Today is my deceased husband’s birthday; the third one that I have spent without his physical presence. As I  am wearing his sweatshirt, sipping tea from his favorite #1 Dad coffee cup that one of our daughters gave him on a previous birthday, and typing this blog on his computer, sorrow pierces my heart. As a result, tears seem to be my constant companion with triggers at every turn: my daughters’ faces, our environment, a sound, a song, a movie, a scent, a feeling, a dream, a thought, a prayer…all can produce tears.

For me, tears seem to encapsulate a spectrum of emotions from shock, disorientation, anxiety, hopelessness, yearning and loneliness, to tears of gratitude and thankfulness. Sometimes, the myriad of emotions can occur all at once or simultaneously. Oh, yes, I feel like a mixed bag of nuts!

As I have grappled through all the crucial phases of grief and back through them again and again, my soul knows no time line or resolution. However, I have discovered that my tears have been my unleashing portal, my widow warrior armor, my thought process, my expression of faith and cathartic release.

My husband’s last birthday on this earth was bittersweet.  We celebrated in the hospital. Despite his tremendous pain, he welcomed all of his guests with authentic joy. He tried so hard to put on a brave face, chit chat with everyone, ask them about their lives, express his appreciation and love, and even enriched the conversations with his captivating dry wit and unique sense of humor.  After all his guests left, the hospital room was quiet and reality kicked in, he grabbed my hand and said, “Lisa, you can let it go, you can cry now.” He knew I was holding back the entire time. We both wept profusely together. It did not change the course, or detour the path, yet, we somehow felt cleansed, stronger and unified. This reminds me of a Jewish saying: “What soap is for the body; tears are for the soul.”

A few weeks after my husband’s passing, I received a card with a verse on front: “Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened.” At first, this quote from Dr. Seuss upset me. In my emotional state, I wasn’t ready to smile. Through the passage of time, I have come to comprehend the words. As I loved so profoundly, I have found that love and pain are intertwined. I cry tears of anguish as I recollect the cemented memories of watching my husband in excruciating pain. I cry tears of relief that he is out of his pain. I cry tears of utter sadness as I envelop my daughters’ grieving hearts. I cry tears of longing as I ache for him. I cry tears of all-encompassing reverence and happiness as I am honored that I was given the grand privilege to be with him for 24 years and that my daughter’s knew what it was like to be genuinely loved and adored. Furthermore, I cry tears of gratitude as I know we will be reunited again.

When I was six, I began having a dream of God crying over my bed during my times of distress.  As an adult, this dream still embellishes my mind and resurfaces at certain times. Christ’s image is so clear, so life-like and vivid. His tears join with mine. Four sets spilling down my face; the warmth of his fingers brushing them away. As I have pondered this sanctifying, enduring, comforting dream, I am humbled as I recall Charles R. Swindoll’s reassuring quote: “A teardrop on earth summons the King of Heavens.” I believe that each tear is entered into our Savior’s ledger.  “Tears are prayers too, they travel to God even when we can’t speak.” Psalm 56:8

In addition, tears can be a natural, therapeutic, stress reliever. While I was at my doctor’s appointment last week; again a trigger occurred and my tears emerged. Despite my embarrassment, she encouraged and educated me with the following.  William Frey II, a biochemist at the St Paul-Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis, found that emotional tears have 24 per cent more protein than reflex tears. Tears aren’t just salt water; they contain leucine enkephalin, an endorphin that modulates pain, and hormones such as prolactin and adrenocorticotropic, released at times of stress.  She then handed me a box of tissues and suggested, “Cry and revitalize, it’s your survival tactic.”

Well, I better close, as I am on my way to visiting my husband’s grave. If your tears run the gamut like mine, please give yourself the permission to cry. Tears empower us to embrace this journey of life, enable us to open up to healing, reaffirm our beliefs, and center us- deciphering how we are uniquely changed, how far we have come, and how we can proceed forward.

Thank you for reading my Wednesday blog as I whole heartedly feel that we gain strength from one another.  As always, please feel free to comment and share.

Blessings and Grace to You,

Lisa Dempsey Bargewell

My blog topic for next Wednesday: Widow Fog and the Kindness of Strangers