All of us experience grief in our own ways and in our own times and places. For me, grief usually comes first in an overwhelming sense of sadness. And often there are certain stages that I usually skip right over.
For me, tears are a huge part of my grief journey. Tears that are shed at a funeral. Just a few weeks ago, at our dear family friend’s funeral, my sister and I both found ourselves crying pretty hard. So hard that one almost has to gasp for breath because the tears are coming so quickly.
The truth is that I am no stranger to tears. In fact, I often cannot keep my emotions in. And when those emotions are compounded by grief, the tears can burst forth at a moments notice and without much warning. I often feel guilty and sad when someones actions are misinterpreted by me because my grief has gotten the better of me.
But tears also can be a gift. I remember standing with almost 90 other clergy as we gathered around our friend Ben’s urn and commended him to God’s care. As his wife and daughter stood to my left and his best friend stood with his hand on Ben’s urn and as all of us spoke those words of commendation, tears fell from my eyes. Tears that told the story of how this man was a husband and father as well as a friend to many. Tears that proclaimed in the promises of Baptism given to both Ben and all of us as beloved children of God.
It is a moment that is forever engrained in my mind. Months later, tears once again fell from my eyes as my friends and I gathered around our friend Rachel’s casket. A life once again taken too soon and too unexpectedly. Another moment forever engrained in my heart, soul and mind. And again last week, as my friend Leslye, her in-laws, and all four of her children were presented with military flags after their beloved husband, son and father’s 33 years of service in the military. Another moment engrained in my heart, soul and mind.
These moments are only some of the ways that grief (and in my case, often tears) have manifested themselves. Sometimes it’s a song like Canticle of the Turning that takes me back to that March day in a brewery in Wisconsin where Ben’s beloved friends, family and colleagues gathered to raise our voices for Ben. Other times, it’s standing at one friend’s funeral and looking to your left to see another friend’s headstone right next to where this friend is being buried.
The funny thing about grief is it can show up in the strangest places too. Like picking up a Diet Coke and seeing the words “Share a Diet Coke…with Rachel.” Again the tears begin to flow.
In the last week or so, the tears have not been flowing as freely. But I know that in time, something will trigger that emotion. Something will remind me of Justin, or Ben or Rachel or Stephanie or Jim or any of my beloved who have been lost to death this year and again those tears will begin to flow freely.
The thing about tears is that they are a reminder that we have loved and been loved ; whether by a dear family friend, a seminary friend, a professor or teacher or a family member. So now when the tears come, I do not hold them back. I let them flow freely.
And you, my friends, if tears are part of your grief journey. Remember that is ok to cry. Let someone hug you (with permission of course) because hugs can often make things better. Don’t hold them in because holding in only prolongs the grief that we are experiencing. And know that your tears are not the only tears being shed for this beloved soul taken from you.