I first learned the effect a man’s tears have on my emotions from the parents of my young patients when I was a pediatric intensive care nurse.
I am not unaffected by the tears of a woman, but in the PICU the tears of the mothers differed in nature from the tears of the fathers.
A mother with a hospitalized child will cry, and when overwhelmed, she will break down. But in the PICU, more often than not, she took a tissue from the box I handed her, wiped her eyes, breathed deeply, and then put on a brave face to protect her child from knowing her fear and concern over his welfare.
When the father cried, it was an admission of helplessness. His problem-solving toolbox was empty. The tears represented feelings of personal failure, powerlessness to protect his child and family from disease or trauma. His criteria for being a father, or a man, was eroded.
These displays of total soul-brokenness undid me every time. […]