When It Might Be Valuable To Fall Apart 9/14/12
This is such a difficult time of year for me; many great losses have come to me in September. Today I’m in tears remembering three years ago when my son was in the last two days of fighting for his life.
About now (three years ago) he said to me at 6 AM when I stumbled in to give him meds “I feel like I need to cry.”
Myself, I’d been crying often, scared of what might be coming, when I was alone in the car driving from here to there. I remember sometimes wondering when Tom got to cry as he never had privacy anymore. But not taking this as a nudge from Higher Guidance, this “wondering” just sat there in my head as a “wondering”. I assumed that somewhere somehow he did cry when he needed.
But this was not so.
At that moment at 6 AM here’s what I was thinking. I was exhausted. And I was afraid that if he started crying I would also cry and there was so much to cry about that we’d never stop! We might fall apart! We needed to stay strong as this big surgery was coming up shortly. Besides, Tom was a man almost 40 and so much bigger than me (6 feet to my 4’10”) I didn’t know how to put my arms around him anymore. Later, though, I thought to myself “I could have just climbed up on the bed beside him and put my arms around my son. This is what a mother should do!” Instead I said dully, “Some people watch sad movies to get themselves crying. Would you like to watch a sad movie?”
“No,” he said. And that was the temporary end of that. I stumbled back to bed.
Later that day he shared something with me. When he was little, I never told him that “boys don’t cry.” I knew the world would tell him this sooner or later; now I know that I’d have saved him SO MUCH SUFFERING if I’d just taught him this myself – that it’s OK to cry in private but not in public. But I didn’t. In fourth grade his teacher demoted him from high math to middle math and he cried. She took a baby bottle from somewhere and sat him on a chair with it in front of the class! He said he never told us because he was afraid we’d make a fuss at school. He was also regularly and seriously bullied later on the school bus and didn’t tell us. As a result of these experiences, he’d stopped letting himself cry. I remember that even after his father died of a heart attack, I didn’t see him cry but I assumed he did in private. Now I was realizing that all the subsequent pains of his life had been stuffed down by him, never allowed to flow out through tears and heal.
Here he was with a large tumor growing in his lung, like a second heart growing in the wrong place when his first heart had been wounded by several tragedies in his life, including the recent failure of his marriage. I can’t help wondering if crying might have saved his life, letting these growths subside! For me, I couldn’t keep going if I didn’t let myself cry as needed.
Sometimes after he died I’d sob so hard I was afraid I’d have a heart attack. But I’d bring myself down gently and then sleep. I’ve always felt the need to sleep at least briefly after crying. Besides the rest for my eyes, my brain feels like it wants to go down to the slow brainwaves of deep sleep for just a short time to recover something. Then I magically get up and go on with my life! Crying is an incredible relief, though at times I feel scared that I’ll never stop.
That morning when I failed him, failed to help him cry, I was afraid we’d both fall apart; I thought we needed to be strong. What I hadn’t noticed yet was that crying makes one strong! It frees the tensions inside so one can stand up and do the fight with all our might!
Tom had a significant dream early after his diagnosis with cancer. He saw himself in a museum. As he walked through with his buddy, he saw children sitting on the floor here and there alone and in pairs all beat up. As he walked into a new room some men attacked his buddy. Tom tried with all his strength to pull the men off his buddy but wasn’t strong enough. He woke up.
Museums are about past time. I believe his “buddy” was his body. Something was showing him that the past had taken a toll, and healing had not happened for those events. Now his body was being attacked …
What if Tom had felt as free as I (a woman) do to cry, at least in private, whenever he felt the need? Perhaps this is one reason women live longer than men! And men often die of heart attacks, their hearts excessively strained. What if we didn’t fear letting go and “falling apart” as needed , trusting that whatever’s natural is what is needed and will ultimately lead to natural healing? Now I see all this, but like so much of learning – I only have the learning as a result of bungling – too late! Why couldn’t I know this before? Not only have I learned the importance of crying, falling apart if necessary, but also of following my intuitions. Stopping and paying attention to that quiet little voice that whispers so gently “I wonder how Tom ever gets to cry when he has no privacy?”