Why don’t big boys cry?

It was the saddest of days yesterday,
as a whole village shared the loss of a small boy.
So many gathered to support the family,
and give this little man the Goodbye he deserved.

The ceremony was touching and beautiful,
but also heart wrenchingly sad.
The sting in my throat as I tried to hold back tears hurt,
only to eventually do as most did,
let my tears fall freely.

At times I looked around,
and saw the grief and sadness on so many faces.
Yet it was the faces of the men I wondered at.
How was it that so many men did not cry?photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/familymwr/5182810727/">familymwr</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>
Even when the grief of this boys Dad and uncle spilled over,
as his uncle read the saddest of tributes,
from a father to his little boy,
many of the men remained tear free.

Do men experience grief differently?
Just like pain thresholds differing,
is the same true of grief?
Have men a higher grief threshold?

I was reminded of something my daughter told me.
A week ago her class were told,
that this small boy would not get better.
They are ten and eleven years old,
and his sister was one of their classmates.
She was on her way to London to say a last “Goodbye”.

They were upset and the girls in the class began to cry.
But not one boy did.
A while later my daughter went into the bathroom,
and could hear sobs from the boys cubicle.
She knew who was in there.
When he came out he returned to class,
with not a tear in sight.
I heard from another mother,
that her son came home and cried his heart out.

So my question is,
“Why could these boys as young as ten not cry in public?”.
Is it that they feel “big boys don’t cry”.

I know the parents of the two boys involved,
and they certainly are not the types who would instil such a thought,
into their boys.

There is a serious problem with suicide in this country,
most particularly in young men.
Is this lack of openness and comfort expressing emotion,photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/28481088@N00/301737857/">tanakawho</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">cc</a>
part of the difficulty?
Are boys learning very young to keep their emotions to themselves?

As they carried small Ben out of the church,
his sisters school friends sang his favourite Irish school song.
It was a joyful upbeat song with lots of clapping,
(definitely not a typical funeral song).
They sung it with everything they had,
their own special tribute to this little boy.

Only a heart of steel could not be broken,
listening to them and seeing the grief of his parents.
I, along with the majority, was unable to hold back,
and sobs of grief echoed around the church.

Yet still many men remained “strong”.

However is the ability to cry a strength or a weakness?
I’m inclined to believe the former.
I really think unless we can encourage,
all “big boys” to cry,
we will continue to read about tragic deaths,
which unlike small Bens could have been prevented.

photo credit: familymwr via photopin cc
photo credit: tanakawho via photopin cc

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28 thoughts on “Why don’t big boys cry?

  1. What a terrible coincidence, tric! Yesterday was a saddest day in my town (Danvers, Massachusetts) as well. There was a senseless murder of a wonderful, well-liked and well-respected 24-year-old Math teacher. It shook and shocked all the residents of Massachusetts. I am still deeply saddened. Sharing this link to my post last night about that tragic death of a wonderful teacher.

    http://dshenai.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/tragic-death-of-a-wonderful-inspirational-teacher/

    Take Care,
    -Deo

    1. How sad Deo. Death at any age is so hard but when someone was young and as in this case, her life was taken, it must be so hard for parents.
      This village is still sad but picking up, whilst his parents are left in a place I hope never to visit.

  2. A post that should be shared with the National Newspapers Tric if that is at all possible – touching and well written as per usual.
    Regards to Deo also and the people of Danvers Mass; on the murder of the well liked and well respected 24 year old math teacher.
    Chris.

    1. Thank you C.J your kind thoughts are much appreciated. I’m a little shy yet at sharing anything I have ever written but maybe someday! Thanks for your words of encouragement.

  3. What a terrible thing to go through, and see, or hear, a child’s death. It’s hard to imagine how the parents can go on with their lives. Terribly sad. Your thoughts Tric as always, very interesting to read. I know there are men who also, like women, can’t hold back tears in a very sad moment. But I understand what you mean, and I guess men are supposed to be the ‘tough’ ones in this matter… determined by unwritten rules of society, I guess.

    1. Thanks Elina. It was so very sad. I have known my husband over twenty years and last year was the first time I saw him cry. Funnily enough my youngest said to him “you let me down by not crying”. I don’t think girls view it as a weakness only boys.
      There were of course a few men who did cry but they were so in the minority. I have no idea how the others didn’t. I agree though I think these are as a result of “unwritten” rules.

  4. My belief is that boys are discouraged from crying as a larger programme of socialisation into masculinity.

    I think sports is a great example, almost all boys are involved in sports at one point or another, but if you got a belt of a hurley or someone gave you a kick, you would be sneered at if you cried, someone would shout ‘run it off, you wuss’ and so boys are conditioned from a very early age to take pain and show as little emotion as possible.

    This kind of programming is constant in a boys environment from books to films to rap and rock music. And I would agree with you on the high rate of suicide link to males not being able to express their emotions.

    1. It is interesting how when we become parents we do abide by gender roles or at least feel pressure to. If you have a boy who cries very easily I think a lot of parents would react by using cliches to try to stop him, even if they didn’t really believe what they were saying.
      I think though that as you say, it is the boys and men themselves who really pressurise each other to conform. I thought it was so sad to hear of small boys not able to cry at such sad news, especially as it was clear they were sad.

  5. I am one of these guilty men, tric

    I am of the age when I am attending far too many funerals of friends and family these days

    At each one I adopt the same procedure – I mentally switch off, distancing myself from the proceedings, closing my mind to what is going on around me so I can remain in control of my emotions

    Why do I do so?

    I was brought up to believe that men don’t cry (at least not in public)

    We are supposed to be the strong sex – we do our crying alone, in private

    The irony is that you would be hard put to find a more emotional race than the Scots and the Irish – as witnessed by our songs and poetry – but in ‘real life’, in public, we do our utmost to hide that fact

    1. What an interesting thought, that we are so emotional in song and poetry and yet most men so guarded in reality. I think crying is a huge release, and I know my young daughter really felt it’s benefit, as she commented after that she felt much better as she was “all cried out”. I do worry as suicide in young men is rising all the time. Wouldn’t it be awful to lose your child because he didn’t or couldn’t communicate how he felt, or cope with how he was feeling.

  6. First of all Tric, I’m sorry for the loss of you and your community.

    As far as the crying goes, it took an emotional breakdown of sorts on my part to cry. I guess I had a wall of some sort that kept those kinds of emotions in check. Now crying comes much easier to me.

    1. I’m sure some do, but yesterday under the saddest of circumstances very few men cried. And my own husband has lost his father, and seen four children born without shedding a tear. Last year was the first time ever I saw him cry after over twenty years.
      Even if they do cry I am concerned that too many have to cry alone”

      1. I saw my father cry once when his father died and almost when I almost lost my life to a piece of shrapnel from a lawn mower. My husband has cried a few times: at the deaths of his only brother and his mother then when our daughter was brutally attacked while in school and a few other times. Those are the times when my husband and father impressed me the most. Tric, I know I am not a man but I had a saying in my support group that nobody cried alone around me– that went double when a father wept.

  7. i agree about sharing this tric..i also agree that the ability to cry, as well as to express all emotions is something that all human beings need to learn and to be allowed to do. my heart is heavy for ben today, as well as for the boys and men who could not cry.

  8. Thank you Beth. I am delighted you and others think it worthy of sharing but to be honest I wouldn’t know my arse from my elbow about how to go about that!!! However I do think it is a major problem here in Ireland, I’m not sure if it is the same elsewhere.
    It was such a sad day again today to think of the magnitude of this families loss. So very sad. As it has been for so many men and young boys this year also.

  9. boys learn from an early age, tric, that they shouldn’t cry in public – if they do, they are called a ‘cry baby’

    and how often do you ever see male action heroes in movies cry ?

    1. It was a dreadful day, and week of sadness. The future for them is one I cannot imagine.
      I suppose I just contrasted mine and others display of grief and it was in sharp contrast to the men. Although I do have one girlfriend who rarely cries.

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