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It's Okay to Cry

Kenneth Burke Writer It's Okay to Cry

At least three members of our family are in ominously poor health. One passed last week, and others are on a first name basis with hospital staff.

My wife's side of the family has lost at least four loved ones in the last eighteen months, has one with terminal cancer, and has recently sent others to the ER.

Financial burdens run amok. Our nation is the definition of chaos. The world is in shambles! And everyone is unhappy.

I'm a positive person. Life's much easier when you're a positive person. I regularly advocate that everything becomes better when you become a positive person - not an optimist, per se, but one who hopes. Suffering is only temporary.

Except, how do you tell the person who is quite literally losing everything that it's okay? How can you sit there with a smile on your face, devoid of empathy, watching every fiber of life drain from those you care about?

Sometimes, out of respect for the situation, you need to suffer openly as well.

A few years ago, a friend and college hallmate of mine tragically passed. Healthy, great student, incredible servant. The entire college was morose for weeks! As young people tend to do, we came together in a time of need.

Fifty arrogant, pseudo-macho guys from adjoining halls prayed, and worshipped, and supported, and shared memories with each other bawling and coughing for air. We couldn't help it! We were overcome by grief. By fear. By the realization that we aren't invincible or safe from harm.

It was magnificent.

Our guards were down. There was no saving face. There was just a surreal appreciation for the moment. Tomorrow may come, sure. But that's not what's important right now.

What's important is that we indulge in the overwhelming emotion of the situation. That we overtly signal to others that we are with them in this moment, and that they are not alone.

It's okay to be consumed by a crisis! It's okay to express emotion that might not otherwise align with your reputation or image. It's okay to cry!

Refusing to let the aura of the situation wash over you is an insult to everyone involved. Someone is inevitably going to have to be the rock solid support, but you can still show how much you care.

How many times have you been in a terrible situation - funeral, emergency room, divorce, bankruptcy, crime scene, whatever - and you look around to find everyone melancholy at best?

We might physically show up for someone, but we tend to be emotionally distant. What good does that do?

Naturally we want to avoid pain, and our reflex is to separate ourselves from whatever might cause us pain. Our reflexes are selfish.

Stuff happens. Terrible stuff happens! And it's not always temporary. I want to be as eternally hopeful and positive as the next person, but sometimes that's irrelevant.

Sometimes the most important thing to do is hug the suffering like they're the only thing left in this world, and let the tears flow.


This article was originally published in the Donalsonville News on August 18th, 2016.