Dedicated to Lamar Odom

Image captured by Sultan Atekoja

I used to wear a t-shirt that said:

I love making boys cry

It was true, but not in the way people usually thought when they read it wide-eyed. I wore it because it was an opportunity to facilitate dialogue about a huge problem in this country: the suppression of tears and grief of little boys. Or, as I like to call it, the beginning of anger management, mental health issues and addiction for men.

This is an open apology for not making more boys cry. I spent a few years as a child therapist and I truly enjoyed when little boys cried in my office. Not because I’m some sort of masochist, but because I had created a safe place for them to experience a natural part of being human, feeling.

I would often fight back my own tears as I gave them permission to do something so human, so natural. I helped them process their pain and taught them how to find safe places to cry; in their rooms, in the shower or hopefully with a parent.

Image captured by Sultan Atekoja
I’m sorry that I didn’t do more.

To all the men who grew up as little boys in a society where you couldn’t feel, couldn’t cry, couldn’t be vulnerable. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that we still don’t get it.

Tears don’t make you weak, they make you human.

They release stress and toxins from the body. They build empathy for others. They create healthy mental health. I’m sorry that we still don’t understand that grief, hurt and pain is energy that must be released. I’m sorry that we still don’t comprehend that suppressed hurt gets pushed down so long that it will eventually become anger. I’m sorry that we don’t get that unresolved grief can result in addiction.

Image captured by Sultan Atekoja

I’m sorry to all the boys and men who are in prison, on drugs and dead as a result of such a simple thing: flowing tears and freedom to grieve.

There are many parents raising boys that still want to debate this because they don’t want their boys to be bullied or viewed as weak in a world that has too many cruel names for boys who cry. I get it. I’m not claiming to have a script for you to recite to your sons. I’m saying that you have to find a way, a safe place and a shoulder.

You cut off a part of your son when you say no more tears.

Ask yourself if you are willing to take a chance with his mental well being so that others can view him as tough while there is a rage brewing inside. A rage that can be directed inward with depression and addiction or outward with physical and emotional anger toward others.

Families say no more. Mothers hold your boys and let them know that you will listen to their pain and wipe their tears. Fathers show your sons that you have cried and how you deal with your pain in a healthy way.

And families out there who continue to teach the archaic view that boys don’t cry, I will continue to pray for you.

May God help you and your children.

Dedicated to Lamar Odom.

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