Crying isn't for the weak. Nor is it a sign of weakness.
Far from it. Crying is a sign of forging ahead through the darkness that comes with this roller coaster journey we call life. It's a sign of reflecting, remembering those who have fallen. Weeping for those who have overcome life's hardships. Because both losing someone and watching someone emerge from a tunnel of darkness into the sunlight are both important moments worth commemorating with tears.
I've never been much of a crier. Years of being told to "suck it up" or "quit being a baby" will do that to a person. And by that, I mean stifle the all important shedding of tears. Then, there was the not understanding phrase (command) "Stop crying or I"ll give you something to cry about." If I could have stopped crying, don't you think I would have? Don't you think I wished upon every star in the sky that whatever pain or fear or angst I was feeling hadn't happened? Because when we cry (it really is a matter of when and not if), there are reasons for it.
Last week a good friend of mine said she was "going home to cuddle up in a blanket, watch a movie, and have a good cry." I asked her if anything was wrong. Her response: "No. Don't you ever feel like you need to do that? It gets things out. It's healing."
I thought she'd lost her mind. Have I mentioned I don't like to cry?
I nodded along and gave some vague reassurance that even though I didn't get it, I thought she was awesome anyway. Because, truth be told, I was holding back tears of my own.
The last week was rough. As in one of the hardest weeks I've experienced in a long time. It was fraught with too much change, anniversary effect creeping up on me, and the heartbreak of a dear friend. I had a crying spell every day last week.
The crying didn't even happen at expected moments when thinking about the anniversary of a baby lost or when updating my caring husband about how our friend was doing. Because crying can be like that. Where it sneaks up on you when you least suspect it and aren't prepared with a Kleenex handy.
Instead, the tears came at random. When a friend shared exciting news, when I sat down to dinner with my husband, or when another dear friend gave me a hug. The week before that, I burst into tears over a cup of tea.
Crying isn't for the weak. It's for the living. Because while living, sad and happy things happen. We watch movies that evoke strong emotion. We sometimes have no words for what we're experiencing. We lose a warrior. We love really hard.
I don't like crying. It's not a good look on me. But there was no way I could "suck it up" this past week. I wasn't being a baby. I was hurting. I was confused. I wanted to rail against God himself for some of the stuff going on around me. And honestly, though I have a professional history of helping people deal with life's changes, I don't care much for change. Bring me the sameness, the familiarity, the comfort of that which I've gotten used to.
Did I need to stop crying or risk being given something to cry about? No. I had plenty to shed tears over.
It's true that crying doesn't fix anything. It doesn't. It won't mend a marriage or bring a baby back. It won't solve years of hurt or lost relationships. It won't undo the change that has happened.
But we weren't put on this Earth to fix things for others. Bikes, dishwashers, and the like, maybe. But the real life hurts and brokenness, no. That's not our job.
We won't always understand what's going on. We may never learn the reasons for why bad things happen to good people. And the grief and loss we experience; nothing prepares us for that.
Crying won't fix those things.
What crying will do though, is like my friend said. It'll get things out. It'll help us along the path of healing. Perhaps even along the path of forgiving. I'm sure these things are true. Though in my case, my crying last week probably did more along the lines of freaking out my husband. Poor guy.
The tears I shed last week won't bring my friend's daughter back. It won't bring back the baby I lost more than a decade ago. It won't magically halt change or stop the increasing estrangement in the not-so-close relationships I have with some folks. But, crying did help. A little, anyway.
They reminded me of my blessings; like the children of mine who have made it, despite my episodes of not-so-great parenting. The tears helped me to deal with some of the discomfort I'm experiencing due to life's changes and to rejoice for those who shared with me their good news. They were evidence that while I couldn't do much to ease my friend's pain, I could help her cry. It's what friends do for friends.
Some might say the act of crying is selfish or annoying, even a sign of weakness. To those people, I hope you never experience heartache in life. If you can't cry because of it, you may never recover from the harsh blows of reality.
For everyone else, my thoughts are with you. Sometimes life hurts and sometimes those tears will come. Take heart in knowing you're helping a friend and maybe even healing a little bit yourself. If those things aren't enough, know that you're doing what Jesus would do. Because once upon a time, Jesus wept too in John 11:35.
Perhaps you're interested in doing something more for someone who's hurting. If so, I challenge you to do one of the following:
Here's what I do know though. She had a beautiful smile, she served our country, and she loved animals. She passed away this last week. Her family hurts and so do her friends. Hers was a life gone too quickly.
Crying won't change that. If it could, this post would be about the miraculous return of a woman that was loved by many. Sure, crying might ease the pain a little. But, crying while making a donation, will help rescue animals. And donating will help her family heal as they realize that even during life's hard times, there are people out there who are willing to make a difference in honor and memory of Dakota Volkman.
Go. Weep if you must. And donate to your local animal shelter. When they ask, tell them Dakota sent you.