It shouldn’t surprise you that many of the behaviors associated with grief are similar to those associated with depression. For example, people struggling with grief tend to have crying spells in which they weep and shed tears in an almost uncontrollable way. Home might be a constant reminder of the deceased. When you lose a spouse you may cry when you look into the face of your children because they remind you of your husband or wife. Different activities, traditions, family photos, home movies, foods, etc. are all reminders of the person who died and when you see them you experience a heavy sadness that leads to tears. Excessive and sometimes uncontrollable crying is part of grieving.
Crying is an interesting experience. If asked why we cry different experts provide a number of different answers. Crying is often associated with the release of stress. It can be a sign of complete joy as well as complete despair. Crying can be associated with the experience of awe when we experience beauty. With grief, however, it’s usually associated with pain, loss, and emotional wounds. Some say crying makes things better, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes crying is just something we do and we don’t know why we do it nor does it make us feel any better. It’s just the human response to feelings of despair, pain, and loss. There is a popular quote that is part of a larger writing on tears that is often attributed (Although many believe incorrectly) to Washington Irving. Some say it was written by Rumi, and others claim it is an amalgamation of a number of combined quotes. Whether it’s Irving who wrote this or some other anonymous soul, this brief piece of writing does a wonderful job of capturing the breadth of what it means to grieve with tears:
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, of unspeakable love. If there were wanting any argument to prove that man is not mortal, I would look for it in the strong, convulsive emotion of the breast, when the soul has been deeply agitated, when the fountains of feeling are rising, and when tears are gushing forth in crystal streams. O, speak not harshly of the stricken one—weeping in silence! Break not the deep solemnity by rude laughter, or intrusive footsteps. Despise not a woman’s tears—they are what make her an angel. Scoff not if the stern heart of manhood is sometimes melted to tears of sympathy—they are what help to elevate him above the brute. I love to see tears of affection. They are painful tokens, but still most holy. There is pleasure in tears—an awful pleasure! If there were none on earth to shed a tear for me, I should be loth to live; and if no one might weep over my grave, I could never die in peace.”
Perhaps in some way our tears are a tribute to the ones who pass away; a way of remembering with more than our minds, but with our very souls as well. Maybe our tears are just one way we are reminded that we are more than just animals; rather we are creatures with souls that must find a way to express our transcendence in the face of mortal frailness. Whatever the reason, it’s okay to cry when someone you love is no longer walking this world with you. In fact, it does them homage and speaks the words that human language cannot express.