Teaching Expression Instead Of Repression

Happy New Year 2016!!

This Holiday season was a bit rough for my husband and me as it was the first Holiday season without his mom. But we experienced many joyful moments along wih the grief.

As the five month anniversary of his mom going to Heaven approaches this week, I’ve been, yet again, reflecting on how society treats negative emotion and grief. I’ve been surprised that even well-meaning friends seem to want us to hurry up and “move on.”

It’s during our darkest hour that we find many scattering when we need them the most.

Thank You, Jesus, that You never scatter when we need You. You quietly sit with us as we cry, scream, and even cuss. I’ve been doing that a lot lately as I continue to process my emotions of loss.

“Get over it.”  “Life goes on.”  “Stop focusing on your grief.”

That’s what I hear from others around me. If only it was that easy.

I have been looking for and finding joy amidst the pain. I have redirected my thoughts. And with the help of my best friend, I made a memory photo book for my husband and sister–in-law for Christmas. I knew this would be a hard Christmas without their mom. So I wanted to honor her and bring joy. They loved it. I have done productive things with my grief.

I like using my pain for good whenever possible which is why I wrote my book, Gentle Firmness, and why I’m working on a children’s book and a book for adults about my cerebral palsy. It’s also why I finally started blogging.

I want to help children and their families. I also want to glorify God. 

So, this post is another of many about teaching expression instead of repression because our first instinct with both children and adults seems to be “Oh, you’re ok.”

Well, what if the child or adult isn’t “ok?”  Shouldn’t we be like Jesus and sit quietly with them as they express their negative feelings?  Why do we pressure people from birth to repress their negative emotions?

Yes, at times, even I have been guilty of this.

If you have been following me or have read my book, you know I feel strongly about validating children’s emotions from birth. I explain in my book as well as in many posts on how to help children appropriately express and cope with their big, negative feelings.

Teaching and encouraging expression is vital to emotionally healthy people. I know many adults who were taught to repress their negative emotions. Some were even punished for having negative feelings. These adults now struggle to deal with stress and upset in a healthy manner. They also sometimes pressure people to “hurry up and get over it” because they either feel so helpless that they can’t do anything to help the person–young or old– and/or they are triggered by the person’s emotional upset and pain.

I am not one to repress my emotional pain. I need to reach out. I usually do so online since my family and close friends live all over the country. I find that if I express my negative emotions appropriately, I usually heal faster.

This grief is taking me longer. After all, it’s only been almost five months. And she had only been gone a few weeks before special days for our family hit…And then the Holidays.  And while I’ve lost many humans to Heaven throughout my life, my mother-in-law was the first close person to me that I’ve lost.  She truly was like a second mom to me.

I have found with my husband, his sister, and myself that when we try to repress our emotional pain, it ends up building and building until we blow up.

I have found that to be the case with children too. The more we ignore their feelings, the worse they behave.

It is truly better to encourage a hurting child or adult to express their negative emotions. Children will require guidance and discipline (teaching, not punishing) to learn appropriate ways of expressing themselves, but it is so much healthier for them.

Also, boys have the same right to cry and be emotional as girls. It is NOT “manly” to repress any negative emotions!

May we do our best to encourage expression rather than repression. Believe me, children and adults will be forever grateful if you validate and quietly sit with them as they do their best to process their big, negative feelings.

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