“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” Washington Irving
I remember one of my first clients during internship for my Masters in Counseling. She had come into the office and just began to cry. I didn’t offer her much that first session and to be honest, I didn’t have much to offer. I barely knew what I was doing back then. I just sat there and gave her the space to cry and express her grief. Her husband had died. I didn’t say much the first several sessions, she didn’t seem to be asking or needing much from me. One session I asked her how our sessions were going. She indicated that the sessions were very helpful. But it was the next few words that I will never forget and have played such a strong role in my therapy ever since.
“This is the only place I’m allowed to grieve. Everyone keeps trying to cheer me up and tell me everything is going to be alright. At the funeral, friends and family were reminding me that my husband was in heaven. It was like I didn’t have the right to cry.”
She knew that her friends and family were trying to help her, but what they didn’t know was that they were really trying to help themselves. We have a hard time letting people sit in their pain. We feel responsible to make them feel better or it brings us too close to our own pain. Often it brings up feelings of anxiety or helplessness and the way we deal with that is to try and cheer up and comfort the other person. The interesting thing about this process is that it sends a message, sometimes unconsciously, that grieving is not allowed. Its making others uncomfortable, I’m not supposed to be crying and so the grieving process gets halted. All my client wanted and needed was a space to cry with another person. Grieving can be scary and it requires the presence of another. The loss has left a person alone; grieving alone makes that an even harsher reality. Coming along side someone in the grieving process means sitting with them in that pain.
We live in a society that does not like to grieve. We don’t know what to do with pain.