is one of those emotions that's more complicated than it looks. Like anger,
it is part of an iceberg. Unlike anger, when it moves above the water level,
it doesn't stay there for long. It's pushed below and does its best to
hide, supporting the anger above that gives it voice. When Amy's parents
see her afraid, confused and generally unhappy about her hospitalization,
they hurt, too, but they believe that to show their sadness is to increase
Amy's. And so they smile hard, put on happy faces, and pretend. Or else
they keep the sadness inside, expressing that surface anger instead. They
keep it below the water level, away from the possibility of spilling from
their eyes in tears. That's a shame.
Jeffrey climbs into his mother's arms, asking her not to leave him in the
hospital, she pats his seven-year-old head and tells him to be a big boy,
to cheer up, and to think happy thoughts. She thinks that if he swallows
his sadness, like she has done her own, that everything will be OK. It
Amy and Jeffrey may be learning that it's not OK to be sad, or afraid,
or frustrated. They may be learning that some things are acceptable to
talk about, and others are not. And they certainly are learning to watch
their parents carefully and to figure out how to act from their example.
It's just that it's hard to be a good example when situations are difficult,
and feelings are shoved under the water level.
are some ideas that might help.
must be acknowledged before
can be resolved.
often releases tension.
impossible to cheer up when nobody understands the troubles you feel. And
that goes for everybody, children and parents alike.
Fleitas, Ed.D., R.N.
Professor of Nursing, Lehman College, CUNY
Bronx, New York 10468
updated: November 14, 2004