Giving Your Son Permission to Cry
Has anyone ever said to you “maybe you just need a good cry?” In the therapy field we call those “cleansing tears!” Bottom line is it’s okay to cry; and frankly, it can be very good for you especially when you’re grieving. And guess what, kids feel grief and need to grieve too!
The Grief Recovery Institute Definition
“Grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind. Of itself, grief is neither a pathological condition nor a personality disorder. Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.”
The death of a loved one is only ONE of the many reasons we grieve. Your son might be grieving the loss of a good friend, a break up with his girlfriend, an ill family member or the loss of a family pet. When parents’ divorce, kids grieve the loss of an intact family of origin.
Permission to Grieve
Grief is part of life, an emotion to recognize, embrace and work through. It’s not the time to say, “please don’t cry,” “everything will be okay, don’t cry,” or “be a big boy, don’t cry.” All of these, as innocent as they are, send a message to him to stuff his feelings; if he’s unable to he thinks he is broken. NO! Sometimes everything is not okay, nor will it be, and kids need to cry too.
The best thing to do is allow your son to feel his feelings as they come over him. Suggest a safe place and deep breaths. Let him know it’s okay to cry. Simply put your arm around his shoulders and be present. Caution: no patting and talking! Just be still, don’t say a word and don’t pat repeatedly (that just means hurry up I have things to do).
Encourage him to take the time to feel and let it out. Your job Mom and/or Dad, is to support him by being present!
Tears are the body’s way of releasing sadness. Each time he allows his tears to leave his body he will feel that much lighter.
You CAN’T Fix Grief
As difficult as it is to see your child sad and crying, it’s important to honor the process.
The good news is we don’t grieve the same piece (stage) twice. However, if delayed or interrupted grief can be “piled up” and become a major factor in other disorders.
Reminder: we all grieve differently, some wear their emotions on their sleeve while others internally stuff it. There is not a right or wrong way to grieve. With adolescent boys, they are more likely to keep their feelings buried deep inside. This can be unhealthy; and delays to the grieving process can lead to self-medicating or avoidance.
In the book “The Anatomy of Bereavement” B. Raphael says this: “boys 11+ years of age stuff feelings about 4 months. After trying to hero up they’ll release them violently.”
Is your son struggling with grief? Do you have a comment or concern you’d like to share?