Monday, December 16, 2013

Finding Crying Time In Grief

[Reviewed and updated August 2, 2023]

Sorrows which find no vent in tears may soon make other organs weep. ~ Sir Henry Maudsley

A reader writes: My sister has been very sick and only recently recovered from a serious illness, thank goodness. Thursday will be three months since my big brother died. And last night I found myself crying—really crying—for the first time. Maybe it’s because I can breathe a little easier now that my sister is more out of the woods. I've always been a caretaker. I've always put everyone I love before myself. I did that for my big brother when he was alive. And I'm doing it for my sister. I couldn't save my big brother, just as I couldn't save our father. I cried for a good couple of hours last night. My husband tried to console me, but either I just wouldn't allow it, or he was doing it wrong. I don't know really. All I know is that my big brother is gone and I'm having a hard time with his loss. He was my big brother and meant the world to me. His passing is hitting me hard.

My response: My dear, I think your message contains the explanation for your tears: Now that your sister is "more out of the woods" you can "breathe a little easier." I cannot imagine the enormous energy it has taken to keep your own emotions in check as you've worked so hard to be present (in every way imaginable) for your siblings. Now that it feels as if things are looking up for your sister, you've let your guard down, even if you're not wholly conscious of doing so ~ and I am not at all surprised to learn that you "fell apart" for a couple of hours and let it out by crying.

The fact that your husband couldn't console you is not surprising either. When you're in a state like that, your body takes over and does what it needs to do. I think you really, really needed to let go of some of the pain and sorrow you've been holding in for so long, and on some level you knew it was best not to let anything or anyone interfere with that. So you let the tears come. Good for you. Maybe you need to allow that to happen more often:
When tears come, I breathe deeply and rest. I know I am swimming in a hallowed stream where many have gone before. I am not alone, crazy, or having a nervous breakdown... My heart is at work, my soul is awake.  ~ Mary Margaret Funk
There is nothing wrong with allowing yourself the time and space to "fall apart," because now you know (from your own experience) that ~ wonder of wonders ~ the world doesn't stop, you don't really fall apart, the crying ends eventually, and you can dry your eyes, blow your nose and go on.

You might think about actually setting aside some time just for yourself each day ~ I call it your crying time ~ when you allow yourself to give in completely to your grief and feel whatever you need to feel, including feeling sorry for yourself. Others have referred to this as "dosing," and for many mourners, it can be a very effective tool, as it gives you some sense of control over your grief ~ or at least when and how you choose to immerse yourself in your feelings of loss ~ and a way to contain it, too. This way, you can pick the time of day and you can decide how long it will last.

I encourage you to pick a safe place and time, and do whatever you need to do to bring your feelings to the surface. That could be listening to sad music, watching a sad movie, going through photographs of your beloved, holding a familiar connecting object or article of clothing ~ whatever puts you in touch with your pain. Set aside a specific time frame every day ~ say twenty minutes, or an hour, or whatever feels right to you ~ and do your best to stick to it, so that there is a sense of both a beginning and an ending to it. Then let all your pain come to the surface and just go with it ~ as completely and as fully as you can ~ until your time is up. Then "put it away" until the next time comes around, when you will know that you have that time to do it all over again. Next time a sad feeling threatens to overtake you (at a time or in a place where you don't feel comfortable giving in to it), you can tell yourself to "save" it until your "crying time" comes around that day, knowing that you have a safe place and time set aside for it ~ a container to hold it all, that you can take out and put back on a shelf when you are done with it for that day. If you schedule this at the same time every day, you may find yourself looking forward to that time.

And of course it goes without saying that, if you find that this is not enough for you, then please do consider finding an in-person grief support group or schedule some time with a qualified grief counselor. It's time to attend to your own needs now, and for your own sake, I hope you'll find a way to do that. ♥

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