A Man's Tears and His Family

Excerpted from Swallowed by a Snake

Tom Golden LCSW

When men do cry at home, they are sometimes putting themselves in jeopardy. This problem often comes up when I work with families who have experienced a major loss. Sometimes the family members complain that the man is not openly mourning. The man has been seeing to it that the other family members could grieve (Malidoma's protective mode of grief? [see anger section]), but is not openly grieving himself. With a great deal of pressure from the family, the father finally openly mourns. Yet the power of the father's tears and mourning usually shocks the family. The children are often upset to see their father cry. They describe the episodes in disbelief and shock. They are openly frank about their fears of seeing their father cry and describe how scary it is to see the person they view as the foundation of their life in a state of grief. The men in this situation are leaving the protector/provider role, and the result is that the family experiences anxiety at the loss of that function. They no longer have the protector. This masculine function often goes unnoticed until it disappears. The wife, too, is often a bit upset. Usually she is ambivalent; on one hand she is relieved to see her husband cry, but on the other hand she is uncomfortable with it, feeling somehow insecure and even afraid. The men can feel their family's ambivalence towards their behavior and will seek out a safe place to emote. In addition, the men often quickly realize the discomfort of others with their tears, and this solidifies their solitary grief. This does not seem so unusual to me considering the circumstances, but the media and many mental health professionals are continually condemning men for their private grief. Perhaps a man's stewarding and protecting his family can be seen as one way for him to honor his own grief.

A part of the family's shock at seeing the father cry may be related to the newness of the experience. Perhaps if the men had gradually been more emotional prior to the crisis of grief, the spouse and children would not have been so upset. Even with this being so, the men were not in the same state of need prior to the crisis. In a healthy family unit there needs to be a sharing of the protector/provider role as it relates to containing a space for emotional expression. If you are a man and you are able to cry, consider yourself blessed. If you can cry, and have someone near you who can comfortably honor and contain that, consider yourself twice blessed.

Excerpted from Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing pages 62-63.
Tom Golden LCSW

Tom Golden is a professional speaker, author, and psychotherapist whose area of specialization is healing from loss and trauma. You can find out more about Ton's private practice here. Tom gives workshops across the country and in Canada on many aspects of this topic. His workshops are known to be both entertaining and informative. Contact Tom at the addresses below (email or snail mail) for inquiries about speaking or training for your group. You can also order his book Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing on this site or through Amazon.com


Tom Golden LCSW
 P.O. Box 83658
Gaithersburg, Maryland 20883
301 670-1027