Positive Masculinity Contributor - Salvatore Pulvirenti
Content Writer for Positive Masculinity, Student at Full Sail University
A Brief Account
In Venezuela, it’s relatively common for people to pass away in the community they were born in. Such was the case for an uncle of mine. When I was back in Venezuela for a short family visit – before the COVID-19 pandemic – my aunts asked me to go with them to the funeral of my late uncle. My mind was reeling and I tried to process the invitation they had extended. I was emotional as I agreed to go with them; I wanted to pay my respects, but I didn’t know how the event might affect me.
When we parked outside the church where the funeral was taking place, I broke down in tears. I wanted to stay in the car, not out of fear, but because I didn’t want to accept that my uncle had passed away. Two of my aunts noticed me in such a state and while one of them went inside, the other one made sure to keep me company. This moment was challenging for me, but thankfully my family was supportive and understanding of my emotion.
How Grief Affected Me
While the grief I experienced at my uncle’s funeral was challenging, it ultimately affected me in positive ways. The grieving process allowed me to feel better and kept me away from the toxic mindset of containing my emotions inside me. Mourning with my family also left me feeling more connected with them; they shared similar feelings to me and were willing to be vulnerable, which encouraged me to open up even more. I wasn’t the only one grieving – it helped to know that I wasn’t alone and that we were all allowed to cry together.
After going through these stages of emotions with my family, I also felt very appreciative. My family never judged me for my feelings or told me to get over them. I recognize that this kind of support from one’s family might not be something that all men are lucky enough to receive. Grief is something that most men are instructed to keep hidden within themselves, and the people around them never have an opportunity to help them heal, or worse they encourage this emotional suppression. Being allowed to experience my grief made me grateful that I had been taught that grief is something that affects everybody and should be expressed healthily.
Why the Experience Left Me Stronger
Losing my uncle left me shocked and it is likely that at some point in my life I’ll experience similar intense grief yet again. I don’t sit and worry about that future grief, I know that this experience with my uncle’s passing made my ability to process emotions stronger. This was in part due to my family’s support throughout my grieving, which taught me that it’s healthy to let feelings pass through you. They explained to me that showing my feelings does not mean I’m weak, and that it takes strength to share my emotions with the world and talk through them.
This stronger understanding of the process of grief helped me as I got older. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic – where it felt like grief could be around any corner – I let myself process my emotions, which aided me immensely. Additionally, the experience strengthened my ability to find happiness in a sea of grief. I learned to remember my uncle as a positive influence on me and started to think about his life rather than his death. This thinking also strengthened my feelings that we have to make the most of our lives and be appreciative of those around us.
Reflecting on this experience with grief makes me understand the positive masculinity that was present in my family. It’s certainly important to be supportive of men going through grieving, especially with those closest to you. I felt that my family heard me. Giving someone space to express their emotions might not seem like a huge step, but it can be something that allows people to move forward in life rather than being caught by their grief. In my experience, it was also helpful that the ones there for me were a mixture of male and female parental figures in my family. This balance taught me that everyone can grieve and support each other and it speaks greatly to the positive culture that my family had.
I am proud to carry on this culture by sharing my story with you. Share your grief and give those around you the opportunity to do the same. It only takes a moment to listen or open up, but both can help you and others more than you might ever know.