Stop. Breathe. Cry. Sometimes, it’s worth more than a smile.

So this popped up in my facebook feed.

And I just thought, “No.”

When life gives you one reason to cry . . . cry.

When life gives you one hundred reasons to cry . . . cry and find someone who will cry with you.

When life crushes you, when the power and the depth of the anguish threatens to overwhelm you as it crashes over you wave after wave, fight back with tears. Tears and cries and even screams if necessary.

But not with a forced smile. Not with some fake attempt to “count your blessings” (as if six living children makes up the balance sheet for one who went to heaven far too soon).

Because the continual message that a smile equals strength and tears are a sign of weakness is false. And destructive.

It’s designed to make others feel better about your pain. But it doesn’t help you.

As a Christian, grieving the loss of a child, it surprised me how quickly the body of Christ lost its patience with grief. Less than two weeks after my son’s death, a Christian man told me it was time to stop grieving. That he was in a better place and that if I believed that, I should rejoice. Grief was a lack of faith.

Less than three months later, someone from church asked me how I was and when I said not so good, she wanted to know why. I stumbled over the words because I didn’t really know her and what was obvious and inescapable in my world wasn’t in hers. Nor should it be. And I never like putting people in the position of feeling like they need to apologize for an innocent enough question that bore no malice. So I just said I had been thinking about Tiggy a lot.

“That’s still bothering you?”

Said in such an incredulous tone. It stung. Three months after he died, I almost gave up on going to church. Because right there in that moment, I couldn’t see all the love and support and one comment almost overshadowed it all.

But I went home and cried.

It seems to me the Christian church should understand suffering. That strength is not in a smile, but in vulnerability. That joy is a promise we cling to, but it is a very different thing from happiness.

Because Christ Himself went to the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion and sweated tears of blood, pleading for this cup to be taken from Him. And when His disciples, His closest friends, could not stay awake, He didn’t count his blessings and put on a happy face. He didn’t talk about His miracles, His ministry, that He would rise again in three days or even that His kingdom was about to conquer death itself.

No. He said,”Can’t you even watch with me for an hour?”

Because I believe this is what we are all called to do for one another. Just sit. Listen. Show love. Show mercy. And let the tears flow.

Because weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

And blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

And God himself will turn their mourning into joy. (Jeremiah 31:13)

And while the world constantly presses in, telling the hurting and the grieving to “just smile through it,” I think it is good to remember that His Word tells us that is better to go to a house of mourning than to a house of feasting. (Ecclesiastes 7:2)

Because grief gives you a glimpse of the state of a fallen world. It reminds you that this is not our home. It draws your attention away from yourself and toward Him. And only then can He give you beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of the spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:3)

22 comments
  1. Trishaf

    I have had this wonderment as well- and a dear friend of mine who lost her daughter at 8 has since stopped attending church. But even she says- why is the Christian faith so upset over how we deal with grief?
    It should be the most understanding and patient of all!
    Thank you for expressing your thoughts and the wonderful scriptural references.
    Stay strong, keep thinking of your child and don’t ever feel ashamed or like you’re not doing it right!

  2. Tiggy's Dad

    Tears are not a sign of weakness, but strength; truth that your pain will not conquer you; rather a sign that you are battling sorrow in a very real sense so as to overcome, not merely exist in some dream world where everything appears okay to the neighbors eye while you’re dying inside. This latter is not life but self-imprisonment.

  3. Jan Johnson

    So beautifully put. My father died when I was 14, and the next time I went to church, probably a couple of weeks later, people were trying to “comfort” me with “God needed another angel,” “it was meant to be,” “rejoice in his life he had on earth, “he wouldn’t want you to grieve.” I’m sorry, but my beloved father DIED! I think God understands our grief more than anyone and does not chastise us for our pain in such a huge loss. NOTHING comforted me, nothing anyone could say would comfort me when the only parent I had who I felt loved me was gone.

    Probably three years later, I went to see the secretary in my little Christian school that was part of my church, and she said, “I just think about your dad often. He was such a special man.” And I burst into tears. She was very upset and I told her she did nothing wrong, and I appreciated what she said, but the pain was still just under the surface and I went in the bathroom and cried and cried.

    I still cry sometimes because my children I adopted as a single parent never got to meet him or know how wonderful he was, and he would have loved them so much and been the male figure in their lives that they so need.

    To me, your feelings are the most normal a mother can have, and God, who gave up his own Son, knows and understands better than anyone.

    1. Dana

      It’s so hard. I hear some of the strangest things that have been said to people. I think the one that stood out to me the most was a woman who lost her son in a drowning accident and someone “comforted” her at the funeral with “At least you won’t have to toilet train him.”

      Most people truly do mean well and truly do want to help. But something about dealing with strong feelings is intimidating and when people don’t know what to say, anything can come out. Words meant to comfort drive you deeper into your shell because so many of the pat answers actually make you feel worse and you start to feel this expectation to not show your pain to anyone that isn’t helpful.

      Like my husband just posted to my facebook page,

      “I thought faith would say, I’ll take away the pain and discomfort, but what it ended up saying was, ‘I’ll sit with you in it.'” ~Brene Brown
      Dana recently posted…Stop. Breathe. Cry. Sometimes, it’s worth more than a smile.My Profile

    2. Jan Johnson

      Seriously! “At least you won’t have to potty train him!” Oh mercy.

      I do know most people mean well and a lot of it is true, but it is not comforting. I love the quote.

  4. Lauren Swinson

    Dana, I don’t know you personally, but I’ve been following your blog since around the time of Tiggy’s accident, and I have to say I’ve been incredibly impressed by you. You exude strength and faith while still experiencing the depths of raw grief, and I’m so glad you’ve allowed your readers to be a part of your journey. Thank you! And may God continue to bless you and your family with strength and peace (even through tears!) until you see your sweet baby boy again. <3
    Lauren Swinson recently posted…Erasing the BitternessMy Profile

  5. Chasing Slow

    ((hugs)) so much of what you shared resonates deep within the waves of grief. As another who has buried our stillborn baby boy, I so understand. Sometimes the waves are soft rolling in and at other times, they crash hard and hurt deeply. We’ve been given a gift of empathy for others that suffer this grief. I say gift in that God has greatly allowed me to see things so differently than as you share, “the church” who says move on. I can only imagine the Father’s grief as He watched His Son suffer and die.

    May you continue to be an example to others and share these pieces of your heart to teach others — let us remember, grieve, and cry.
    Chasing Slow recently posted…Celebrating my 1st born!My Profile

  6. MarshaMarshaMarsha

    I’m so sorry that people said such horrid things to you… Even if they meant well, it is utterly ridiculous and horrid to even insinuate that someone should have an end to grieving. I pray for God’s strength to grieve well this side of Heaven, but we will never stop missing our boys until we are together again. I am so thankful for Jesus and that we don’t have to walk this road alone.

  7. Ali Workentin

    Dana and family

    First off hugs, you have shared here what I have thought many times over. If it’s okay, I would love to share your post on my Facebook page.

    It has been 38 years since our little Royce passed away. I don’t say lost because I know where he is, but he is gone from us and yes even this many years later there are still some days that just flat out sting!

    Love and hugs to you and yours.
    Ali
    Ali Workentin recently posted…Have You Ever?My Profile

  8. Amy Davis

    Thank you for this. I’m going to share it with a young friend (she’s 13), and five years in to the grief of losing her older brother (though he managed to live through the IUD in Afghanistan, he’s completely changed, and she considers it a loss). Her friends are telling her to get over it, and she just wants listened to. It’s healthy and normal to grieve, and for a long time.

  9. Shanda

    I agree with you 100%. Not even just in the category of grief! But any sort of recovery. Who are we to put a time limit on people? Everyone is different and some hurts will never be “gotten over”. They ebb and flow. Your post is full of wisdom. Thank you.

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