Tuesday, February 15, 2011

ON FAMILY ~ No Such Thing As A Crying Shame...

companion cube tissue box

Image courtesy apocaknits via Flickr

At the age of 45, writer Regina Brett wrote a column for the Cleveland Plain Dealer listing 45 lessons that life had taught her thus far. As a breast cancer survivor, many of those lessons were learned the hard way. Five years later she added five more lessons rounding her list up to 50 and turned her popular list into a book called God Never Blinks. I found her list to be entertaining, inspiring and thought provoking. I thought I would go through each of her lessons learned and write about how that lesson has or has not come up in my own life, now that I am 40 and feel old enough to have finally learned something.

"Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone."

I am not a big crier. Oh sure, every now and then some scene from a movie or a book sneaks up on me and catches me off guard, but for the most part my eyes stay dry. It isn't because I don't care. It just seems that my body expresses sadness in a different way.

But let me tell you. Moments of extreme, intense grief most always result in crying that would remind you of Niagara Falls. It is all or nothing with me it seems. In thinking about those moments, I realize that most of them occurred privately. It wasn't that I was ashamed to be seen in that state. It just happened to work out that way. By the time someone got to me, or I got to them, my body had exhausted itself of all tears and energy.

When I was in my mid-20's, one of my good friends was killed in a motorcycle accident on the other side of the country. This shocking news was absorbed as a group since I was fortunate to be with Andy and some friends when we got the call. I bawled all night long, in the arms of people who knew him, loved him and mourned him as much as I did. It was painful, but cathartic to go through that initial moment of emotions with other people rather than alone. It took me a long time to experience memories of my friend without being sad. He missed so much. And I missed him. Still do. But in a healthier way now. If I had been forced to grieve initially for him on my own, I'm not sure I would have had a strong healing base.

On the other end of things, it seems that every time I lose a pet, I am alone. I am always on the phone gasping for air trying to say the words out loud to Andy that a member of our four legged family has died or is about to go. For those of you who do not have pets, it will seem disrespectful of me to pair stories of grief over cats with grief over a friend. But love is love. There are different levels but it still causes joy and sadness, regardless of the package delivering it.

Most recently, when sweet Lucy suffered a massive, painful, sudden and paralyzing blood clot outside one sunny Saturday morning last summer a piece of my soul was ripped out along with my heart. She was only 2 years old. We had nursed her fragile heart for a year and extended her life on several occasions. We knew that day might come exactly as it did. But we still thought maybe something could be done. So I drove her to the emergency clinic alone, thinking maybe she had just broken a leg outside. When the bad news was delivered, I couldn't take it. I was alone while waiting for Andy to arrive so we could say goodbye to her together. I wailed at the wall outside in the dingy lot behind the clinic. I stared up at the beautiful day and begged for someone to make the pain stop. I cried so hard I couldn't breathe. I couldn't walk. I couldn't stop. I wondered how on Earth a parent survives the death of a child. Because if this was the way I felt over a beloved kitten, I didn't think I could ever survive the horror of the experience with a human being.

And then Andy came. We hugged and cried. We didn't talk. We just cried. Together. And then we went inside and said goodbye to that sweet little cat. And we went home and helped her brother learn to be an only cat. Having each other to lean on and cry with allowed us to recover and move on. Crying with someone else is better than crying alone. But I think it is better to cry with someone rather than just on someone. If they aren't crying with you for the same reasons it isn't quite the same.


Lin said...

I'm a crier. I cry when I'm sad, touched by something heart-warming, or when I'm really, really mad. I hate that I cry so much, but I do. That said, I don't need anyone to cry with me, but it does help.

Your story of Lucy breaks my heart. I think I told you, but I lost my Ruth the EXACT same way. It was horrid. I still can't get over it. I never realized how common that is until it happened to us and now you too. I hear more and more of it. It is sudden, surprising, and tragic because it happens to young kitties. I know of another kitty (Inigo) on another blog that just died from it too. I hope your heart heals and maybe you can bring another kitty into you life to honor Lucy by.

Hugs, pally. And if you ever need anyone to cry with.....


soleil said...

Crying with someone to hold you is way better than full on bawling all by oneself.

ds said...

"If they aren't crying with you for the same reasons it isn't quite the same."


Janet said...

i tend to hide my crying, generally. Sigh. And on facebook today I learned that a friend who's not really a friend anymore has to put her dog to sleep...and she got him when I got my Max. Same age. I'd be lying if I didn't say it made me think of my dog's mortality, too. Max loved that dog!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I think there is alot of wisdom in this saying. Unfortunately, I tend to try to be strong in front of everyone, and keep my tears to myself. There are exceptions, like last week when I watched The Frigging Notebook with my daughter and cried like a baby. It felt good though. Hearing about how you had to say goodbye to your kitty, well, I've been there. And reading it just made me wish I could have been there to cry with you. Losing animals (or even reading about it) rips my heart out.

Izzybella said...

I'm with Janet. I'll try to hide the crying unless I'm with someone I trust.

I'm so sorry about Lucy. In my family we are definitely "that kind" of animal lover. It *is* like losing a family member.

I'm glad you and Andy had each other to lean on. :) At the end of the day, I'd rather cry with someone I trust than alone. I think in sharing it, you heal better.

Lynn said...

I think pet owners everywhere can identify with your grief for your precious kitty. We had to put down our dog Tiger a couple years ago and I still miss her so much. Whenever I come home I half expect to see her smiling little face. And I agree with you -- I don't see how parents can stand the grief of losing a child. Their hearts must break and never, ever recover.

stacybuckeye said...

Thanks for making me choke up. (sniff sniff)