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  • Sarah Menzies

Big Girls Don't Cry!

Speaking to other bereaved parents reminds me, yet again, how appallingly bad we are at dealing with grief, both the bereaved and their non-bereaved supporters.


We discussed how people feel alone and angry because friends or work colleagues no longer mention their child or ask them how they are coping. From my personal view I have friends that I have known for decades who tell me that they don't know what to say to me. or that they are worried they will say the wrong thing. It was probably a main reason why I began my blog. I wanted to remove some of the uncomfortableness. I wanted to tell everyone that there is nothing that could be said that would possibly make me feel any worse, just like there are no magic words to make the pain stop.


It is, I am sure, the case that people who don't talk about grief to the bereaved parent or partner are not acting in malice, in fact quite the opposite. And I also feel that they would be mortified if they knew their inaction was actually causing discomfort. But what isn't realised is that the upset and pain is always there, it's just not always visible. The bereaved person goes home thinking no-one cares, so takes that extra burden along with them.


I think what we are doing, when we avoid talking about grief, is actually an attempt to avoid the visible outpouring of that suffering. To put is simpler, crying is not socially acceptable. People want to avoid an awkward situation both for themselves and for the actual crying person.


Think about how we are taught in our childhood.. "Boys don't Cry", girls are at least allowed to cry when they are small, but "Big Girls Don't Cry". There are many terms of admonishment, we are told not to be a Cry Baby, or a Drama Queen, or a Mummy's Boy. Woe betide the child that cries at school without any obvious serious injury, he or she will be mocked endlessly by their peers. Children quickly learn that crying is not acceptable and should be avoided at all costs.


It is then hardly surprising that we desist from putting ourselves in a situation where will have to deal with a crying person or, heaven forbid, actually be crying in public ourselves. Laughter, the natural response to joy, is accepted, but crying, the natural response to pain, is not.


I'm not sure why it should be so. Maybe it is some primeval urge to not show pain, but if that's the case surely it is now defunct. Maybe it's worse in the UK, due to all that British stiff upper lip. Let's face it we often mock the emotional European's.


But whatever the reasoning behind it, I think it is causing widespread harm. We need to learn how to help those people that need it, not shy away like some socially awkward teenager. When the biggest killer in our country for the under 35's is suicide it must be our duty to have a long hard look at ourselves. If a group of guys sat in a pub having a good old sob was given as much acceptance as the same group raucously laughing, maybe then we would see a change. Obviously it's not likely to happen anytime soon, but perhaps we should give it a thought next time we tell someone to dry their tears.




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