pet, but not always. Sometimes I just go through days of shock and dissociation with reality. After a while, tears just don’t come that easily. It takes seeing another person crying to get me feeling that lump in my throat. Crying is infectious. I see why families who prefer stoicism to emotional release banish the criers. It’s like crying is the worst thing you can do. Some don’t understand that all that buried emotion doesn’t go away — it smoulders down deep in your body and makes you sick.