Tears seem to be losing their high-ranking among the range of acceptable behaviours. And grief too is outdated or, rather, the outward display of it – in our culture that is so busy encouraging us to live and where the family at large, so fractured, hardly represents our main support system anymore, whenever we experience a life altering loss we are more often than not asked to get back into it, not to dwell on the past, to let go. And we all seem to go along with this nonsense for fear of what? being judged too weak, too inadequate?
A few days ago a friend described to me the unbearable and mind-boggling experience of watching her younger sister take her last breath. How do you wrap your head around such loss, such inexplicable injustice, such drastic change in your everyday routine? The common refrain is that it takes time but we are hardly capable of giving us time. And time might soften the blow, might make it recede it eventually but hardly ever does it erase it which is why it’s so important we stop sweeping death under our emotional carpet. If throwing ourselves in distracting activities might help us not go crazy from the mind numbing pain, I believe the scales have tipped over too much on the side of distraction.
There was a time when death was honored, respected even, through long periods of mourning, extended family gatherings, elaborate rituals and the display of grief was welcomed, if not encouraged. Every religion has its traditions and, even a non believer like me, can recognize the usefulness of “organizing” grief. Now it pains me to see people uncomfortable in front of others’ tears and sadness – someone recently said to me “I just don’t know what to do when someone starts crying in front of me”. I don’t believe we are expected to do anything in such circumstances – just opening the space to receive the sadness and the tears by merely being there and acknowledging them might be enough. To be entrusted with someone else’s pain should be an honor and all we can do is hope to be worthy of it.