Lynn Beisner has always felt that grief isolated her from the world. But when Lynn and Pete’s beloved dog died suddenly, she found herself able to cry beside her husband.
My Darling Pete:
Thank you for crying.
When I called to tell you that our dog had a seizure and no longer recognized me: Thank you for crying.
As we carried her into the vet and together made the horrible decision to put her to sleep: Thank you for crying.
When we sat on the floor, with our precious dog’s head cradled on our laps, as we held her and talked to her until the last bit of her life had left her body, thank you for crying.
When we got home, and I curled up in a ball on our bed and sobbed: Thank you for climbing in next to me, and thank you for crying.
The truly shitty thing about grief is how isolated it can make a person feel. If you have ever been part of a funeral caravan, the thing you notice is not how many other cars are with you in the procession but how many cars are not in it. You look out your window at a world that has moved along without the person that you loved.
One day I came home from work to find a scrap of paper on which my roommate had taken down a message from my mother. It read, “Your mom called. She says someone named Charles died today. Also, she wants to know if all of the Christmas gifts fit the kids.” That was how I learned of the death of the only father figure that I had ever known—in a message that included a reminder to thank her for Christmas presents.
That was the man who had loved me even as he gave me enough issues for life-long therapy. I was a couple thousand miles from the funeral. I had no one to grieve with. My mother loathed the man, and I didn’t have contact with his family anymore. My roommate gave me a book of poems about grief and suggested a spiritual retreat in a monastery.
The other way that tragedy seems to happen in my life is that I am at the heart of the action, but unable to include anyone else in the proceedings. This happened when my son Jordan was born early. The nurse placed his tiny fragile body in my arms. I watched as the bird cage of his ribs expanded and contracted trying to pull oxygen into lungs, as thin and gossamer as butterfly wings. As he exhaled for the last time, he made the haunting imitation of a cry and then went entirely still. I was alone. Many people hadn’t realized I was pregnant, so they weren’t the wiser when I wasn’t anymore. The nurses gave me a sedative that night, although whether it was for their comfort or mine was never quite clear to me.
I have always believed that the sound and fury of my grieving was more than anyone should have to put up with. I felt the need to apologize for crying, to reign in my sobs and tamp down my blubbering declarations of love and loss. And I am sure that there are quite a few people in the world who are relieved that I took the stoic, less noisy route.
Grieving became synonymous with time spent hiding in my room, or a pantry or a copy room. It was a time for me to slunk off alone, and to do the really hard work of transforming overwhelming feelings anger, sadness, depression and burbles of black humor into numbness. I would concentrate on the tip of my nose just as I did as a child when my mother would physically abuse me. The tip of my nose never hurt, and if I concentrated hard enough I could hide most of my heart behind the tip of my nose. I would concentrate on my nose and on my breath until it was time to start figuring out how to carry on.
But when our beloved Moo became ill, it was different. You pulled me into your arms, and for once, I accepted that physical comfort because I had discovered that men often snuggle out of mutual need and not out of obligation. And as I nestled my head under your chin, breathing in the sweet smell of your body wash, aftershave and that wonderfully comforting smell that is uniquely you, I felt your tears drip onto my head. They rolled down under my hair and collected along with my own in the sloppy wet mess of my collar.
Had you been “strong and manly” I would have been alone again, isolated on the island of my grief. Thanks to your tears, I was not alone as we said goodbye to the best pet I have ever known. You were mourning with me. Your tears gave me permission to sob for as long as I needed to. Your awkward moment of sentimentality gave me permission to gush about our lost girl, and to throw her a booze-soaked wake.
Thank you for crying, my dear brave man. I know how hard that is for you. You did not cry at your mother’s funeral or when we lost our house after the loss of your job.
So when they came, your muted sobs and deluge of tears felt like gifts of love not just for yourself or for our dear departed Moo. They felt like you were giving me little bits of your soul that you allowed to be wounded when it would have been much easier to insulate and distance yourself from the pain.
Expressing your grief created a safe place for me to express mine. And in that space I could accept your comfort, and I hope that you were able to accept mine. Don’t worry; I don’t expect you to cry all the time. Of course we will still have black humor. But on the days when life is too real for that, it is nice to know that there is a place where I can mourn and be comforted.
I love you, and again: Thank you for crying,
Read more about Pete and Lynn Beisner in I’m In Love With This Manly Man
Photo: Flickr/seyed mostafa zamani