A vial containing our tears : reflections on grief and grieving

There is a beautiful psalm or bible passage that I cannot remember the reference to which says that God counts and collects each one of our tears.  In a culture which so often denigrates grief it is important for us to know that our sorrow is not unimportant or in vain.  The implication is so often that we need to ‘be over it’, not carry it forward or just make sure we don’t make others too uncomfortable around us, because it can be hard for those who have not dealt with or are familiar to a grieving process to understand how essential the shedding of tears is.

I watched a movie a few weeks ago about a painful loss called The Shack and in it Sam Worthington plays an adult child of an alcoholic and abusive Dad who ends up losing his youngest daughter to a violent crime.   The movie is about his quest to come to terms with the anger, pain, sadness and resentment he holds towards a God who he feels ‘has forsaken him’ in allowing such a terrible thing to happen.  He ends up being transported to a cottage where he lives for a time with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and in one scene the Asian singer/actress who plays the later part holds up a vial that is full of his tears.   

This image speaks to me of ‘holding’ and containment which are two things we can really struggle with if we are not surrounded by those who assist us and support us to grieve.   I know in my own life that after my father died and my partner abandoned me I went overseas with much unresolved grief.  I acted it out over the next 8 years of my active addiction and my recovery was a journey to find my way back to it in order to understand, feel and release it.  (I am not going to say to ‘heal’ it because in a sense I think its a central mistake of our culture that grief is an illness that need to be cured or fixed somehow.)  Its a sad indictment of our modern society that in past years there has been a move to have grief included as a mental illness in the bible of psychiatry The DSM.   

Grief that is unresolved can indeed make us mentally and emotionally unwell.  To my mind it can be the huge unspoken ‘monster’ that lives at the basis of addictions and anger and the rage of acting out of terrorism and other means of reclaiming a sense of power and control within situations where we are actually overpowered.  Grief itself is feared by many because it is like a tidal wave in a way.  We can try to run from it or defend against it, but in my experience it always then finds some kind of way to knock us over sideways.  Far better not to see it as a monster but as a rejected energy that wants us to turn towards, surrender and acknowledge it.  

Being able to accept that grief is there and that we are powerless to a degree is the first step.  We can use different forms of containment.  For me dancing and writing and walking help to move the grief through my body, the freeze state of some traumas and traumatic injuries can be all about frozen grief that brings a critical event to us which externalises its intense charge in some form and then leaves us knocked over, frozen paralysed or powerless. 

And if we look to the ancestral epigenetic component we can see how this stored charge of grief and anxiety can be passed on from generation to generation.  When I start to get into compulsive cleaning I am aware of how much grief and a sense of powerlessness fuelled my Mum’s own manic cleaning binges.  And I got badly injured myself when she was in the midst of some of them.   I have injured myself so many times or broken things either gardening or cleaning that these days I am much more mindful in the midst of such activities, stopping and breathing and centring myself as much as I can.

I do believe that like most emotions grief is a kind of visitor to us, as in the poem by Rumi.  If we welcome the visitation of grief and take some steps to give it a place, then just possibly we will not be as compulsively ‘run’ over by it (or over run by it) and in time we as we integrate it, it will deepen and enrich us in the process.  

And what is most important is to know that grief has a purpose and its presence in our lives or heart is a sign that something had great value to and was cherished deeply by us or longed for.  It has come time to understand that value or experience or let that something or someone go and so there will be a shedding if we are to move forward.  Such losses and griefs will always be with us and remain forever a vital part of our soul on our ongoing journey through life.

24 thoughts on “A vial containing our tears : reflections on grief and grieving

  1. beautifully important post. I read the book and watched the movie of The Shack………it shook me to the core for some many reasons………may your day bring you a smile. 🙂

      1. yes…..it really was. if you haven’t read the book i would encourage you to do so. i thought is was much better than the movie. Blessings of peace.

  2. I agree so much with all that you say. Grief can hit us for all kinds of reasons, not just the loss of a person, but also the loss of other things. I grieve the loss of my eyesight – and cry over it. Yet this is not understood. Society does not understand or like tears. When I cried in my church I was told, “THIS won’t do you any good will it!” And to hold back tears is detrimental to health. Sometimes I feel I wilk burst, or fall to the ground with griefm or vomit from holding it in. It is so sad hiw society has gone nowadays. Yes, we i tegrate grief into us, but you are right – ut never actually goes. Thankyou for this great write Deborah.

    1. I felt exactly like that today and i believe its truely evil to deny tears. Ive read a wonderful exploration of the tale of The Handless Maiden and in it Pinkola Estes says tears soften the soul and scare away the predator..maybe all those pious sanctimonious people in your chuch are the real devils. 👹

      1. I utterly believe that about those in what WAS my church, Deborah. I have just left that church, but last night I had the most suckening and terrible nightmare about it. Strangely, to calm myself, I came into WirdPress, and found this post of yours, and responded. Then I went back to sleep. I have just woken up again. Feeling sick still from what has happened to me. Yes, I believe utterly what you say about tears, and akso grief. I lost my dearly lived grandmother at thus time of the year *23rd. December(. She was the one who lived me when my mother was abusing me.). I lost my father, who sometimes defended me from my mother, though he too could be violent. And at thus time gruef is so strong within me. But no one here understands. I don’t write it on my Blog because I feel it would drive people away. But it exists. Secretly almost. I feel sick most of the time now. Goung out is hard. I shake and tremble. I feel as if I am grueving so much. My lufe, maybe. And jyst so MYCH loss. And nithing could make me ignore it. It is there. It will become less painful maybe, in time. My grandmother died 20 years ago in December. But I never mourned her at the time, because my mother’s anger took prude of place. Her hatred of my grandmother. But I lived her. And now, 20 years later, I am grueving her. And also at this time, my 93 year old mother is very frail and sick, and may die soon. We nearly list her earlier this year. She has emohysema. And I still live my mother, despute all that she did to me. Anyway, it is nice to read posts that show a deep understanding of these things. No, you cannot run away from your grief. Not for ever anyway. I hate Christmas deep in my soul, and dread it every year. But we have just put a Christmas tree up, as I usualky do, in an attempt to defy gravity, if you see what I mean. Thanks for this pist Deborah. And all the live in the world to you xo

      2. I wish i had been awake earlier to see read and respond to this. PLEASE try to share some of it in your blog…the shaking is a sign of anger and grief trying to break through to the surface. You have had to hold so much inside. It kinda makes sense yoir sight was taken. Makes my heset break so for you. I know all about that shaking. I feel your pain and sadness OVER your Grandma loss soooo much 🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗 i am here for you YOU ARE NOT ALONE and sharing WILL HELP OTHERS. 💖🌹💕🤗🤗🤗💕🌹💖

      3. Thankyou so much Debirah. My sught loss was due to the chemo drug called vinblastine. It is the one that did so much harm to me. It caused my inability to walk too. It affects the motor nerves. The other drugs caused other things, like breathing issues. I have low oxygen levels and can do hardly anything befire I am struggling for breath. I am not allowed an anaesthetuc for that reason. Thise damned chemo drugs dud me in lol. But I am still here. Thankyou SO much for your live and carung Deborah. These times do pass xo

  3. “Grief I’ve learned is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go ” This is the best quote I’ve ever read that sums up how it feels to grieve……Hugs xx

  4. You really hit the nail on the head. I am learning to stop pushing down emotions. They never go away. But when I am able to sit with them, acknowledge them, they are able to move on through me. Healing me as they pass .

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