Our Culture Doesn't Know How to Handle
By Jane Galbraith
Does the term "stiff upper lip" sound familiar to you?
In our North American culture, it is how we get through
difficult times. We were brought up to show strength in
times of adversity and not to outwardly show our
despair, sadness, and sorrow.
Many examples show us how to deal with these situations.
Jacqueline Kennedy kept it all together throughout the
funeral of her husband John F. Kennedy. She was held up
as a shining example of courage in the most challenging
situation. Even John F. Kennnedy Jr., only 3 at the
time, will always be remembered for his stoic salute as
his father's casket passed by him. In a way, you can
understand them not showing their feelings openly, as
they were so much in the public eye. They have however,
served as an example that people tend to emulate.
Our culture does not do grief well! This is an
understatement in my opinion. Our present culture does
not allow us the freedom to grieve. Grief is a difficult
topic to discuss. For all our emphasis on communication,
we still don't do well in this area. Mourners don't have
to wail to show their grief. The issue is the atmosphere
in our culture that a mourner faces when they show a
display of grief. We don't feel safe to grieve openly in
our culture. There are times that this becomes less
accepted. The result is many people are walking around
carrying the pain of grief on their shoulders. I guess I
would call them the "walking wounded".
As baby boomers are hit with this wave of grief, we need
permission to express our grief in a healing way. Right
now, our society does not readily grant us this
I hope we will show more empathy and compassion when so
many will go through this experience at the same time.
Doing this will assist ourselves, our friends, spouses,
family and our children to react to grief in a new and
different way. We have the opportunity to change a
There is a widespread ideology that discussing and
openly expressing our feelings would be a sign of
weakness and would be embarrassing, especially for men.
It is too bad that fear and shame often keep us from
sharing our feelings. When emotions are expressed, it
allows the other person to understand what you are
experiencing and offer their sympathy. A deeper
understanding could help each other be more supportive
when we need it. We will all need it eventually.
Coping has been the buzzword for the baby boomers. We
have been conditioned to think that coping is how we
need to live. Certainly, it is good to cope with what
life throws us.
"How to" and "self help" books fill the bookstores. Why
would we need to talk to someone and share our feelings
if a book can solve our problems? Books are great
resources, but only one of many resources available to
More baby boomers will be seeking out professional help.
The professionals available help tremendously to sort
out our feelings. Seeing a professional either is seen
as a "cool" thing to do or a sign of weakness. In
actuality, many of the counselors will tell you that
they don't often have patients asking for help with
their grief. However, it frequently becomes apparent
that a current loss in their life has brought to the
surface an unresolved grief from their past. Losing our
parents may trigger a past grief that has not been dealt
with. This may magnify our loss. Counselors say
unresolved grief can surface in many unexpected ways.
If our grief is not dealt with, the baby boomers will
create some unpleasant life experiences for themselves.
This only shows that we can't escape grief no matter how
hard we try. Moreover, nor should we want to, as it
often changes us into a better, more fulfilled person.