I just heard that song from the 70’s,”Sad Eyes”, by Robert John. Part of the lyric in a nutshell is a dude who is having an affair with another woman before his wife comes home from where ever and he’s telling her he can’t see her any more, and he says…”sad eyes…look the other way…I don’t want to see you cry”. Whew, it made me sad. I won’t even get started on the actual crappy situation I will keep my commentary strictly to the, to cry or not to cry part.
Bridging the Gap
Of course it stirred the pot in me. I know there are quite a few of our brothers and sisters on the planet that have a difficult time watching someone cry, so I would like to be of service if I can. I would like to bridge the gap between those of us that cry at everything or at least important things and those of you who have a really uncomfortable time with it. I would like to give a quick tutorial on what to do if someone breaks down in tears in front of you. First of all, let’s discuss the different kinds of criers. In general profoundly empathetic and sensitive people have an enormous amount of compassion. Of course not in every case but for the most part. Usually there is at least one in every family and they have a very important role in their family and on the planet. Highly sensitive people often feel the grief of the planet. There are folks who will help to carry your grief or the grief of other family members. Sometimes there are those who feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. Take the events of 9/11 for example. There were a lot of us that sat around for days after that, immersed in crying and sadness, and then there were others who kept the flow of the community going. Not taking the time to express that kind of emotion.
Emotion Takes Electricity and Gas
Emotion takes an enormous amount of energy and stamina. It also takes the right philosophy to accompany it. Many people don’t cry because they associate it with shame and weakness, others feel that if they give in to it they may never dig themselves out. The truth is if you or someone you know is experiencing grief and sadness but unable to express it, that energy goes somewhere. Most likely to the closest family member or friend who is willing to feel it. Or even someone like me who feels every ones grief. Now that we know; the who, what, and how; let’s organize the options for how to support these highly sensitive compassionate people.
- Always look them in the eye. Ignoring them or showing them your discomfort can never help and usually supports the idea that somehow they are broken.
- If you don’t know what to do, ask. It is okay with most criers if you admit that you’re not sure what to do and ask. Ultimately it makes them feel better to be acknowledged rather than judged.
- Never yell and scream at someone who is experiencing extreme emotion. Not only will it escalate the situation but it will make both of you feel worse.
- Hugs are good for some and not for others, but always a good idea. Just ask if it will bring comfort to the one who is grieving. Just a little disclaimer: Usually the crying one will cry harder when hugged.
- Sometimes just sitting in silence with a friend is the best medicine.
- Always remember that grief is temporary. What you feel now you won’t feel later. So focus on getting through the moment. If you do, it will process more quickly.
A Loving Job
In the times in my life when my grief was the worst, somehow the people around me provided the least comfort, and it always seemed that it shouldn’t be that way. Living in New York City certainly made me durable, but there was a lot of grief. During those times it was often the homeless people on the street that were the only ones who would look me straight in the eye, and ask if I was ok. I always said that I was, and felt great relief and comfort because someone had the courage to look at me and ask. Ultimately someone who suffers doesn’t want you to take their suffering, they just want you to be nice, kind, and honest, and they definitely don’t want to have to help you deal with the fact that they suffer. That is your job…and a loving one should you decide to embrace it.
Right now it is a uniquely emotional time for all of us in some way. The holidays can have their own difficulties attached so when you’re going to your dysfunctional family gathering, seeing those long lost friends, or are maybe spending this year alone. Here are a few little spiritual tidbits to chew on for the season. Now, hold on to your boot straps and go forth!
What You Put In, Is What You Get Out
Remember that the energy and thoughts you put into the season is exactly what you will take away from it. If you’ve decided to host this year and secretly feel like you always give too much; this doesn’t bode well for you. Consider writing down a positive affirmation;
“Giving brings me joy, and I am thankful to be surrounded by people to receive”.
Self Pity-Not Good
If you find yourself alone this year or aren’t interested in any of the invitations you’ve received, DON’T give in to self-pity. Remember, these days are what you make of them. Take this opportunity to reflect on what really brings you joy. Make a list of 10 of them, and then choose one to make happen. One of my favorite things is a sacred ritual. Something that you do to show your commitment and discipline towards what you want. There is an old Guatemalan ritual for traveling more in the New Year. Take a suitcase and walk around your block on the first of January. The size of the suitcase and the length of the walk is said to determine how much you will travel. At the end of the walk I was laughing so hard I didn’t care where I went, and I certainly no longer felt stuck. Incidentally, I did travel more that year.
Rome Wasn’t Built In a Day
Consider that you won’t be able to undo a life time of ancestral conflict over just one turkey, so let yourself off the hook just for this month. Save your deeply honest comments for another time and focus on kindness. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is just say hello.
A Little Honey Goes a Long Way
Sit down 24 hours before your family gathering and write out three nice things about everyone attending. Even if all you can come up with is, “Aunt Agatha’s bellowing voice deserves to be on Broadway.” Now of course if you’ve got 100 people coming, just do this for the people who render the highest irritation quotient for you every year.
Moderation: All it’s Cracked Up To Be
Everything in moderation is the name of the game. Nothing adds insult to emotional injury like over indulging in liquor and food. If you drink too much you’ll say something you mean, and eating too much always precipitates rudeness.
Always Another Day To Talk Politics
Everyone knows it’s best not to discuss politics and religion, while trying to make new friends or keeping the peace, but if you know that Uncle Ben just lost his favorite dog, please don’t bring it up at the dinner table. Take him for a spin around the block after dinner or catch him on his way to the bathroom, and offer him your condolences in a swift and gentle manner. If he decides he is comfortable with a full conversation, he’ll let you know.
Ace in Your Pocket
Now here is the Ace in the hole; this is what you keep in your pocket and refer to when the going at the family gathering gets rough. This is meant to be used in extreme cases only, and is definitely not one size fits all. If you are showing up to the same dinner every year that your father gets drunk and tells you what a disappointment you are, be prepared this year. Bring one item of irreverence. To keep in your pocket, hide in your purse, or even put in your shoe; to remind you that the power a person or situation has over you is the power you give it. In this case I might get a small rock and write a note to wrap around it that says, “Those who live in glass houses should not cast the first stone.”One year I put a slice of bologna in my shoe, to remind me that nothing is really as it seems.
Most of all, take deep breathes, keep your humor, and tell yourself you are loved, peaceful, powerful, and gosh darn it…people like you, because you are and somewhere someone does. Happy Holidays!
Today, I claim forgiveness. I claim forgiveness for myself and my heart to all those who could not be who I wanted them to be. To those who have shown me anger and unkindness. To those who could not understand me or extend compassion. To those who have shown me malicious violent intent and action or indifference. To all those who could have no understanding of the impact of their actions. For this, I send them back their spirit with love and gratitude for having had the opportunity to know them in such an intimate way, for to see someone’s deepest vulnerability and fear is the path to their heart. I also claim forgiveness for anyone who may still be holding a piece of bitterness for the same from me. I ask for it to be surrendered immediately and the space in which it lived to be filled with gentleness, as it is our gentleness that transforms all things. In this forgiveness I embrace my own responsibility and empowerment to accept people as they are and to accept those parts of myself that cannot change. I own the power to change anything within me that does not allow for this acceptance. I understand that there can be no blame in forgiveness. I claim forgiveness.
Zechariah 3:9, “I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.”
Photo by Faith Miller