Monday, July 8, 2019

In Grief: "I Didn't Want My Mom To See Me Cry"

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Tears are words waiting to be written.  ~ Paulo Coelho

A reader writes:  My mom always told me I was overly sensitive. If someone in my family was ill, she wouldn't tell me because she knew it would make me cry. She hated to see me cry and always told me so. When my mom was in the hospital I did not want to upset her, so I would not let her see me cry. I held back my tears. I did not want her to know how scared I was because I did not want her to be more scared. I didn't even cry in front of her until the last day and she was already gone. Even when she was breathing on the machine, until her last breath, she didn't see me cry for her. I did not want to upset her. I did not want her to suffer ever. Mom always did the right thing. I wish I would have done a better job for her. Yes I did love on her and tell her how much we all loved her, just should have done everything different.

My response: My dear, it seems to me that behaving toward your mother the way she wanted you to behave, despite how difficult it was for you to do so, and by putting her needs before your own, you were demonstrating the most selfless act of love, and for that you have my utmost respect and admiration.

As she lay dying, your mother needed to know that you were strong enough to let her go. If she regarded crying as a sign of weakness (that is, the misbegotten belief that big girls and strong people don’t cry), you accepted her belief (even if you didn’t agree with her) and by holding back your own tears, you conveyed to your mother the strength she needed to see in you so she could let go of you.

Knowing you ~ her own daughter ~ as well as she did, I believe that your mother knew exactly what you were doing and why: that you were crying on the inside and doing your best not to cry in front of her, and I feel certain that she saw it as a true measure of your deep love for her.

You describe yourself as “overly sensitive” because you are easily moved to tears, but I think it’s simply a reflection of your own basic personality. There is nothing wrong with being able to experience a full, rich range of emotions in response to grief. You held onto your tears while your mother was dying because that is what she needed, but now is the time to take care of your own needs. Now is the time to let those tears come, and I hope you will welcome them as a natural and helpful form of release.

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