Why I Want You To Cry For Me

mourning

When I die, I hope people cry for me.

I know you’re not supposed to say that. I don’t know if I’ve ever gone to a funeral or memorial service where someone didn’t say, “So and so doesn’t want you to cry for them.” Or “We should be rejoicing today instead of mourning.”

And it’s kind of silly, because I also don’t know if I’ve ever attended a funeral or memorial service where no one cried.

We are not good at grief. And I think Christians are kind of the worst at it.

Because most Christians believe in some kind of after-life, there is a strong tendency to simply look at this life – this wild, gorgeous, messy, intricate life – as a kind of gas station stop. Compared to eternity, what is 80 years? A drip, a molecule, an atom. So no grief necessary, we have eternity.

I understand that. The promise of heaven is a comfort in times of sadness.

But I don’t want it to eliminate sadness, and that seems far too often to be the goal. We don’t have a right to be sad because Heaven. We don’t have a right to grieve because Eternity. We’ve taken the promise that there will be no more tears and no more pain and applied it to today, all the while ignoring passages telling us to weep with those who weep or that there are seasons for mourning.

I believe that speaking about mourning as a shameful activity has larger implications. Our inability to allow for grief cuts off our ability to connect intimately.

My grief is most poignant when it is for those with whom I am connected most deeply. The closer the relationship, the more deeply I will feel the loss, whether through death or some other circumstance that separates us.

When we don’t allow space for grief, we inhibit closeness. We all know that there is no way to really avoid sadness due to loss, but we also know that we can lessen that sadness if we never get too close. Jesus’s prayer for oneness becomes a kind of academic religious command, but not something that we’re quite willing to experience. We know that it’s right, but we don’t know if it’s really right for us.

Here is what I know. Intimacy is worth it.

If you want to be able to fully celebrate someone’s life when they are gone, you have to be invested in that life. You dig in with both hands and love, love, love them. You eat good food with them, and make inside jokes with them, and play pranks on them. And sometimes you fight and you hurt each other, but then you cry and apologize and make things right again.  You give generously and you receive generosity.

It will be intensely painful because when you’re one with someone, their pain is multiplied in you.

It will be intensely joyful because when you’re one with someone, their joy is multiplied in you.

So when I’m gone, you have permission to grieve for me. And I hope it’s because while I’m here, I’ve given you permission to be one with me.

  • Diane

    This is so true about grief. Invest and then know that you will grieve the loss of someone but that in the end it has all been worth it.

    I think you’re right that as Christians we can be afraid to grieve because it makes it seem like we don’t believe in the afterlife, but that isn’t true. We need to admit how much we miss our friends on this earth when they move on.
    I’ve written a lot about it on my blog

    D x

  • Sharideth

    Oh Alise. This might be my favorite thing you’ve ever written.

  • Lisa Marshall Owen

    I love this. I have often said the same thing. While eternity is a beautiful thought, there is a need and desire to grieve over our loss.

  • Laura

    Beautiful and true. The closer is going into my favorite quotes file. I wonder if you have written previously about receiving generously? I will comb your blog archives. There may be a lesson for me there.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      I wrote about it a little bit here: http://alise-write.com/the-messy-business-of-intimate-friendship/

      But it’s been something that I’ve been thinking about and will probably have to write about more. Because that’s the side of friendship that I’m less good at.

      • Laura

        That one also speaks to me. Thank you for making the connection. You are so right about how hard it is to let yourself be that vulnerable. Your words will keep reminding me that intimacy is worth it.

  • Mark

    I gave the welcome and opening prayer at a memorial recently. I specifically included words to the effect that grief is a gift through which God works to bring together families and communities and through which we learn a bit more of what it means to be human beings.

  • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

    I agree. Death is an occasion of separation and loss, even though they are not permanent. It is appropriate to grieve and to cry.

  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ Leigh Kramer

    That was one of the most troubling notions I encountered during my hospice/bereavement days- that we should celebrate, instead of mourn. (When someone told me this at my aunt’s funeral last fall, I almost slapped them.) There should be a sting when we lose someone. It reminds us of what we had and what we no longer have and in order to honor that relationship, mourning is essential. Now, yes, we can point to a someday reunion in heaven but if Jesus wept at Lazarus’s grave, then how much more should we. We all have to figure out how we best mourn, according to our personalities, coping style, and so on. Not everyone cries, at least not publicly, at funerals but we need to pause and be mindful of who we have lost. At the very least.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Absolutely. I don’t mean to say that you have to cry. But you know – if that’s your jam, weep it out, and don’t let anyone shame you for it.

  • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

    Love this on so many levels, Alise. Powerful post.

  • http://iamjakz.com/ Jaklyn Larsen

    After losing my dad to cancer last year, I’ve often written about my grief… And at times I’ve questioned myself, my writings, my not “getting over it” yet… Am I embracing my grief too much? Am I just being dramatic? Am I not a strong enough believer in that, though I know my dad is heaven, I still occasionally weep that I don’t get to see him now?
    No.
    Grief is part of out lives, something we cannot deny.
    Thank you for the reminder that we need to dig deeply into our relationships, time is short and if we don’t, we will spend the rest of our days wishing we had. Thanks also for the affirmation that sometimes we need to embrace our pain, to walk in it, to not deny it. Your words were needed today, by me, and I’m sure by many others.

    • http://lovingfromtheinsideout.blogspot.com Connie

      Losing someone that you love is not something you “get over.” You get through the worst of the grief, you learn to live with it, you learn to live somehow in spite of it. But you don’t get over it. I hope you don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself. *hugs*

      • http://ear-sword-miracle.blogspot.com/ Miles O’Neal

        Yes. That hole will always be there. It may get partially filled in (it should). The jagged edges smooth some over time. But there will always be that hole this side of the veil.
        Six months after a nine year old we loved lost her year long battle with cancer, someone told her mother she needed to just get over it. I really wish I’d been there. It may be a good thing I wasn’t.

  • rich_chaffins

    Dear friend, this is beautiful. I retract the crux of what I said when we were talking about this. I was wrong and you were right! There. I said it.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      It’s nice to know that the opposite of our normal routine of me being wrong can occasionally be reversed. ;)

  • John P Darrow

    I wanted to emphasize something Leigh mentioned:

    Jesus wept.

    Jesus, who had just declared that He was the Resurrection and the Life. He, who had already made it clear that he would be raising Lazarus from the dead. He, who knew better than anyone else that life is only a drop compared to eternity, because He Himself was Eternal. He, who knew better than anyone else the Paradise of Heaven because He Himself had come from there and was in deep communion with the Father who dwelt there.

    He Himself wept at Lazarus’s grave – so much so that those around him came right out and said “See how he loved him!”

    Anyone who tries to tell us that we ought not to weep at someone’s passing needs to go back to Jesus, because whatever belief they’re following might be loosely based on him, but it certainly isn’t truly him.

  • Gordon Duffy

    Speaking of comfort in a time of sadness…

    I’m betting Alise already knows this, but, “in a better place” is not comforting to non-believers. Quite the opposite. I hope that is something people can bear in mind. I can say from personal experience that it really hurts.

    • http://lovingfromtheinsideout.blogspot.com Connie

      It can be non-comforting to believers, too. Seriously. Even if I believe Heaven is a better place than Earth, I still want him [in my cae, my fiance] to be here with me. Period.

  • pastordt

    Amen. Thank you.

  • http://lovingfromtheinsideout.blogspot.com Connie

    Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

  • http://www.outofmyallegedmind.com Nancy Franson

    I was at a funeral service for a young marine yesterday. The pastor said very much the same thing. Our grief reflects our love. And Christ consecrated the act of grieving by shedding tears at the tomb of his friend. Lament is its own kind of worship–the kind that says, “Death is an enemy. This is not the way it’s supposed to be.”

  • Steve Gish

    Amen, Alise!

  • https://sites.google.com/site/holyhugs/ Jim Fisher

    As the cross of Jesus teaches us, as Good Friday teaches us, we must sit with our darkness rather than try to outrun it. We must yield to our loss in order for it to transform us. But rather than passing through it in order to emerge a whole person on the other side, to yield to loss is to absorb it into your soul—like the dirt that absorbs death and decay—and from that rich soil to then emerge as new person, a new creation. Somehow deeper. Somehow fuller. Somehow larger. Somehow like Christ, because of the cross.

    - From a sermon by Daniel Harrell

    http://parkstreetchurch.blogspot.com/2011/03/stages-of-grief.html

  • http://ear-sword-miracle.blogspot.com/ Miles O’Neal

    Even when I know beyond a shadow of a doubt they are with God, there’s still a hole in my life shaped like that person. And teh more I am sure of where they are, the better I likely knew them, so the bigger and the more jagged the hole.
    Sometimes at funerals I am overwhelmed with God’s grace, his love, even his joy and peace. This sometimes leads to laughing and crying at the same time, which looks like either drunkenness or craziness to some people. I don’t care. Funerals are for the living, and everyone should process as they need to. For a lot of us, that will include some crying. If I didn’t really know the Dearly departed, I’m probably there to support someone else. In that case, “weep with those who weep” is one of the most aproppo bits in the Bible.

  • Agrajag

    Good post. You’re right. Death is more of a tragedy for those of us who believe that this life is all there is. For me, when someone dies, it means they’re gone. Permanently. Everything that they where. Memories, ideas and perhaps things they made will linger for a while, but they themselves are gone, and to me that’s the biggest tragedy of all.

    I find the talk of this life being just a drop in an eternity of time sad. It trivializes life. Yes our lives are short and fragile. But precicely that very thing makes every moment we get to experience so special, so valuable. The fact that life is short, is the best reason I know of to make the best of it.