One of the most exasperating, sometimes debilitating steps in the grieving process in divorce is tears. Sometimes the crying just won’t stop. We cry when we hear our spouse’s voice on the answering machine. We cry when somebody mentions the year of our marriage. We cry when we say goodbye to our children. We cry when we see a couple kiss in the airport. Will it ever stop?
Yes, it will. But that’s jumping the gun.
Margie knew she was supposed to stop crying. Her divorce was “over.” (If you’re wondering why I put that in quotes, check out The Three Divorces). Her friends were ready to move on, and so was she, but every day, something made her cry. And the tears always came at the wrong time. When she was negotiating with her Ex about who was going to drop off her son at scouts. When one of her neighbors talked about the new couple moving in across the street. When one of her friends asked her to help at the Halloween carnival. In a meeting when somebody mentioned her husband’s company.
Margie was active in her church, and friends would tell her they were praying for her. She would always answer, “Pray for a day when I don’t cry.” Her prayers were answered, but it took four and a half months after the divorce decree was granted. She woke up one morning and realized, “I didn’t cry at all yesterday.” That didn’t mean her crying was over, of course, but it was at least the beginning of the end. “I started having more and more ‘no-cry’ days, and pretty soon the no-cry days got typical.” Margie is a work in progress. She still cries, but rarely now.
John’s divorce was painful but not unduly expensive. Through it all, John (who was the left) was intrigued that he had so little feeling for his wife, the mother of his children. “I sorta thought I’d be pining away after her, but I guess I was kinda relieved we were ending it,” he said. The divorce “ended.” Then, inexplicably, two months later, John started crying. “I’m not crying for her,” he insisted. “I’m really not. I guess I’m crying for my kids. I’m crying ’cause I miss the dog. I’m crying ’cause I think we’re failures. I’m crying ’cause . . . Hell I don’t know why I’m crying — it just hurts.”
Like Margie’s tears, John’s came at really awkward times, not so much with his kids or his exwife but with his friends. “I started crying on a date,” he agonized. “Do you have any idea what a turnoff it is when your date starts crying in the middle of the salad?”
As I told John and Margie, so I tell you. Crying is okay. Tears are your way of getting through the crud. They’re your body’s protective mechanism to keep you alive and get through the grief. Yes, there will be some embarrassing moments. There will be times when you can’t believe you’re not over this. And over time, you will realize you’re crying less.
You won’t believe this now, but you will believe it later: there will be a day not too far in the future when you will be glad you were able to cry. Because you’re able to cry now, your healing will be more complete later. It’s okay to cry.