I haven’t had a good solid, cleansing cry aka “Ugly Cry” in about three years. I’ve tried but the tears wouldn’t come. There were a few times where the tears pooled and a few even fell but not the rain storm or hurricane that my soul feels inside. I’ve certainly had events that called for it where it would be more than acceptable and even expected.
Grief is supposed to be nature’s built- in genius to relieve us from the shock of and disassociation from an emotional reality that seems far too great to come to terms with. I think grief by this design is a form of grace and an expression of God’s deep love for us. Although I feel it and am aware of its presence, I have had significant difficulty understanding its purpose or expressing it and releasing it from my body until now.
Life taught me that my feelings and expressing myself are dangerous and because of that belief I have attracted people and circumstances into my life that validated that hideous lie. Over and over the people in my life would beg me to reveal my emotions, inner most thoughts, feelings, desires to them like a prize to be won and when I did they would sometimes chastise me for my delivery or tell me my feelings were wrong or use my feelings as a way to manipulate me into feeling differently about them or get me to be who they wanted or do what they wanted.This led me to give up, choose numbness and disassociation. Guarded doesn’t even begin to describe it.
The truth is feelings cannot be wrong, they just are. Only preemptive thoughts resulting in feelings can be flawed and our thoughts are products of all kinds of experiences. Our experiences are intimate and limited to our interpretation of what they mean to us personally and because of this our experiences can trick us into believing false things about ourselves, our environment, and the world, how we should be treated, treat others, and the love we deem ourselves worthy of receiving.
With the recent realization that my experiences create thoughts and those thoughts create my feelings it got me real curious about my own experiences and those that may have contributed to my inability to experience grief the way nature intended. So I started to write it all out. I started with the belief (thinking) that if I express my sadness and grief outwardly that it means I am weak and it is an admission of brokenness. When did I form this belief? The first memory of a time when this may have happened was at five years of age.
I watched my parents fight to near death several times when I was little and one of the most frightening memories I have is of my dad chasing my mom with a belt into my bedroom and her fleeing behind both me and my sister for protection because she banked on him not hurting his children. He doubled the belt over and snapped it at her threatening her several times as she coward behind us. After the situation subsided my mom turned to me and said thank you. Not sorry, not- I was afraid and I shouldn’t have put you in harm’s way, not- this is unacceptable behavior and I promise I am going to get us out of this situation. But….thank you? In hindsight I think this highlighted for me that she was relying on me (a kindergartener) to protect her, the twenty six year old mother of three.
My mind recorded several lessons from that event even though it only lasted a matter of 3 minutes. This moment that happened 34 years ago imprinted on me and would only get reinforced with other similarly traumatic events throughout my childhood. The takeaways for me at 5 were:
1. Life is scary and unpredictable
2. I don’t like the way this feels
3. I don’t ever want to feel this way (helpless, confused, scared) again
4. Am I capable treating others this way?
5. Am I next?
6. He looked pleased and gratified when she submitted
7. I cannot trust my caregiver; therefore, I cannot trust anyone
8. Be on guard and protect yourself at all costs
9. Fly under the radar as much as possible, become less so you don’t get noticed
10. I need to protect others because if I don’t someone might get injured or die
That is a shit ton for someone so small to process and deal with. BTW- if you have engaged in domestic violence- there you have it. Enough said. Those are the forever gifts you are giving the children in your life. Get real with yourself and get help.
There was another time when my mom decided to use corporal punishment on me. I have no idea what I even did but, whatever it was, my mom felt it needed to be addressed with a spanking to be performed with her bare hands. I was 9 and my mom told me to bend over and pull my pants down (never understood why that was an ingredient to spanking anyway- guess it hurts more?). It’s downright degrading to have to get on your knees, bend over, and have to submit to someone who is filled with anger. In any case, I just told myself- don’t cry. When I didn’t cry after her taking several pretty solid swats, she told me if I would just cry she wouldn’t spank me anymore. Finally, her swatting got more angry and intentional until my skin broke in places. She screamed, JUST CRY!
So let me get this straight, if I allow you to break me then you will stop? My spirit wouldn’t accept it. So my mom spanked me until her hand went numb, turned purple and she fell to the floor and cried in pain. I later broke down crying in my room because my ass hurt so damn bad and the shower water hurt like hell but I also got a sense of gratification and strength from the fact that I did not submit. It was like me throwing it in her face and saying with my unwillingness to be present and feel the pain “you hypocrite, I won, I am stronger than you, oh and screw you for not protecting me all these years, no matter what you irresponsible assholes do you can’t hurt me.”
I told myself that going silent is a sign of strength, not reacting was control and going numb would protect me. She never spanked me again but she did slap me, pull my hair, choke me, tell me she wished she never became a mom, and held me under water once in the pool after getting wasted. The more unexpressed grief my mom had the more drastic her abuse. I knew she was in pain and I wanted her pain to end so I took it, didn’t fight back, and sacrificed my pain for hers.
I should say that my mom made a concerted effort to ask for forgiveness after rededicating her life to Christ and in the years after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and leading up to her death we made amends and I forgave her. She became a soul mate to me. Even though I forgave her in my mind and in my heart I didn’t express it outwardly in the form of tears. I didn’t want to make her feel guilty. I wanted there to be peace.
I denied myself the grief and when grief is disowned it becomes dangerous. It was trapped inside of me like a bullet bouncing around. I set aside my needs for the greater good and harmony of my family. Instead I learned to use humor as a deflector or disappear when things were intense. I would sometimes lock myself in my room for days only resurfacing for dinner if forced.
Being funny came natural to me and instead of making everyone uncomfortable it got the point across and made everyone laugh. It seemed to break the tension but what people don’t seem to recognize is that the funniest, most charismatic, endearing, empathetic, intuitive people in the world are some of the saddest, repressed and depressed people on earth. You have to know deep buried pain to recognize when it is deep and buried in someone else. Being funny is likeable, acceptable and being sad, well that is just a downer and nobody wants to sit willingly next to sad at the lunch table for very long.
I just had a thought and I am going to share it. As I wrote out the above stories, deep wounds, and experiences above it felt good to get them out but, then I started to think about you reading them and you seeing my pain, your judgments and I almost deleted everything. Why? I don’t want to make you uncomfortable- that’s why. So let me go on record now, I am writing about this not to rehash every painful memory and depress everyone. I am doing it because I need to heal and I deserve to heal and to have peace and I can’t do that if I have more fear than I do love for myself. If you are uncomfortable, then perhaps you have your own work to do. So I am going to see that for what it is and release it.
Which brings me full circle back to my original concern- not having had a true “ugly cry” in three years. When someone doesn’t allow them selves to feel grief and express it in the way it was designed I think it gets trapped until it is so destructive that it requires divine intervention to dislodge it from the body and release it from the spirit. I think God uses gentle nudges to get us there but sometimes we have to hit rock bottom and we have to either temporarily lose something, someone, ourselves in order to wake us up.
A few days ago I was out and I witnessed a brother and sister having a starring contest. At first it felt like time stopped just for me to experience/observe them experiencing the joy of this wonderfully sacred moment watching them be playful with each other, enjoying each other, not having any fear of seeing each other and having full acceptance of each other. I thought, that is God right there. God just showed me that. It made me smile so deeply and then that moment turned into the most intense grief I have felt in a very long time and in the blink of an eye and I couldn’t control it. I ran to my car and burst into the most solid ugly cry I think has ever been cried.
I realized that God was bringing me the edge of a hole in my heart that I was too scared to face because in doing so I would have to admit to myself that I was hurt and that I could not repair it myself. That would mean I am broken, flawed, inadequate, wrong, not in control and I could not allow myself to be out of control- not consciously anyway. It would mean that I would have to consider that I was rejected, dejected, and maybe not really ever loved by someone I shared a few starring contests with- someone who was my mirror- someone I called my best friend. That we were a mistake in each other’s lives and other fear based thoughts.
Fear is a thief that enters our thoughts and love asks grief to step in and have us feel the discord between the truth and fear. That uncomfortable feeling then becomes the catalyst for love to show fear the exit sign.
Grief comes to the door of your heart and knocks and says let me take this from you and in a split moment you peer through the peephole and decide whether to answer and allow grief to do its job so that you can give what you cannot handle, control, or change over. If you don’t answer the door then grief waits forever and the more you ignore it, it becomes a pesky collector. To drown him out drastic defenses are required but inevitably grief will work as designed and since you are not working with the design and instead push against it you grow more and more tired until you are sick, addicted, the worst version of yourself, depressed, suicidal, or until you surrender to divine intervention who will unlock the door to your heart for you and invite grief in to be felt so that grief can be expressed and released. So that love can be felt and remembered authentically again and the truth can be seen.
I know that the person I shared starring contests with loved me and I am grateful for those moments. I am also grateful for the grief I feel remembering those moments because they have brought me back to consciousness with my spirit and I know for certain that at least for a few moments I was seen and loved completely and that I saw and loved this person completely, without fear of failure, without condition, without an agenda, without any external input or opinions from others not involved in our starring contest. So if that is the case that means the lie I keep telling myself is just a fear-based lie. Because it feels more realistic and plausible to believe the other person was not who they pretended to be, that we tricked each other, than to recognize we are human, we hurt each other, and if we admitted we were wrong and forgave each other we would have to risk loving each other again and that is scary.