Teaching my Sons That Grief is Not Contagious
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.
What was I teaching my sons about grief if I was not being open and honest about my feelings? How will my sons deal with their own grief later on in life?
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 others who are 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. Unfortunately, when you bottle up your feelings, there are consequences such as depression and anxiety. Allowing others to see you feel doesn’t make you seem weak. Letting other people love you in your time of need makes you stronger. I also want to remind you that when someone is grieving, reach out to them and let them know you care. Most importantly, remember that grief is not contagious.
“Grieving doesn’t make you imperfect. It makes you human.” -Sarah Dessen