Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Silence Kills .....

                                                 picture from here

Once again, I am stunned that my choice of topic for today's post was also the topic in Amanda's post yesterday.
I promise you, by all that is holy, we NEVER contact the other writers and talk about our topics.  Never have.  Never will.
It is what it is.

I wish I had a nickel for every widow who's asked me, "How do you get your teenage sons to talk?"
I'd have a whole lotta nickels.

My answer .... every single time:  "You don't."
Not exactly what those women wanted to hear, but again .... it is what it is.

From the first minute I came home from the hospital and climbed into bed with first one son, and then the other, and gave them the news they never thought they'd hear ..... I've told them to talk.
I've asked them to talk.
I've begged them to talk.
I may have even threatened them to talk (though I doubt that).
I've cried while begging.
I've gotten angry while asking.
I've turned blue in the face while talking.

And none of it did any good.
At least, not on the surface.  I have no idea what's going on deep down inside of them.
But I never gave up.

And fortunately, or not, one of my sons agreed to go to counseling with me last week.
For the first time ever.  By the first child ever.
And it went well.
In my opinion.

I said "unfortunately" because for this child to agree to see someone, he had to have a complete and violent meltdown.
And he did.
And he saw that the anger that he showed was not caused by what he thought he was angry about, but because of one thing:
He has a dead father.

I know that all three of my sons have stuffed and stuffed and stuffed their grief down until there's not much room for anything else.
And when there's not much room ..... something's going to give.
And it won't be pretty when it happens.

So what's my point here if I can't give you the secret of making boys talk?
I guess it's just this:  Never, ever, ever, ever give up.
Because silence kills.
It might not always kill a person, but there are other things inside of a person that can be killed.
Never give up.

And keep your eyes and ears open.
And be prepared.
Because one day ..... maybe tomorrow, maybe in 5 years ..... one day something will give.
And you'll be needed to help clean up the mess .... and to remember that when that moment happens, it's not because he's mad at what he's think he is.
It's because he has a dead father (or mother).
And that sucks.
No matter how much time has gone by.

P.S.  A point was made in a comment that I forgot to include here, but meant to.  I apologize.  This "silence" is not limited to boys.  I think that, over all, boys are less likely to discuss their feelings, but our daughters need to be encouraged just as much sometimes.  Being silent is not limited to gender.  Ask them, girls or boys, and keep asking.


  1. Janine, thank you so much for encouraging me to continue to badger my 25 year old son. Since his father died 2 years ago, he has been silent. It is a constant worry for me. Your words ring true...."stuff and stuff" as I know that is what he is doing. After reading your post, I won't give up as I accept the severity of the potential consequences.

    Thank you Janine!

  2. Sorry to tell you this but...... girls don't talk any easier than boys!!!! In fact I have found my son opens up better than my daughters. For all parents out there please don't think that girls find it easier to express their grief. This is a terrible misconception. It is more about personality styles than gender. I think we need to remember that our children ( no matter what gender) feel the need to protect us from their pain as we tend to protect them from ours. As with all communication it is about quantity of time spent together ... one day the moment will come. Spend time with your children and be open for when the time is right.

  3. Thanks Janine.

    My 27 yr old son is a constant worry. It will be 2 years in June that his dad died. He too refuses to get help. (I have offered repeatedly to pay for it and stressed how important and helpful it will be to him.)
    He refuses. Outright. Very much like his (dead) father and I'm pretty sure he sees it as a sign of weakness.

    When he blows up is the only time he talks about his feelings.

    He finally moved back out about 6 months ago, which is a good thing (for both of us), so I don't see him nearly as much. But I will heed your advice and try to gently offer up the suggestion of counseling again whenever the opportunity arises.

    I think for the longest time, we/they don't want to feel better. We think feeling better means we don't miss our husbands/fathers as much. But obviously that's not true.

  4. My mom died when I was five and I always feared causing my dad pain by showing that I was in pain. Because he never asked me how I was feeling or got me counseling, I just never talked about it. It got to the point where if I finally DID try to talk about it (some kind adults would try to get me to talk), my throat would close up and I COULDN'T speak. It's still hard to talk about it, thirty years later.
    So, yes. NEVER stop trying to get them to talk. AMEN.

  5. I tried to get my children to talk to me and to get counseling. they refused to talk to anybody the counsolers said give them time and when they are ready they will ask for the help.

  6. I was able to get my 21 yr old son to counciling only by explaining that I was having issues coping and would go see someone myself if he would go, (on campus his senior yr of college). A friend had told me that her husband died when her boys were young and she thought that she was doing the right thing for them all by appearing to be super mom when they were home and crying for hours in the dark when they were in school. When the boys were adults one had a mental break and one lost half his stomach to ulcers. The grief disfunction caught up with them all in later years. Lots of anger issues and communication trouble as they all thought the others were "fine" so they never talked about missing Dad.
    My friend told me that if she had to do it all over she would drag the kids, kicking and screaming if necessary to someone they could talk to.
    I told my son that I've never done this before and neither have any of my other friends so we were going to have to get some professional help. It worked for me.

  7. My daughter is the one who won't talk. She is away at college and got caught drinking under age which caused her to have a meltdown. The good news is her school's counseling center reached out to her and it has helped. Although she still worries most about worrying me.

  8. My adult kids (25 & 27) worry about me, and I worry about them. I don't think they want to worry me more, although I would worry less, knowing they were talking about their feelings, and not acting them out. We are able to talk amongst ourselves, and I have suggested groups and individual counseling, but neither of them have taken me up on it. I hope in time they will. It's not something you can force on one another, they have to want to talk. I know how they feel, I cocooned myself for months following his death, thought I could "do it alone". But I finally had a moment when I realized I couldn't do it alone. And now I have local widowed folks who get it, and they have helped me so much. Hoping that all our children will learn when to take that step towards healing and find help.