Monday, 18 April 2011


April 16th is not a good day for me.  Three years ago my Dad died, quite unexpectedly, on that day and frankly it's the worst thing that's ever happened to me.*  Long time readers have no doubt read their fill about it, so I'm not going to go into that in depth here.

What's strange for me is how the grief has become so hidden, with my complicity.  When I cry about Dad now, and I do still cry about him, it's always in private.  I'm a bit ashamed of it, to be honest.  I cry quite easily, really, and was teased a lot about that as a kid, so I squirrel it away from the eyes of others. 

People's reactions to tears are interesting.  Dad was always so heart broken when faced with my crying.  I vividly recall being at a funeral with him, for his dear friend Mary (another one we lost to cancer, oh how I hate cancer); he held my hand while I tried not to cry because I knew he would feel he had to help me fix it and there was no fixing it, and also I wanted him to be able to focus on his own grief, not feel he had to resolve mine.  Another time I fell to soggy pieces at the bedside of a friend who was dying and wanted to leave the room so that my parents could have their time with our friend without the distraction of my needs and tears.  I think there's something pretty hard wired in parents that makes them want to put most other things aside to comfort their children when they cry, even though sometimes the child is an adult and the tears are just a physical expression of the upset inside, and a way for them to cope with it all.

And of course I've experienced time and time again the view that if you cry you have lost it, and lost.  This has been one of my main motivators in learning to control my tears (still imperfectly achieved); that if water starts to come from the eyes there are a great number of people who stop listening to the valid words coming from the mouth.  There's a gender dynamic in that too, imho.  In searching for an image for this post all the teary eyed persons were of the womanly persuasion.  Although there were quite a few results for Tears for Fears too.

While some dismiss the leaker the instant they start leaking, others get angry.  Tears seem to confront them with their own actions and demand that they do something they don't want to do, like dial it down or realise the hurt they've caused or find a solution that's impossible.  Personally, when I'm crying because I miss my Dad there's nothing anyone can do about that except give me a hug.  But if I'm crying because I'm angry then a hug might not be the best idea if it's you I'm angry at ;-)

What I guess I'd like when I cry is for people to keep listening to what I'm saying. And I need to get better at saying what I need, instead of hiding away the tears or waiting for someone to read my mind.

And somewhat appropriately, as I'm about to hit publish, the rain starts falling on the roof of my office.  It's loud, sometimes it gets so loud I get a headache and can't talk on the phone.  Which I guess is a bit like the effect my tears can have on others - something you dearly wish would stop, not least because it can be a barrier to communication.  The chances of stopping my tears are much higher than the chances of stopping the rain.

*  And this is a sign of my privilege - that the worst thing in my life to date has been losing my beloved father, who I had a good relationship with.   I hope my kids are this lucky.


Jackie Clark said...

I can't imagine life without tears. I've cried an entire ocean in my 46 years. Tears of anger and frustration, tears of laughter, tears of sadness and grief. All tears, in my opinion, are valuable, because they release that surfeit of feeling. Be it anguish, joy or shittiness. The one day in my life I was depressed, I couldn't cry, and it was the most disheartening feeling I have ever had.

ms p said...

I am a long time read of THM and I've always been heartened by your posts about your Dad. I lost my Dad suddenly four years ago (and like you, it's the worst thing that's ever happened to me) and reading your posts reminds me that it's ok to still have a cry now and then. And also, I love your descriptions of your relationship with your father. He sounds like a lovely man.

Anonymous said...

Hugs, Julie. I have been a teary one for most of my life too. As a boy, of course, I was always told that boys don't cry. Never understood it, because I always did.

I agree with Jackie - to not be able to cry would be awful.

When I got married, my colleagues good-naturedly teased me saying "the bride is the one who is supposed to cry". On the webcast, it was evident that tears were streaming down my face through the ceremony. I was just so happy and full of love at that moment.

When I see people crying, I have such an urge to reach out to them. Not to say that "everything will be OK" because sometimes it won't be. Ever. But to make sure they know that there is someone who cares. Someone who is there for them if they need it. That there is a shoulder to lean or cry on if they ever want it.

Sometimes we do cry inconsolably. When my wife (she wasn't at that time) was in Auckland because her Mum was dying (in days), I was left to move houses because we had been evicted, and my Mum was going in for aneurysm surgery (fifth attempt and if she didn't get the surgery she'd die).

When I was saying goodbye to my Mum (knowing it might be the last time) I just lost it. Took me a good half hour to regain composure. But it was needed.

Much love, Julie.

Monday said...

oh Julie, I emphasize what ms p said.

And I hear you - I'm a big crier and am constantly explaining to those around me to keep talking, keep functioning, this is normal, and sometimes this builds to an exhaustion with having to do so which itself can end in my trying to hide it.

I wholeheartedly agree that tears are valuable in social and biological senses. Crying produces dopamine, which is why i usually feel so much better after having had a good weep. There is however a conflict with the social pressures not to cry, which can leave me feeling like utter shit for 'letting it get away on me (again)'.

A recent Time magazine had an article about emotions in the workplace, filled with interesting factoids and statistics. e.g. tear ducts are configured differently in cis-women and men, meaning women produce 4x more tears than men can and the tears are more likely to run down women's faces - which is linked to your difficulty in finding images of men crying!

An Ancient Mariner - Phil said...

Julie, as someone who knew your dad sporadically through many an Easter and "other special dates" i struggled through his funeral, as a person who DOESNT cry, i gave in there. Through degrees of seperation or whatever you want to call it, he did so much for me, the many before me and the many after. He was genuinely a really special guy! I came across the same thing recently, my Gran died very suddenly (around 3 weeks ago), didnt cry when i was told or the days leading up to it, but the funeral was unbearable, and since then i have only cried in the shower - no one can see and no one can hear. And actually, as i send this, i dont know what im trying to tell you other than somewhere i understand how you feel about your dad and your feelings on crying. And now at work, i have a tear, for all those amazing people. And a silent ziggy in my brain! xxx

Scuba Nurse said...

Phil!!! That made me cry.
Shall gather myself and come back to leave a thoughtful comment once the leaking stops!

AnneE said...

Thank you so much for this post, Julie. One of the things I loved most about Harvey was that he was an unashamed crier (at least with me - maybe not with the blokes, eh). We would both get teary watching soppy movies. In his last year he would someimes tell me that while I was out he had got really depressed, had a good cry and then felt better. I find now that I cry most freely on my own because that's when it all wells up anyway - but invariably feel better afterwards. The dopamine info explains it, I didn't know that. And the tear-duct difference is fascinating too. I think NZ men are much more likely now to cry in public or admit to tears than they would have been even ten years ago, and that's really good.

dowie said...

Great Post Julie - made me feel a little weepy - both my parents are still alive but in their 70's and in the UK. I thought that when I went over in 2006 it would be the last time I saw them and cried buckets on leaving. Then managed to get back in 2009 and again, cried buckets on leaving! It never occured to me when I left the UK that I would end up raising my own family without local grandparents and all the support and involvement that entails! I surely appreciate my parents so much more now I am a parent! Dads n mums deserve our tears if they are missed - that is what makes us compassionate human beings after all!

Julie said...

Thanks for your comments, especially about what I've written about my Dad. Can't respond more fully to them right now, but just wanted to let you know I appreciate it.

Just wondering what Non Criers think - why do you Non Cry and how does Non Crying affect your ability to communicate grief, upset, etc?

Hugh said...

Just wondering what Non Criers think - why do you Non Cry

I just don't feel the urge most of the time.

and how does Non Crying affect your ability to communicate grief, upset, etc?

Generally I feel saying "I feel upset" does the job. The idea that, no matter what I say, I can't be upset because I'm not crying is something that I would feel quite insulted by.

dowie said...

well - I regard myself as usually a non crier unless I am extraordinarily angry or very upset... I don't tend to cry at much and i don't think it restricts the emotions at all - it's just that different people have different levels at which the tears start! it can, dare I say this, become a bit of a weapon for some people, male and female, who can deliberately make themselves cry in ordeer to win emotional brownie points! My sister admitted to doing that as a kid, by thinking herself upset, as she knew she could always get around dad with the tears! Thankfully she grew out of it!

katy said...

One of my male friends once said that one of the trickiest thing about becoming a manager of women was being able to handle them crying. He had just never been around it (crying) before and it really freaked him out at first because he didn't know what the appropriate way to respond was. In one job I had a run in with my boss which resulted in me crying and leaving the room. We talked about it the next day and discussed what I should do next time I felt that upset, it was a good discussion.

Boganette said...

I cry a lot. But not just when I'm sad - all the time, when I'm happy I cry. I get so excited I cry sometimes. It's a long running joke with my friends and family that I will cry at the drop of a hat. I bawled my eyes out when I finally saw Iron Maiden live - I was so overwhelmed by all my happy feelings. Actually I cried when I saw Ozzy live too....

My dad's a big crier too and we cry together heaps (sometimes we purposely put on things for each other to see how long it will take us to cry - like viral videos or sad songs etc) and we tease each other light-heartedly about it.

So because of all of that I've never thought crying was bad or felt guilty about crying. I'm so used to crying all the time and nobody has ever told me off for it. It's just a running joke really. In fact I'm pretty sure there's a sweep running between family and friends to see how long it will take before I cry on our wedding day. Pretty sure Mr B is gonna win because he thinks it'll be as soon as I wake up on the big day :)

I am so sorry about your dad. I've said it before but I wanted to say it again. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose my dad. He's my best friend.