Not everyone has the need to talk about their feelings
ehuda balked at his wife’s advice to see a therapist. “What good will that do?” he asked her. “Heshy stole the money, we’re broke, end of story. Do you think a therapist is going to change that?”
Shevy, a therapist herself, answered: “You need to process what happened. Heshy was your best friend. You have a slew of feelings sitting inside. People can get sick from unprocessed feelings, and I don’t want that to happen to you!”
Yehuda didn’t feel a desire or a need to explore his feelings with a professional after being betrayed by his childhood best friend and current business partner. He knew that he was hurt. He wasn’t waiting for someone to validate that feeling or give him permission to feel it. He knew it would take time to pass. He also knew how he would handle the situation. He planned to walk away from his lifelong pal and move on. He wasn’t lost or confused or paralyzed.
But Yehuda’s wife was concerned. What if Yehuda was burying his feelings? What might deep resentment, helplessness, and rage do to Yehuda’s inner organs? Shevy wasn’t comfortable with her husband’s decision to push through the crisis on his own.
But perhaps it was Shevy who needed a therapist to work through her fears. Perhaps she was the one who needed to talk?
Like personality itself, emotional style varies from person to person. Some people need to talk about their feelings. Some people don’t know they have feelings. Some people need to be with their feelings privately — to meet them, experience them, and accept them when no one else is around. When it comes to human beings, there is certainly no one-size-fits-all.
Says one man, “When my wife died, I fell apart. I needed to talk all day to anyone who would listen. But my two girls wouldn’t talk to anyone. I tried to arrange therapy for them, but neither wanted to go, and I wasn’t sure if it was right to push them. They were playing with their friends and acting pretty much like everything was normal. I was really worried they were suppressing everything and would suffer the rest of their lives from stuffing it that far inside of their psyches.”
Children aren’t like adults. Although some want to share their grief, fear, and sense of abandonment, many just want to get on with their lives and be “normal” like the rest of their classmates.
Interestingly, you can’t make anyone of any age open up to a therapist or to anyone else for that matter. People share when they want to, when they feel safe to, and when they’re able to. Children who lose a parent may not be able to process their trauma until years later; trying to force them to talk about their loss beforehand may actually delay their process of healing. On the other hand, talking to them and/or around them can be therapeutic. “I was looking at these pictures of Mom, and they made me feel so sad” is a sentence that can provide emotional education as well as permission to feel. Saying it conveys:
We can speak to others about loss.
It’s perfectly normal to feel sad after a loss.
No feeling is too awful to experience, acknowledge, or share.
A child hearing the sentence may find it easier to begin looking inside, but much depends on the child’s innate personality.
“When I gave birth to my severely handicapped child, everyone wanted to help me. People tried to reach out to me, but I couldn’t talk about it. I couldn’t open my mouth. I was in shock. I needed time. ‘How is it going? Are you managing?’ It seems like an innocent question, but I couldn’t entertain it — it required thinking about it, talking about it, sharing my inner experience, which I hadn’t even processed for myself. I wish people had understood that some of us don’t want to talk at a time of crisis. Those who sent me short notes — “Thinking of you” — were absolute angels. They were telling me they were available, but they weren’t imposing on me. I really needed that space, but also the affirmation that people cared. It gave me the room I needed to grieve, the support I needed to get through the pain, and the time I needed to heal.”
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 858)
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