Grief Part Five: Tears

I cry a lot. I’m rather good at it. I cry from distress, sadness, anger, at movies, at books, and sometimes for no reason at all. I cry at least once a week without anything stressful in my life, much less when dealing with grief. So yeah, I’m good at crying. And I hate it. I hate it so much. Ok, that’s not entirely true. I only mostly hate it.

There is a lot of shame surrounding crying in our society. You are seen as weak, vulnerable, childish, or unable to control yourself. This is evidenced by numerous songs, movies and books about how “big girls don’t cry” and how anger or revenge is a better (and presumably more mature) response. The best possible response was stoicism. Just don’t let whatever is bothering you get under your skin. It’s not a big deal. Just whatever you do, don’t cry.

I most definitely internalized this growing up. I tried to learn to have a stiff upper lip and carry on. It did not work. Those emotions don’t just go away. They bottle up over time and then exploded when I couldn’t take any more. I could keep myself from crying for a while, but not indefinitely.

Every time that I did cry, I felt like I was letting myself down. If I happened to cry in front of anyone, I felt so ashamed of myself. I still do. I have an immediate need to apologize to whoever witnessed my failure as a human being. That sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s really not.

Here’s the insidious equation that lives in my head: Crying = being vulnerable. Vulnerability = weakness. Weakness = not living up to my potential. Lack of potential = Failure. 

Please note that this only applies to me in my head. If I see someone else cry, none of the above applies to the other person. And that’s crazy, right? Why would I do this to myself? Am I am so afraid of letting people see anything but the chipper person I am most of the time that I risk not connecting to anyone on a real level?

Now, let’s transfer all this to someone who’s grieving. On average I am currently either crying or tearing up at least every other day, if not more. I was already on the high end of the normal spectrum for crying. We are far beyond that now. My emotions are on overload making them far stronger than usual. I don’t actually know how  to adult in this situation and I feel completely overwhelmed. In all of this, I am trying to be better about crying, because it’s one of the few things I can do to get all these confused emotions out.

I’m working on it. I still apologize to my friends (and even my husband) when I cry, but at least I *can* cry. I keep telling myself that there really isn’t anything wrong with vulnerability. Letting people into my life, letting down my walls, is a good thing. Right now, I don’t really have a choice. There is something strangely freeing about that.

Sure, life is getting back to some semblance of normal, but I get choked up at the drop of a hat at the moment. I’m tearing up as I write this, actually. There is nothing wrong with that. For one thing, I am grieving. For another, I am human. Maybe someday I’ll be ok with that.