Toughing It Out

Cate

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From where I was seated, it seemed that no one cried at my father’s funeral.   It seemed to me that it was stoicism all the way.  Most of them were pretty good at it.  My 12-year-old nephew was looking a bit shaky for a while, parents wondering whether he would ‘make it’ to be part of the party to walk the casket it out.  And I can tell you that I was definitely shaky.  I was all but crying, but everyone was so stone-faced that I was determined that I wouldn’t ‘fall apart’.

Back when I was about 12, it had been predicted that I would never cope with my father’s funeral.  [Please don’t ever make such a prediction on your daughters!!!]  That prediction was very much on my mind.  It was made when I was crying inconsolably at an airport.  My father was leaving for a six week trip overseas.  I was angry that the prediction had ever been made, and was always determined to be just fine at my father’s funeral.  I was determined to ‘tough it out’

It’s not that family members didn’t love my father.  It’s just the sort of people they (but admittedly not me) are.  I was determined not to be the only family member crying.  It was exactly what was expected of me, and I wasn’t going to go there.

Until we, the immediate family, were alone outside in the driveway of the chapel.  The hearse was pulling away from us, with my Dad in it, and that was the point where my stoic determination gave way… and I bawled. I was a complete and utter mess by the time other people made it out of the chapel.  Makeup everywhere, panda eyes, but I was beyond caring.  That hearse had just ‘stolen away’ my Dad! I couldn’t be tough anymore.

As for my nephew, he ‘made it‘.  No tears and he helped, along with his father, brother and others important in Dad’s life, to wheel the casket out.

That was nearly four years ago, and lately I have been thinking.  I wish I had cried at the service.  I wish I had been inconsolable.  It’s how I felt, after all. For my father was the most important person in my life.  As well as being my parent, he had become my best friend.  But I was too concerned at what other family members would think.  I was determined that their prediction of me all those years ago would not be well founded.  But damn it, he was my father and my best friend and he deserved my tears.

What was I thinking?  Well, most people there that day would have known that my father and I were very close but I admit that aside from that, and stoicism of other family members, I feared being judged, because most people there also knew I had a mental illness (or three).  I was expected to fall apart on so many grounds but I wish I hadn’t been too busy toughing it out to really mourn my Dad.

In time I did mourn his passing, but it was alone, where no one was going to judge me.  Actually though, I think that’s where I really begun to tough it out.  I faced my feelings.  I grieved my loss.  I realised that both my father and friend were gone, but that I would be okay.

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/a_t_ljungberg/1534232517 Creative Commons 2.0

Image credit: flickr.com/a_t_ljungberg/1534232517 Creative Commons 2.0

Today I read a really interesting article (One Man’s Quest To Have Male Crying Socially Acceptable by Andrew Reiner). As the title suggests it is about the challenging issue of men being able to cry and be socially accepted when doing so.  It’s a very good article from that male point of view, but Reiner really made me think in the last paragraphs when his son was ‘allowed’ to cry after being told by another parent to ‘toughen up‘. In being encouraged to cry if that was what he needed, he was ‘toughing it out’ in his own way.  That made a lot of sense to me.  Not having children, I wasn’t thinking of it in terms of a child, but rather in terms of myself.

Toughing it out‘ at my father’s funeral was what I thought I was doing when I was determined not to cry.  But actually it was tough to be alone with my tears and my grief.  I faced my loss.  It’s only now that I realise that my facing it in that way, I was able to move forward.  Yes, I still miss my Dad, pretty much every day, but it’s not crippling like it could have been.

Doing it the way I did still brought me the healing I needed.  If I hadn’t, I could have fallen back into depression.  Considering the circumstances of Dad’s death, I could so easily have done that but eventually facing my grief allowed me to heal.  Like the expected ‘falling apart’ at the funeral, falling back into depression was also expected by those around me.  I didn’t go there, thankfully.

Let me be clear though.  I wish I had been able to cry without negative expectations on me.  I am thankful for me that I didn’t end up depressed.  I found a way through anyway.  But perhaps most importantly others’ expectations of how I might falter just don’t matter as much to me now.  When I feel tears, I hope I can always let them flow. I hope I can express my emotions when I need to.  I believe that is ‘toughing it out‘ for me.

 “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.” 

— Charles Dickens (Great Expectations)

© Cate Reddell and A Canvas Of The Minds 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cate Reddell and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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22 thoughts on “Toughing It Out

  1. I have a huge problem with crying, a lot to do with emotional block, but also our culture. Great post, Cate, and nice to hear from you! 😉

    • Hi Cat, crying is a really difficult one and I recognise that it is so much harder for a man, most probably because of our culture. It’s not at all right and I believe that somehow we have to fight it.

  2. What a great post…….I think we all have to be true to ourselves, because hiding what we feel will always catch up with us one way or another. You feel the need to cry? Then cry…….and I agree with you….we shouldn’t be worrying what others will think. The older I get (and I’m gettin’ up there) the less I care about that.

    • Oh you’re so right Janet. And you know, I think that at least for some of us (me anyway) age has a lot to do with it. 😉 Thank you for your wonderful comment.

  3. Thank you for sharing this, Cate.

    I found myself thinking about my own experiences and recovery journey as I was reading this because a large piece of my journey has been learning to let myself cry and feel my sadness (and for that matter, anger as well).

    I grew up in a family that strongly preferred emotional stoicism and “toughing it out” to honest healthy emotional expression, and I’ve come to believe that the fact that I was taught that expressing negative emotions was bad and unacceptable was what eventually caused the anxiety disorder that I was diagnosed with in my teens to manifest.

    I bottled my emotions until the point where I could physically hold them no longer and something would tip me into a full blown anxiety attack. More frightening still, I legit didn’t realize that crying was an option without it being a full blown anxiety attack.

    When I learned that it was possible and furthermore actually healthy to express those emotions as you were feeling them and then let them go, it was such a turning point in my recovery.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience. It reminded me that a similar experience of family contributed in at least some way to my own depression. I don’t think my family would have wanted it to be that way, and were greatly surprised when I found a way to share it with them. It’s so sad that such things can cause such harm.

  4. i too lost my father and best friend almost exactly 4 yrs ago. i did not cry. i did grieve. many months later, i found myself spontaneously crying over completely unrelated things willy nilly. and i was finally able to move on after that. i am so sorry for your loss as well.

  5. ” The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep. ”

    I really relate to that “tough it out” stoicism. Expressing negative emotions wasn’t allowed in my household and I wonder if that contributes to the depressions of my siblings and my own anxiety disorders.

    • I certainly know for me that it contributed to my depression and it would make sense to me that being unable to express those negative emotions might also lead to anxiety. It makes me so mad that for so many people, real emotions were denied.

  6. Now I’m crying. I’ve been crying for a few years now, as I watched my beloved father deteriorate and finally pass away. “Pass away:” what does that really mean? To me, it means, Dad, I can’t see you anymore, you’ve passed beyond the veil that separates us. Before this, the only thing that separated us was my mom’s vile threats and rages. Now that separation is gone, and I feel you there, still my dearest Daddy, but I can’t see you or feel your dry-lipped kisses on my cheek. You have passed away, and I hope that we will see each other again, in the proper time. Thank you, Cate. And you have my permission to cry whenever you need to ❤

    • Hi Laura, your tears make total sense to me. I am on a similar journey with my mother now. Of course the relationships are different, although there are definite similar threads. Your description of passing away makes total sense. Thanks for sharing it with me.

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