At my father’s funeral, the one thing that I could not appreciate listening to was people telling me not to cry and asking me to be strong. How are tears connected with weakness in this context anyway? Someone dies, you love them, you are attached, it’s natural to feel a little sad right when it happens! Should I be strong or should I be human?
People come with the best of intentions and lots of love. But they land up saying things that take you further away from being healed. They give you more expectations that you should try to live up to, even in that situation.
Death isn’t misery. Death is a relief. I completely second that. Having said that, I also feel it takes a few hours or days to get used to it. In that much time, it’s not right on our part to expect people to be this way or that way.
Do you realize that most people say sorry when they cry? We have literally made crying an offense. People might not apologize even if they abuse you at times. But they definitely apologize when they cry in front of you. That’s how inappropriate we have made crying in our society. Why though?
I am not advocating drama by any means. It’s not healthy to make a drama of death. It’s a natural process that everyone goes through. And different people have different ways of going through with it. Some cry, some don’t. Those gentle tears are ways of letting go of all the pent up emotions. And one shouldn’t be made to feel sorry for those tears. They are valuable.
No one is meant to last forever. But the question to ask ourselves is, are we crying because we miss someone? Or are we crying because we feel sorry for ourselves? If you miss someone, you’ll start cherishing their memories as gifts and gain your own strength to keep going. If you feel sorry for yourself, that’s gonna be a killer! There’s no relief from that apart from you realizing that it is not all about you. You just have to get over yourself and look at life from a larger perspective. Their death wasn’t planned by the universe on a special agenda to make you suffer. Their time had come, so they had to go. Your suffering is your own creation in the meantime. When you make it less about you, you start to find more strength to get going.
Usually, when someone dies, we tend to think of their life in relation to ours. Naturally! We think of all that they were for us, all that they did for us, and now we start thinking who’s going to do that for me, who’s going to be that for me. And that’s how we start feeling sorry for ourselves. We start feeling lonely. But then when you starting thinking of their life, their message, their legacy, you find the motivation in you to carry them forward and be all that not just for yourself but for those around you too. That’s when you stop making their death all about you. And graciously move ahead.
Hysterically crying all the time and blaming everyone around, or feeling sorry for oneself, isn’t what’s going to get anyone anywhere. But tears gently flowing down your cheek when you are filled with gratitude or when you are missing someone is far from a crime.
Some of the things that we do that makes crying an uncomfortable experience are:
- Running with water, tissues, and other things to the person who is crying – what’s wrong with that? Be gentle about it. Don’t run like they are dying. They are just crying. If you have something around, gently hand it over to them. But if you make dramatic reactions yourself, it makes the other person feel even more conscious about themselves.
- We immediately go pat on their back and tell them, “Please don’t cry”. Or we say, “don’t worry, everything will be fine.” What’s wrong with that? Well, how do you know everything will be fine? Secondly, they know that too. But they are crying for this moment. Imagine you hurt your leg, you know you’ll be healed soon. But that doesn’t mean you won’t feel the pain now as soon as you got hurt right? I can’t ask you not to feel the pain today since it will heal tomorrow. I just have to be with you, for now, that’s all.
- We tell them, ‘You are very strong. You should not cry. If you cry what will happen to others’. What’s wrong with that? Back to the opening para, tears and strength aren’t diametrically opposite to each other. Even if you are strong, you aren’t made of stone to not feel anything. It’s not the time for us to advise them about taking care of others. If we take care of them now, they’ll get the strength to take care of others. We don’t need to state the obvious. They know it already. The last thing we should do is making them feel guilty for having those emotions. We shouldn’t make them feel stifled or suffocated.