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.”

low angle photo of linear leaf plant
Photo by Madison Inouye on


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?


17 thoughts on “Penelope

  1. You brought up a topic I had not thought about in a long time. My mother showed very little emotion. I saw her cry only twice in my entire life– once at the death of my father, and another time over the hard-heartedness of a family member. I chalked it up to her having been reared in a very stoic Appalachian Mountain culture.She never expressed sadness, but neither did she easily express joy or her innermost feelings. She passed away several years ago, and I cried! Praise the Lord!
    No more generational curse for this redeemed soul!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I was brought up by my father primarily as my mother passed early in my life. My father was a lot like John Wayne; very fair but very strong and I NEVER saw him cry. I’m sure I was affected by it. We all do our best with what we’ve got to work with! Thanks for the comment!

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  3. Sorry for your loss Valerie 😰. I wonder if your friend (from above) would be proud of your strength…..because true strength comes when one is able to ‘sit’ with the emotions❤️ rather than stuff them inside.

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  4. Ann was quite a strong woman. She was backpacking and camping up into her seventies. She wasn’t much for showing her grief, so I don’t know. I loved her though, she had a great sense of humour. She was my backpacking buddy among other things! Thanks for the comment! ❤ ❤

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  5. Your well written essay has placed me in a pensive, pre sleep state! I was brought up in a blessed nurturing home where emotions were encouraged six women and one man made for some times of infectious tears or laughter).
    Nevertheless sometimes I have the tendency to be in denial – like about the aging and diminishment of my parents…I’m sure this manifests itself in sleepless nights at the very least.
    Thanks Valerie!

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  6. My mother passed when I was very young. I was brought up in a home with my dad and brothers, just the opposite! We have lost our parents on both sides. It is difficult…we went through the aging process with them. But the Lord is faithful and He provides what we need when we need it! Thanks!


  7. Val,
    Losing loved ones is soul destroying.
    I know that firsthand. Denial. Pain, Hurt. Its all there.
    My garden is my happy place and almost all the plants there represent and was bought in memory of someone loved and lost.
    Your husband is a treasure, like mine. So glad he got Palmy back.
    Release is good. Its when it festers that the trouble starts.
    Remember Ann with love.
    I send a hug,

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi, you might have a sadness inside you from way-way back in your life. I know it sounds a cliche
    But could be really a reason.’
    I suggest you think back and open your mind to anything that could come up, after praying about the results being in God’s hands. He will help you if you need that. Sorry if I sound nutty but it could be, it is important you look back at your childhood even if “perfect”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi! Yes, I lost my mother when I was very young. My friend Ann who passed and I was writing about in this article was a mother-figure for me for decades. So yes, I have had a lot of loss in my life! Thanks for the comment, it was right on!

      Liked by 1 person

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