The Crying Game: Measuring Grief in Tears

I used to think of myself as a pretty stoic guy. No matter what happened, I tried not to show a lot of emotion one way or the other, especially when I felt sad. Maybe it’s a guy thing. (Even a gay guy thing.) Whichever it is, on average, I cried about once a year.

Then Michael died, and suddenly I worried that I wasn’t crying enough. Oh, I teared up whenever I talked about my husband. I broke down when I least expected to, but I still felt guilty that I wasn’t sobbing uncontrollably. Wasn’t that what people who had lost their husbands were supposed to do?

I needn’t have worried. These days I cry about everything. I cry over sad movies. I cry over songs about the end of love and songs about new beginnings. I can tear up over just about anything, but recently, two things reminded me about the purpose of tears and how important shedding them is to healing.

The first was taking a selfie. About a month after Marty and I moved in together, I began getting texts from friends asking for a picture, and I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that when I started to text it, I felt tears sting my eyelids. This was a good thing. What the hell was I crying about? I wondered. When I asked my friend Jenny about it, she gave me an intriguing answer. “It makes it real,” she said.

I still cry about Michael so often that every time I break down, Marty automatically assumes it’s about the husband I lost.

Last weekend, we were channel surfing on YouTube with our friend David and caught “America’s Got Talent” alum Brian Justin Crum and Matt Bloyd’s cover of “Tell Him,” and I started to cry. Marty put an arm around my shoulder and asked, “Is it, Michael?” I managed to mumble something about never thinking that I’d hear two men singing those words to each other in my lifetime, but what I wanted to say and couldn’t was, “These tears aren’t about Michael. I’m crying because this song reminds me of how happy you make me.” And, just like that, things started to change where my tears are concerned.

Published by: charlesdavis

Charles Davis, MSW, is the author of a couple of scientific journal articles, some encyclopedia entries and a chapter in a nursing textbook. He was a semifinalist for the 2023 Mason Jar Press 1729 Prize in Prose. A public speaker, Davis conducts training on disability law, disability etiquette, sexuality, and learning how to navigate grief as a gay man. He’s also obsessed with writing about classic films.

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5 thoughts on “The Crying Game: Measuring Grief in Tears”

  1. Wow I love this post. So many thoughts. I’m intrigued by the grieving process as well and am sort of in it right now (recent terrible breakup). And yet I realize when a deep loss happens, I think we continue to grieve for life. I still cry sometimes over my college boyfriend from 15 years ago and I didn’t even really like him all that much! 🤣 But the loss was still devastating at the time, and made a mark on my heart. And the tears coming out of us can be triggered by all things. The beauty and pain of all of life. But also about specific things and people. I didn’t really cry after my mom died until I heard a random Elton John song that reminded me of her, like a year after her death. I also think when the pain is so deep, our soul can’t really process the pain all at once. So it does take years maybe and letting the tears out when they come, even if it’s at a weird time, is just perfect. Thank you for sharing this. I’m so sorry for your loss ❤️‍🩹

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I so appreciate your encouragement and support. Michael’s death taught me so many things. I’ve learned that grief is one of the most complicated emotions we can feel. Another is that grief over any loss is a personal journey. There’s no wrong way to do it—an idea that is sometimes hard to believe.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great post. These pages of our lives, filled with grief and joy. And then more joy. No need to hurry through any process. Just be with all things as they come. Be. HERE. Now. Thanks for your thoughtful sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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