I Don’t Find My Grandchild Cute. Am I Abnormal?

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a man in my 60s living on a pension. My first grandchild was born last year. My wife is overjoyed and frequently travels to our daughter’s house, which is a four-hour drive round-trip.

But I don’t feel anything special about my grandchild’s birth. My friends say that grandchildren are just so precious and cute. But I don’t understand their feelings.

I’m acting as I’m supposed to in front of my wife and daughter. But I sometimes wonder if I may be a coldhearted person.

In fact, about 10 years ago, my younger daughter died suddenly from heart failure as a college student. To be honest, I wasn’t very sad even then.

I lost my parents when I was in my early 20s and my brother when I was in my 30s. Perhaps because I had such experiences, I think I may be good at letting go of attachments, thinking that it can’t be helped because people die eventually.

I feel as if I’m a cruel person, imagining that I might not feel anything even if my grandchild dies now. Am I abnormal?

S, Aichi Prefecture

Dear Mr. S:

You wrote that you think you may be abnormal, but what do you mean by abnormal? If you’re using the word in the sense of being different from others, we all think and feel differently.

How strongly we feel toward our grandchildren or toward those who have passed away differs from person to person. It is not something that can be divided into two categories, normal or abnormal.

Besides, it doesn’t look like you lack feelings for your grandchild or for those who have passed away.

The fact that you are concerned that your feelings toward them are not strong indicates that you are thoughtful. Given that, I don’t think you are a coldhearted person.

When I went to help the victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, I realized that people die twice. This means that, even if a person physically dies, he or she is still alive in the hearts of those who knew them.

As long as you remember your deceased relatives, they are still alive. You keep your deceased relatives in your heart and sometimes recall them. This convinces me that you’re not heartless at all.

Yutaka Ono, psychiatrist