I find myself crying these days at the smallest provocation. It wasn’t always like that. So I was drawn by a letter written to Barbara Karnes by a woman wondering why she doesn’t cry.
See Barbara Karnes September 20, 2021, blog entitled Why Don’t I Cry?
Why Don’t I Cry? – BK Books
The reader’s letter listed a lot of tragic life events she had suffered. She was puzzled by the fact that none of these events caused her to cry in the way that people normally do and was wondering if this is an indicator of emotional strength or is just the ability to shut feelings out. She asks herself, “How am I able to not hurt because of these life events. Is it emotional strength?
Barbara Karnes acknowledged that this woman has experienced a great deal of death in her life—more than most. She could not, of course, explain why, but did offer up her thoughts.
- Some people are criers and others, not so much.
- The showing and expressing of emotions is individual, and so is grief.
- The emotions of grief come out in some way—some cry, some show anger, some depression, some “tough it up” and move forward, some get physically sick.
- Look at your reactions, expressions, and emotions and try to determine in what way you express grief: take on projects, work harder, run harder, keep busy so you don’t think or feel, sleep more or less, anger quickly, experience frustration, feel unsettled or aimless.
- It isn’t how many tears we shed that shows our grief; no tears doesn’t mean we don’t care or don’t feel; we all experience and express grief in our own individual way—a way that works for us.
The article caused me to reflect on my own history of crying, a subject I broached throughout the writing of my memoir, An Imperfect and Unremarkable Grandma, in 2015. At that time, I was dealing with the disappointment of my daughter moving away with her husband and my three grandchildren. They had lived nearby for ten years, ever since the birth of grandchild #1. Looking back, I realize that writing was my way of working through the emotions of my lifetime.
One morning in late November during my sixth-grade year, I got up to go to school and discovered that my father was sick in bed and unable to go to work. I felt concerned because this was very unusual. Daddy’s conditioned worsened and he was hospitalized with a medical crisis. The doctor told my mother that our father might die. While Mom drove us home that night, with my older brother in the front seat and me alone in the back, she told us that Daddy had leukemia. Mom tempered the information by saying that he might have another four years to live. We were instructed not to tell anyone, including Dad. This is the way cancer was handled during those times.
(Actually, in those days all sorts of issues were kept hidden away “in the closet.”) It became “our secret,” and was never discussed. Mom did not even tell her very best friends. It was at this point – just as I was about to turn eleven years of age – that my childhood came abruptly to an end. Although I was chronologically still a child, I now felt an oppressive weight upon my shoulders. My girlhood was interrupted. I dealt with my emotions by getting into the bathtub and running the water so that I could cry and not be heard. In this way, I taught myself not to shed tears. I became numbed, and except on a few rare occasions, I did not weep readily for at least a half-dozen years.An Unremarkable and Imperfect Grandma
The ability to cry again developed gradually over the years. But it was about the time that my children were launching into adulthood that the crying began to accelerate.
First when my son enlisted in the Air Force. (I spend months of agonizing only to have the doctor deny his admission at the last moment.)
After the beginning of the New Year, in 1992, the crying began. I would often tear up, especially when my son played, I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane by Peter, Paul and Mary on the stereo.An Unremarkable and Imperfect Grandma
Next when my daughter went away to college.
When my oldest daughter left home to start college, the crying commenced. I frequently wandered into her room in the middle of the night to quietly weep. It felt so empty without her.An Unremarkable and Imperfect Grandma
Even when my niece was married on October 21, 2001. (Of course, I had also been crying daily for weeks beforehand while reading the plethora of reports about 9-11.)
The couple performed a waltz to music from the movie Legends of the Fall. Their dancing was so graceful and beautiful in this “Old South” setting that I was moved to tears. My daughter took one look at me and said, “You didn’t cry at my wedding.” I enlightened her with the following explanation: “I was unemployed and on antidepressants at your weddingAn Unremarkable and Imperfect Grandma
When my younger daughter and her husband put down their dog.
Then one morning my son-in-law woke up to find that their dog had truly lost control of his physical abilities. The vet was called to come to their house to put their beloved pet to “sleep” surrounded by the family that loved him. When my daughter phoned me to tell me what they were doing, I got off the phone crying. I am not a “dog person” by any stretch of the imagination. “Tell me what to do,” I sobbed to my husband, “I don’t understand why I’m feeling like this.”An Unremarkable and Imperfect Grandma
These days I find myself crying at every provocation, big or small. I can’t get through the mere telling of a tale without struggling with tears. I remember that my husband’s grandmother used to do the same thing. I can’t figure it out, and frankly, it’s embarrassing. But then there is a pandemic going on, so maybe I should just cut myself some slack.
I would suggest to the woman who wrote to Barbara Karnes: Don’t fret about it. Just allow your emotions to evolve.