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  • janetgoncalves

Hiding Emotions

At work, I bought a mood ring the other day on a whim, as I was feeling nostalgic having had one when I was a little girl. It came with a card that explained what each of the colours meant. A co-worker also bought one, and we had fun during our shift checking out each other’s ring’s colours. This got me reflecting on my drive home, how wonderful it would be if everyone was so open to show their emotions, not just those we refer to as “wearing their hearts on their sleeves”.

As a death doula I’ve seen people who want to supress their emotions especially after the death of a loved one. Consider this research on why supressing emotions can be bad for your health. “Scientists from Rice University in Houston looked at 99 people who had recently lost their spouse. The team found those who suppressed their emotions had higher markers of inflammation in their blood. Inflammation has been linked to everything from heart disease to an impaired immune system.” study author Dr Christopher Fagundes said in his recent on-line article. (Source: “Staying strong after the death of a loved one is bad for your health, here's why”)

People hide their emotional pain from others for many reasons. As a death doula I’ve seen a wide range of responses. Some people feel that being stoic inspires others. Some people want or feel the need to be strong for others. Others feel that showing emotions is a sign of weakness. Others feel judged or misunderstood if they display emotions. In my professional capacity, I let them know that it is permissible both to show your emotions as well as to keep them hidden, and the choice is up to them. However, I do advise them by not showing emotions eventually, it could lead to disenfranchised or silent grief.

According to psychologist and author of the article The Silent grief, when no one understands your pain, silent grief happens when we feel the need to hide our emotions because the people around us either implicitly or explicitly are not receptive to our suffering. As they state in the article, “Many people grown up with messages from their parents and authority figures that disallow the expression of emotions and believe that showing their suffering and vulnerability is a negative thing. In a situation of loss, they resort to repressive role models of emotions, hiding what they really feel. They force themselves to convey an image of strength and security when they are falling apart waving inside. If we ask them how they are, they will respond “good” avoiding the matter, so that they close themselves to any outside help and live a silent grief.”

Vulnerability is the process when someone opens both mentally and emotionally to another person. Being vulnerable and opening to someone is difficult, but necessary. One good way to start is to simply tell the story of your loss to someone who is willing to listen. Another way is to simply share the emotions that you are experiencing as you move through the grieving process. Some of the deep and intense emotions that you will experience during grief include sadness, longing, despair, anger, guilt, fear, and depression. Simply letting the tears flow can also be cathartic. Being open and honest with others will guide you along the healing process.

The article “What does it mean to be strong in grief phrases it this way, “If we’re able to resist distressing thoughts and feelings, it’s because we’re avoiding them. We’re running away from them, day in and day out – and running away seems far less courageous.”

Strength in grief is opening that box of memories, even though you know it will make you cry. It’s saying their name out loud in public for the first time in casual conversation. Strength in grief is acknowledging, feeling, and expressing emotion.

In conclusion, take a moment to answer the question “What does real strength look like to you?”. To me, it includes the natural demonstration of emotions (with or without a mood ring on my finger) and saying and doing what is emotionally accurate.

Sources “What Does it Mean to Be Strong in Grief?” “Staying strong after the death of a loved one is bad for your health, here's why” (Content created and supplied by Jenom)

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