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Thursday, June 11, 2015
THE PESKY PROBLEM OF UN-GRIEVED GRIEF
And then there is my talented friend, Len Woods. BRUTHER LEN--a sweet man who throws out these statements that cause you to double jerk and go, "WHAT did he say?" and then GROAN-PAIN--make you think. He and his equally talented wife, Cindi, share a blog here. Is this fair that a couple have all this talent??? Seriously I am blessed to call these two friends and delighted to share their talent with you.
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Roberto Corralo. Flickr, http://bit.ly/1CmZSyh
A recent spate of mild earthquakes in the Dallas/Fort Worth area has scientists scratching their heads. Something is going on deep within the earth. Theories abound: “It’s those freaking frackers.” “It’s the minions of hell cheering for their favorite NFL team.” (NOTE: I personally go with the more scientific “option b.”)
Meanwhile, 250 miles east, I’m trying to make sense of some seismic tremors in my own heart. For awhile now, in the most unexpected places and at the most awkward times, I’ve been rocked by sudden, powerful shudders of raw emotion. Often, I get the sense that if I gave in, I wouldn’t just get misty-eyed, I would sob…great racking sobs like Rambo at the end of First Blood.
Such weepiness could be due to any number of factors: aging and dying parents, the empty nest, major career change. On top of all that, throw in normal regrets. Add a few recent epiphanies like I actually might NOT ever win the Masters!Factor in the very real possibility that I could have a rare medical condition like LTDS (leaky tear duct syndrome). Or perhaps, bottom-line, I’m just a wuss who’s seen too many schmaltzy Facebook and YouTube videos of veterans and cute kids and wheelchair-bound puppies. God knows.
Here’s the thing. I wasn’t much of a crier growing up. In my neighborhood “boys don’t cry” was the unspoken rule…until some kid shed a tear. Then the rule was more than spoken. It was yelled—and served up with a punch.
When I was 15 my Mom came home one day with the out-of-the-blue news that my Dad had cancer in more places than he didn’t have it. I can assure you I cried that day, bawling like a scared, starving infant. But as I watched my Dad shrivel up and fade away, I subconsciously boarded up the staircase that led down into my heart. And I made the choice to live upstairs only, in my head. By the day of his death, I was Mr. Spock. At his funeral, I was a sphinx.
Over the ensuing months, internally, imperceptibly I became angrier and angrier. It wasn’t until years later that it dawned on me: not shedding a tear for at least five years wasn’t manly; it was unhealthy.
In my whole life, I only saw my Dad tear up once—late one afternoon in Arlington National Cemetery. The sight of all those perfectly aligned white crosses pierced his heart like a sniper’s bullet. I watched him teeter briefly on the edge of coming undone, when suddenly, embarrassment counterattacked, chasing all those sad feelings back into the shadows of his heart.
So I only saw his lip quiver that one time. But I saw him get angry a lot. I’m no psychiatrist, but if you ask me, rage is just sadness that got shoved aside, went off and pumped iron for a few months, and then came back with a vengeance. When Michael Douglas tries to dump Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, and she snarls, “I’m not going to be IGNORED!”…that’s grief—more than anger—doing the talking.
Those who know me know I have long been a fan of the writer Frederick Buechner. Some people think great thoughts, and some people write beautiful words. Mr. Buechner does both at once. Here’s what he says about tears:
“You never know what may cause them. The sight of the Atlantic Ocean can do it, or a piece of music, or a face you’ve never seen before. A pair of somebody’s old shoes can do it….a horse cantering across a meadow, the high school basketball team running out onto the gym floor at the start of a game. You can never be sure. But of this you can be sure. Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention.
“They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go to next.”
The next time I start to feel all those powerful emotions shifting like tectonic plates at the core of my being, I hope I pay attention…and I pray I fight off the urge to fight them off. It feels so counter-intuitive…standing still and giving in to an avalanche of emotion. But it’s not the grief that will hurt us in the end…it’s the un-grieved grief. How ironic that we should feel so threatened by something that has so much healing power.