In preparation for this blog, I was researching “how guys show their feelings” as it was a pretty popular search title on Google. I was instantly inundated with various articles about how men show their feelings “outwardly through physical actions”, such as muscle tension and gritting their teeth, but fewer articles shared the importance of learning how to express those same feelings through things like talking or opening up about how you feel.
Loss Always Hurts
As with most things in life, these readings were purely academic until they were put into play, and unfortunately, I was thrust into living all sorts of feelings last week when I had to put down my dog I’ve had for 8 years. To say I got emotional is a pure understatement. In the span of 3 hours I went from hoping my dog wasn’t too sick, to having to make the most difficult decision ever, to saying goodbye to my best friend with my wife and 15 month old at my side.
Keeping it Together.
The staff of the clinic was fantastic and was very supportive and understanding with us throughout the process. At one point an employee said “it’s okay to cry and feel sad” and it was an instant slap in the face that made me realize I was trying to keep my armor up for my family. My wife was crying from the start of the tough talks and even my young daughter picked up that something was amiss. But I was trying to hold it together… But why?
Grieve like a man.
I like to think (read: blame) that because at some point, I bought into the idea that “crying is not okay”, but at the same time, to say that it is my job to (on occasion) remind people that “there are no bad feelings, just ones you are experiencing” is again an understatement. But even for me, in the moment, it can take something as a simple suggestion and the ugly crying commenced. I will spare the graphical depiction of me saying my final goodbyes, but know that I felt all the feelings that day. Angry. Sad. Frustrated. Denial. Despair. Self-loathing. Avoidant. Cold. Grateful. Peaceful. Angry. Sad… and so on. But as a bit of time passed and I was able to talk with others about what I had just experienced and the way I felt, I started to feel a bit better. I still absolutely miss my friend. Her kennel is still as she left it that fateful morning, but I can look at it and remember the happy times. It no longer requires me to change shirts, because of course (as a guy) I still tend to use my shirt as a tissue when needed.
Masculinity and Emotional Expression
I share this not in the hopes of reminding you of that long lost friend, be it a pet or human, but to encourage you that if there is that one thing still going on in life that makes you have “an outward physical reaction” or even just a case of ugly crying, don’t forget the thing most articles forget to include.
Guys (can) show their feelings through talking, processing, and healing through practicing to be vulnerable.
At Mind Works Counseling Services in Lubbock, TX, we specialize in helping men navigate all sorts of difficult situations. If you’ve thought about getting support on your journey towards healing, please reach out and give us a call today. We all look forward to helping you and doing our part to change the narrative around “how guys show their feelings."
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