Grief, Tears, Hope

Tears of Crying: If You’re Experiencing Grief, You’re NOT Losing Your Mind!

I had to stop.

On a small, two-lane road that serpentined its way through sandstone bluffs, jagged ridge-lines, and high desert sage and tamarisk. When you take the time to look, you can see the endless crags and cliffs travel up from the roadway into canyons that disappear in streaks of red, tan, and orange; highlighted by a pristine blue sky.

Truly, a wonderful sight to behold.

But, that’s not why I stopped.

Before my tires were rumbling on the roadway’s shoulder, rocks and dirt pinging the mudguards, my vision had blurred.

Before I could slam the gear shifter into park, the tears streamed.

As I stepped on the emergency brake of my pickup, my shoulders were already heaving forward as I bawled like a baby.

Seriously, how can such a beautiful place, be the center of such a meltdown?

I was broken. Nothing left inside to keep driving. I was done.

And that was how one of many episodes smashed into my life, unannounced, while processing something I had no idea I was dealing with: Grief.

***

I told a friend about this article when I first wrote the rough draft.

My friend replied, “Not yet, give it some time. You’re grieving. Let it breathe.”

I had no idea what that meant.

My friend said, “You’re right in the middle of the five stages of grief.”

Huh? What’s that?

Grief sucks. It hurts.

It needs fresh air. It needs to breathe.

I’ve endured a lot of pain in life.

I had an ACL tear once. When it happened, I heard a snap, went down hard, and by the time I hit the floor, I was crying.

Emotional pain is a whole different beast. You just can’t slap a bandaid on it.

Trust me on this one, alcohol only makes the pain more acute.

***

“They” give us a fancy bullet list of the five stages of grief.

I can follow a formula. I can understand a bullet list. Hand me graph-paper and a pencil, and I’ll draw you a flowchart.

I’m a former marine and retired cop. Between those two vocations, I supervised electronic labs and owned two businesses. Every title I’ve worn has had order to it. I can explain it with a freaking flowchart, but enduring grief, my happy-self could not make heads or tails of it.

In eighteen months, I changed vocations, my Dad passed away, I went through a divorce, a close relationship drastically changed seemingly overnight, family members wrote me off due to the positive changes I was (desperately needed) making to include where I decided to live—I made three major moves.

Ripped, smashed, broken, and alone.

Grief is a natural process, but it is not a linear one; it cares nothing for order and stages.

Thankfully, someone told me that the five stages were never meant to help tuck away the messy emotions of grief into neat little packages.

But…we like neat little packages. We like order in the midst of chaos. We like stability—it fends off fear.

Yet, grief hurts and it sucks.

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Those five come fast and furious. They do not follow a flow chart.

They are very real, ruthless, and cold-hearted SOBs.

And in the midst of it all, you will find that you may starting crying for no reason; in the middle of driving or in the middle of a grocery store. And it will feel like you’re losing your mind.

Let me say this…if one minute you’re happy, and the next minute you’re bawling…

There is NOTHING wrong with you.

***

Here are a few tidbits I dug up about crying:

  • Henry Maudsley said, “The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep.” Don’t bottle it up. Ulcers and the acid that runs through the veins isn’t worth it.
  • There are different types of tears: reflex, continuous, and emotional. Each with its own distinct chemistry. Apparently, emotional tears have more protein in them when shed, similar to a workout.
  • The “experts” still don’t understand emotional crying. So, the “experts” do what they do best when they don’t understand something: postulate theories. Hence:
    • When we cry, it stimulates the production of endorphins. Again, think workout. Those lil things in your body that act as a natural pain killer: feel-good hormones.
    • Another theory is that crying makes you feel better—probably based on the above theory. Seems simple enough.
  • One more…crying is a safety mechanism. It rids the body of stress-related toxins.

Looking at all this, I’m reminded of the words penned by King David, “…weeping endures the night, but joy comes in the morning.”

Crying somehow cleanses the internal wound so we can begin to heal.

***

Here’s what I’ve learned. It works for me. It still helps…

  • Don’t fight it anymore. It’s okay to cry.
  • Some days, you will feel anger, despair, hope, restlessness, happiness, bitterness, joy, guilt, confusion…probably all in the same day. It’s okay to feel those emotions.
  • Focus daily, best you can, on taking care of your Four Pillars: Spiritual, Mental, Physical, and Emotional health. Some days will be tougher than others…that is okay. Just try. If it’s harder one day than the other, that too is okay, you did NOT fail!
  • Stop stressing yourself out by putting some self-imposed deadline to heal. This isn’t a race; it will take some time. You will heal.
  • AND(!)…You are NOT losing your mind!

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Posted by Christian Martin Jr.