Nobody likes to grieve. Nobody LIKES to cry in public and make a spectacle of him/herself. Nobody (that I know at any rate) WANTS to be miserable and feel horrible and just wallow in it. And even when we do allow ourselves to grieve, there is a wide world around us telling us when we should be done with it. Well-meaning people, most of the time, there are folks around us who want us to “get on with it.” We should move on. I’m not saying that isn’t true, but it’s about as helpful as Tom Hanks yelling “There’s no crying in baseball!” It just doesn’t help. Sometimes it even makes the person grieving feel worse because now on top of how they feel, there is the added guilt and confusion of “should I NOT feel this way? Is something wrong with me that I’m still feeling this way?” So let’s stop for a moment and make sure we properly define what it is to grieve.
Grieve: verb (used without object), grieved, grieving. To feel keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss. (From dictionary.com)
Now I’ve heard people describe grieving as a process (seven stages of grief right?) and there’s this sense that if you know the steps you are supposed to take, you can get through it and “get on with life” faster. I say this as someone who has suffered that “keen mental anguish” and I thought to myself “you know how to get through this, so get through it.” It helps that there was plenty of outside pressure around me: had to take care of others, had to get back to the job I just started, had to make sure the machine of everyday life kept on going (as if I was somehow responsible for that). Side note, there’s a great sequence in the musical Rent called “without you” that addresses all of these “have to’s” that once stopped me from grieving.
Now personally my aversion to grief is associated with an all too typical, macho male aversion to emotional displays (thus the image from League of Her Own). But if I were really honest, and if I think most men were REALLY honest with themselves, I would say that the real problem with grief is not the emotional display but that it makes me feel alone. I don’t see anyone else crying therefore I shouldn’t either. I don’t see anyone else struggling to get through the day and get the “have tos'” done so I’ll pretend like it’s business as usual. And maybe if everyone thinks I’m doing ok and I’ve got it all together then maybe I won’t feel so alone anymore.
I can read that and call it garbage. You can read that and laugh at my own absurdity but that doesn’t change how my heart and my instincts work. And as much as I want everything to be ok and as much as I want to roll with the punches and keep on carrying on, there are times when I want to stop and have a temper tantrum. Sometimes I don’t want to change and sometimes I don’t like how weak it makes me feel. The truth is that there actually is crying in baseball and I don’t need someone shouting encouragement or correction. The truth is that I don’t like grieving because I don’t like feeling alone. The truth is that sometimes I just need someone to sit with me in the ashes and not say anything at all.