Grief: When Words are not Enough


I am a strong woman and I let my tears fall as often as they like. However, when I pull up in front of his house, I repair my eye make-up and then smile twice to drive sadness away. Tears are not welcome here, I remind myself as I get out of the car.

I let myself in and grief meets me in the hallway. The post lies in a scattered pile on the doormat. Blue envelopes, white envelopes, shiny envelopes, and magazines and periodicals, he does not read. I sort them in three groups: the urgent I place on the console table, the trivial I put in the drawer underneath, where he keeps his car keys, and the rest, the magazines, periodicals, and shiny envelopes, I dump in the dustbin, in the kitchen.

Here, grief is loud coaxing me to chide. I clear dirty plates, a half-empty sardine tin, and stale bread in the semi-darkness.

In the living room, the curtains say no to the sun. The light from ESPN’s classic football on TV illuminates his form. Grief is quiet inviting me to converse. Grief is still but I am not one to fill the silence as if I am a child colouring with impatient hands that cannot stay within the lines. It has been two days since he heard the news.

When pain overwhelmed my reasoning, my sister sat beside me, squeezed my shoulders, and remained quiet. When disappointment visited me on a Monday morning, my cousin sat beside me, a box of tissues separating us. She hunched her shoulders in sync with mine, let me cry, and kept quiet. When I exhaled the last bit of hope in my heart, a friend sat beside me, numb we stared at CNN, and then he kept silent vigil as I channel surfed.

So, I sit on the settee, careful to maintain distance. I sit until my nose attunes to the smell of day-old perspiration and until I can breathe in the stuffy air circulating in the room. Grief is hypnotic calling me to sleep. I sit until I awake. His head lies heavy on my lap. My skirt is damp and the soft sounds are not from the TV. They are from a man beaten by life, his hopes shred by the finality of death.

“My father, my father, oh my father.”

Grief feels like roulette. Sometimes touch is enough. Sometimes presence is enough. I know he knows that if we pull open the curtains, sunlight will burst through and in the night, the moon will give us light. But right now, words are unnecessary. This is the first time I have observed a man cry.

I have only ever seen two men cry. The first time must have lasted less than five minutes. Ten years passed before I saw another man cry. Perhaps it is because this occurrence is rare that each time I glimpsed a man’s vulnerability, I loved him more.

If we show our weakness, we may lose the ground we have secured and the advantages it conferred, but if we don’t show that we are weak sometimes, we may lose much more. We may lose the opportunity for others to love us for our humanity.

I wonder, at what age does a boy “man up” and decide to stop crying?

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

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25 thoughts on “Grief: When Words are not Enough

  1. I was called insecure, and I accepted the label, for sharing my weakness, fear, self-doubt and worry with someone that meant the world to me. I don’t think men are expected to cry. Not even with the people that make them strong. Or else, why did I lose her?


    1. Sometimes I think that if men complain about male stereotypes such as this one, they would be termed wimpy! Perception of what strength is differs from person to person as does the ‘what’ that influences perception.

      I like to lean on strong broad shoulders, but I also like to wipe ‘salty’ tears. Let her go, look for a woman like me 🙂


      1. LOL @looking for a woman like you. I am now. 😀

        Men should not whine. It’s not in our dna. But it’s ok for us to cry sometimes. Or else we have no need for our women.


  2. This is really deep. My husband was raised to believe that crying is a sign of weakness and that crying is pointless because it doesn’t bring relief or solution. Slowly, he has learned to show his vulnerability. When his dad passed away a few months ago, it got to him like nothing ever has. He showed his raw emotions and I have to admit I was completely clueless. I am happy he let himself feel the loss. I think it’s good for men to show their emotions. I also think it’s good to understand all the different ways they express their emotions


    1. I’m sorry to hear about his loss. I hope that he is finding strength to cope. I’ve also been clueless in the face of vulnerability- you want to make things better and you can’t! That utter helplessness in the face of pain…

      I know a few strong & capable men, who are shouldering the responsibilities of the world, and solving problems; they don’t have time to be weak, lol! But, it is not that they don’t feel pain, it is that they don’t show pain, in the conventional way. I agree that we should try to understand different forms of emotional expression. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Crying is one of us, a song says i’ve never seen a man cry till i see a man die(for the gangstars)
    for us: wen the closeness to God bcoms so strong we can nt talk but to cry

    Crying is one of us


  4. “If we show our weakness, we may lose the ground we have secured and the advantages it conferred, but if we don’t show that we are weak sometimes, we may lose much more.” That line right there, summed everything up. Beautiful Piece.


  5. “…but if we don’t show that we are weak sometimes, we may lose much more. We may lose the opportunity for others to love us for our humanity.” This is so true.

    I once watched my father cry to a simple rendition of the song “It’s not an easy road” on his birthday. If I can be half the man that he is, I’ll be glad, yet, that day I saw tears well up in his eyes, tears that were precipitated by memories he has worked hard to shield me from.

    Maybe it is not “…at what age does a boy “man up” and decide to stop crying?”, as much as it is the question of “When does the boy realize that to man up is to allow his tears reveal not just his physical pain, but also his emotional turmoil? When does he realize that his masculinity is not resident just in his ability to appear macho?”

    There are life moments when the only appropriate response is tears (remember The Christ), to loose the ability to cry at those moments is to loose a huge chunk of our humanity *sigh*…

    I pray that he finds Joy in the midst of this grief…


    1. “There are life moments when the only appropriate response is tears,” how true, and some of these moments are universal, traversing culture, race, sex, etc.

      Some of our fathers were schooled in the art of not crying and the artistry of being strong for others. One reason why their tears are precious. What a tender moment that must have been for you.

      Ifemmanuel, I agree that we need to ask more questions, like the ones you posed. All this reminds me of our exchange on your blog on the subject of vulnerability. I am drawn to strength, but strength without vulnerability is like a rock without a cleft… no hiding place…

      @prayer, amen.


  6. this was sad and beautiful at the same time. Is there anything like that? am i permitted to use both?
    Yea, it’s so hard to see men cry but they cry inside and that hurts the most, have you ever tried crying inside? It hurts and you feel like you wanna explode and let it all out.
    They have a stronger threshold for stuffs like that tho…


    1. Yes, I think you can say sad and beautiful. I like how you put it- crying inside. It must be tough to be expected to be strong, to assume a veneer of strength you don’t feel. Gosh, crying is so much easier 🙂


  7. You have created a beautiful composition full of quiet emotion and true imagery that places the reader in the scene. I love a piece of writing that is beyond my capacity to produce!


  8. When overwhelmed by grief it’s hard to keep the tears from falling. I don’t think weeping makes a person less human (after all, my Saviour wept). What matters is how the affected individual/bereaved responds in the days to come. Like my late granny would say, “We’ll all go down that road. A good legacy is worth creating before that time.”

    May this affected fellow find comfort.


    1. True Uzoma. You know, sometimes tears are associated with weakness, and sometimes they are even inappropriate. I like to cry in private. I don’t like people telling me, “Sorry,” or “Stop.” Your granny was right though, we should be thinking of our legacy.
      @comfort, aye, aye.


  9. I have always remembered the times my Dad cried. I don’t think men should ever stop expressing their feelings and crying is okay with me, I tried to raise my son to be sensitive and he shows his being such to my family, his family and me. I am honored with this post, it is a true expression of your feelings, Timi! Thank you!


      1. I like to feel I made him a ‘better man’ than his father is. I am sure that he quotes me, while attending to his children and his wife says my son mentions, “I will not leave you holding all the responsibilities like my Dad did! Thanks for the kudos! Also, again, thank you for this thought provoking post! Robin


  10. Bunmioke, the male threshold must be pretty high, rarely have I seen a man cry. Thank you for your condolences. His grief has long lost the sting. He can say, “When my father died,” as factually as he would say, “My name is ….”

    @ lachrymal taps, “senator” I have missed your presence here. Though I understand the meaning of the word in context, I will still visit the dictionary 🙂


  11. Threshold. Once a man’s (or anybody else’s) is reached, he sure cries. No masculine bravado dare hold things together then. “Manning up” can darn be an uphill task. Really. An advancement in years is no absolute guarantee of a higher threshold or of a superior ability to turn off the lachrymal taps.

    And for all it’s worth and to whom it may possibly concern, sorry about the loss. I passionately pray the grief be brief.


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