The first dead body I ever saw was of my grandfather. He looked so peaceful after his painful battle with cancer. He was in a casket that was centered in an enclosed glass room. He looked like he was sleeping.
Tears rolled down my grandmother’s face in fat translucent drops. All her children hovered around her protectively, trying to comfort her. Not one of their children were crying, except for one of my uncle’s who had tears in his eyes.
I had been told before the devout Buddhist funeral services, “Do not cry in front of grandma. You are just going to upset her. We do not want to upset her.”
When I saw my grandmother’s tear-stained face, I did not understand why it would hurt or upset her to show my tears when SHE was crying. Would she maybe feel some comfort that we were all crying and that she was not alone in her flood of tears, anguish, and despair? Maybe it would give her a kind of permission to grieve openly? Did crying necessarily mean grieving? Don’t we all grieve in different ways based on our culture, upbringing, and, most complicated of all, ourselves?
As I have gotten older, I have attended more funerals and fewer birthdays. It seems to me that people celebrate their birthdays less and less as they age because it depresses them to get older. This saddens me because I had always seen birthdays as a celebration of life and a privilege to getting older and even old. Not all of us are fortunate enough to get older or old. After all, child-sized caskets are made as well…and, who wants to even think about that?
The two latest funerals I went to were open caskets and so up close and personal that I could reach out and touch their cold skin. The first funeral I went to that was open casket, I started to tear up and literally feel sick to my stomach like I was going to puke. My friend had to put her arm around me to comfort me. As for the most recent funeral, my friend had tears flowing down her face freely that smeared her mascara making her have black inked tears. She kept saying, “I told myself I was not going to cry. Now, I am crying. Now, I am a mess. I hate crying in front of other people. I hate crying.”
I enveloped her in my arms and said, “It’s okay to cry. Just cry.”
I continue hearing around me that people have to control or hide their emotions, do not cry, and even sneak off to a secluded area just to cry alone out of shame and solace or privacy and to “collect themselves.” Suffice to say, I have been in one too many situations where I have just ended up crying by myself. Sometimes I have cried so much that I am just left completely numb and exhausted with a headache and a river of tears and snot blotted out with a blanket of Kleenex all around me.
The first time I cried in front of someone outside of my family and my closest childhood friends was with a friend that I was growing closer to. It was after my hip replacement surgery and I was fighting to learn to walk all over again and trying to undo over 30 years of walking wrong. The physical pain and mental frustration was nearly unbearable in the beginning, and I consider myself to have a fairly high tolerance for pain. After all, I was steering clear of pain killers and narcotics that made me feel worse that I rather just take on the pain. She walked in with a bouquet of flowers when I was trying to get up from the wheelchair and the physical and mental pain was finally too much for me to tolerate that I just cried and kept crying. I had never cried that hard in front of someone outside of my family and childhood friends. She rushed over to me and wrapped me in her arms and comforted me saying: “Just cry.”
There is something so scary about showing and sharing our absolute worst, our vulnerabilities, our fears, and just us being flawed and imperfect beings. There is something so honorable being on the receiving end of someone’s tears. When someone cries in front of me, I consider it the ultimate strength on that person to exposing me to their vulnerabilities and, most of all, that person, trusting me with their worst and their truth. I consider it my honor and place of privilege to comfort that person and let the person just be and feel all they are feeling to try to heal.
I admit it: I am a big crier. I cry with Disney movies. I cry with ANY and all animal movies. I cry from books. I cry out of frustration. I also cry from laughing so hard. Funny how our laughter and tears are so connected to each other to feel and process such joy and sorrow. I’ve become even more of a crier as I have gotten older. I thought it would get easier with getting older in that I wouldn’t give a *hit, but I have become increasingly nostalgic and sentimental. Things, people, experiences, and just about everything and anything can and has touched, affected, and impacted me even more now than when I was younger because of how aware I am of the meaning deep in them. Has this also happened to you?
If crying is NOT your default like me, then it’s all good. Everyone grieves and reacts to challenges, pain, anguish, frustration, etc. in all different ways. I am just saying that I hope for you to have a place of safety and sanctuary to just be and feel whatever you feel and always remember that you are human. Do you cry easily? Do you need to be alone when you cry? Have you become more emotional as you have grown older? Were you told growing up not to cry and to control your emotions? Or, even worse, that ‘boys do not cry’ because it is not ‘manly’? When was the last time you cried?
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,