Processing Emotions


Today parts of my family gathered for about 45 minutes to remember my father since Friday marked the passing of the 7th year since he died.

A few people recited poems and we shared some pictures. I told a story or two, but other than that things went as normal.

As with when he died most people showed no visible emotional connection to him. I know it’s there and that everyone in that room, well everyone who knew him, loved him. But I didn’t feel it, or well, I didn’t see it either.

I guess web I’m processing emotions I’m used to telling people how I feel. As well as doing things like telling poems and looking at pictures to help remember someone. In our family, broadly speaking, we tend not to tell each other how we feel. People don’t say they miss him or that they wish he was here…etc. No one says they are having a hard time or has mental break downs. It’s weird as hell.

My sister and I often talk about it. We try to wrap our heads around how our family members deal with such complex emotions. We have also noticed that this phenomena or not talking about feelings seems rather confined to our parents and grandparents generation. Neither of us subscribe to it and both feel the need for expression of our feelings whether verbal or other (re: this blog).

I think there are a few main reasons why I find this lack of emotional expression very difficult:

– I have no idea what my family members are feeling. I don’t know how upset they are or if they even care about things that happen. Since I know they have emotions, obviously, it frustrates me not to know what they are!!!

– When I was younger I took most of my emotional cues from my family and soon began to realize how differently my parents dealt with trauma than I did. It confused me and made it very hard for me to know what of my feelings were valid or if what I was feeling was normal (of course all feelings are valid, but not knowing if what I was feeling was normal made it exceptionally difficult to acknowledge my feelings as valid)

– It makes me feel very isolated emotionally. Since others don’t talk about their emotions when I am upset I don’t feel comfortable talking about mine since there is no precedent of people openly processing their emotions.

There are certainly exceptions to these points, but they are exactly that, exceptions.

I don’t fault my grandparents and parents generation for their emotional standoffishness because chances are they wish (as probably everyone on the world does) that they were better at processing their own emotions as well. And even more likely is that their expressiveness is also partially a product of the time and place they grew up in. My time and place rewards self expression and encourages me to know, process and express my emotions. Theirs likely did not.

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