Why Don’t I Cry?

My younger brother is dying.  It’s a tragedy.  The idea that in mere months he will be gone forever in months at the age of 65 doesn’t seem real.  It is certainly not ‘fair’.  He’s fit, had no major illnesses. Suddenly he’s a victim of anaplastic thyroid cancer, with no hope it seems of any medical remedy.  It’s sad, it’s unfair, it’s sudden, he’s a good person, it’s shocking.  Why don’t I cry?Can I cry?  I admit it’s rare for me, especially in public.  But I cry at my own inabilities to get simple things done, at personal frustrations.  I tear up when long-time losing sports teams win (like the Richmond Tigers, the Western Bulldogs, Leicester), when organisations and people I’m associated with (basketball teams I’ve coached, my children and grandchildren) are successful,  when women succeed against the odds, when major events occur.

Am I embarrassed?  The ‘boys and men don’t cry’ drilled into me when I was a child is deeply ingrained, but I’ve just shown how easily I tear up or cry at the oddest events that have little to do with me, that have little personal impact on me.

Am I just a simple person without a large range of emotions?  People have sometimes said (and no doubt often thought) that I’m too serious, that I can’t horse around, make a fool of myself.  I’ve never been an actor’s bootlace – I can’t remember the lines, I don’t want to pretend I’m someone else.  It takes me ages before I will dance at a dance, even when I actually want to (because I don’t want to make a fool of myself).

Is it because I’m an extreme rationalist…and so is he?  We are both strong supporters of voluntary euthanasia.  This is his ‘life’.  There’s nothing we can do about it but plan to use his remaining time to best effect.

Am I heartless?  Some people would probably say ‘Yes’, as my extreme rationality dominates my external responses to tragedies of all types.  But those who know me well know I’m extremely emotional, irrational, on the inside.  I tear up in speeches I give for organisations and people I care about.  So why not now?

I’ve never felt more like I should cry, needed to cry, needed to be seen to be crying…but I don’t, can’t, won’t (at least on the outside…I’m definitely crying on the inside, but no one can see that).  Instead, I carry this heavy burden of an unwanted coming monumental tragic event in my life, de-motivating my own future, my normal sense of fun, my normal enjoyment of life.

It doesn’t feel like Christmas to me this year.  If only I could cry, publically, perhaps I’d feel better…


3 thoughts on “Why Don’t I Cry?

  1. It’s good to reflect on this and your reactions Graham. It’s certainly no lack of empathy or love. Sometimes I think grief and processing it can be so overwhelming that it takes all our energy and maybe there not enough room left for crying? Other times it hits when you don’t expect it or the reaction doesn’t seem to be in ‘proportion ‘ for what’s just happened. I think you just have to go with whatever it is at the moment,,,,,, Thinking of you and sending love.


  2. Graham, I’m not sure that this is the right place or medium for a response from me as the youngest brother who is experiencing many of the same emotions about my older brother’s prognosis. We should talk about this together as things develop in coming months. But, for the record, publicly, you are not alone in your feelings.

    Having lost a wife to cancer 14 years ago perhaps I have one more experience than you to reflect on. But each such experience is different and comparisons do little to explain emotional reactions. Emotions can be overpowering and uncontrollably exhibited at one extreme or, at the other end of the scale, buried and internalised so that no one else is aware of how you are feeling, affected by the situation, or coping with it.

    Like you, I can be quite emotionally affected just by seeing films of ‘happy families’ or stories of significant achievements in people’s lives. I tear up too! I don’t think that’s particularly unusual (though many men would not admit to it) and I’m sure it’s good to recognise and accept that ability to show emotion, particularly as a complementary trait to the dominant rational/practical side of our being.

    As for our current circumstance, we are lucky to be engaged with Paul’s situation and his dealing with it. To be excluded, as I felt with Caroline’s situation, is much harder to deal with. Do we need to be seen to cry? No! There is no right or wrong, no template of action and reaction that we need to comply with. I have shed a few tears (and am getting that lump in my throat now as I write this) and have shared my feelings with Jan, who has provided valuable support at times. All I can suggest is that you (and together, we) share our feelings when we feel the emotional need, rather than dismissing them or burying them. Perhaps for you the challenge, for once, is to engage in the PROCESS rather than focus on the end result.

    I love you, and Paul. We are FAMILY.


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