A few months ago, Ann, one of my good friends passed away. I had known her for decades and she had been very close to me and my family. She lived in another state and I had called her a few months before and was made aware that her health was failing. When she passed, I was sad but accepted it and was not very emotional about it. My son and another friend called to ask me how I was doing with the news. I said, “I think I’m fine.”
In the meantime, my husband and I bought a Ravenna Palm and placed it in a beautiful pot. We put it in the corner of the living room and it looked perfect there. I love my plants and I named the plant Penelope. A few days later, I was having trouble with my allergies. I looked up palm plants and it stated that most palms are female but the male palms give off allergens. It also said that most people who sell plants are not aware of this when ordering palms so you can get either one in a shop.
I called the place we bought the plant and they told me we could bring it back. We returned it and I asked the man if they were going to return it to the shelf. He said, “No, we will have to put it into the dumpster. We cannot restock it because it does not have the restocking sticker on it.” I looked at my husband and tears came to my eyes. I walked out to the car quickly and started sobbing. He looked at me and said, “Valerie, what is going on?” I replied that I didn’t want them to kill Palmy, my new generic name for the male palm. I told him we could keep it on the back patio and in the garage in the winter. He agreed and like the dutiful husband he is, marched back into the store, repurchased the palm and brought it back to the car.
He then looked at me and said, “Valerie, what is really going on?” By that time I had calmed down and said, “I think I’m sad about Ann’s death.” He said, “Well I hope so, that is a pretty strong reaction for a plant we’ve only had for four days!” It was at that point that I realized that I was experiencing grief from my friend’s death, but I was not aware of it and had been unable to process it.
I was brought up in a home where we did not show a lot of emotion. Logic and reason ruled the day and little if any weight was given to an argument filled with emotion. From the time I was small, I learned to stuff my emotions and deal with whatever situation I encountered. When I did feel grief or some other sad emotion, it was hard for me to cry. As an adult, I have had difficulty crying, even when I have lost someone very dear to me. If I needed to cry, I would watch a movie with a sad ending. It would enable me to cry a bit and release some of my pent up emotions.
After the incident with Penelope, I began to think about the ability to process emotions in a healthy way, especially grief. Depending on the culture and the home we are brought up in, we are either allowed or discouraged from showing our emotions. Whether we show them or not, they are still there inside of us. I believe it is much healthier to be able to express our emotions appropriately, rather than stuffing them and putting up a brave front.
Since then, I have been trying to allow myself to express grief when I am alone. I have had a few breakthroughs and hope that in the future I will be able to be in touch with my emotions in a more positive way. After all, a person should not have to put on a sad movie in order to express the emotions that are pent up inside of them, should they?