***DISCLAIMER/TRIGGER WARNING*** The “Grief Sucks” series is an ongoing response to my experience of a recent loss. As such, it may contain things that could serve as triggers for people who have also experienced loss. Finally, I respect that there are as many ways to grieve as there are people and I mean no offence to those who process grief differently than I do. Should you choose to stay and read, I ask only to be met with that same basic respect and understanding.
I will start by saying that I have never been a fan of the expression “ugly crying.” Loaded with implications and judgement, it invokes an immediate dichotomy between itself and what might be called “pretty crying.” Inevitably, these types of dichotomies lead to sad, overwhelmed, or angry people getting vulnerable, loosing their tears, and then unavoidably getting self-conscious about what kind of crying they are doing.
I mean, obviously, in the best of circumstances, no one is going to give a damn what kind of crying you are doing but it all just seems like a way to sell waterproof mascara in a culture obsessed to the point of maniacal madness with youth-centred beauty. Worse yet, to even playfully engage with some kind of scale from “pretty” to “ugly” crying just creates another way to wrap certain emotions in shame. You know. The kinds of emotions people often try to drown in booze, shopping, drugs, and sex rather than face them, process them, or heal them.
And, that’s the thing.
Crying isn’t about pretty.
It isn’t about ugly.
It’s a physical expression of emotion; Life written in, and through, the body.
A signpost of a hurt to which we should attend.
As such, I choose today to focus on:
Those of you who have been wracked with a “heave-sob” or a full-blown set or session of “heave-sobs” or “heave-sobbing” will immediately know what I’m talking about.
There is usually a type of doubling over oneself as abdominal muscles contract. Sometimes, I personally wind up in a type of Heave-Sob Child’s Pose on the floor wherever I happen to have been when the heave-sobs claimed me.
Often, there is overt wailing, moaning, or a type of animal keening that comes from somewhere soul-like and primal.
Occasionally, there is drool.
Drool typically happens because sometimes heave-sobs make you stop breathing for a while with your mouth still open. The best I can make out, the extended duration of being gape-mawed triggers a kind of “better lube things up, she’s keeping things open for a long stretch here” response from the salivary glands.
At times, a single heave-sob can be the start of a normal crying session. Other times, heave-sobbing – as mentioned above – IS the crying session.
Either way, the moments I have been most likely to cry in this guttural, full-bodied, and agonized sort of way have usually been at times of acute loss. My two separations, severe heartbreak at the unavoidable loss/surrender of a good friendship, my father’s recent passing out of this world.
Heave-sobs leave me utterly, unspeakably exhausted.
Bereft and forsaken by all the world’s gods and goddesses…
I guess the good thing is that I have somehow come to know that shopping, booze, drugs, and/or sex as anaesthetic don’t work on me. Nor do obsessive bouts of work or exercise. So, I don’t often run from my heave-sob sessions or the pain that causes them to happen. I do sometimes try to stave them off a bit until I can be alone, though, so that I do not impose them on others and in particular people who don’t know me very well… Which, I suppose, is demonstrative of some kind of “shame” still lingering around this bigger display of messy emotion.
And/or that it just feels wrong to large-scale emote, replete with drool and keening, around strangers…
Something to think on, I suppose.
I do sometimes wish I had some way to be a little spoon in a big bed and simply be held – lovingly, firmly, unconditionally – all the way through a heave-sob session.
That would be nice.
I’ve wished for it a bunch lately, I must admit.
One of my closest friends was with me when I got the news about my dad. I was immediately wracked with heave-sobs as she held me. And, her presence and strong embrace was the most perfect of accidental timing maybe ever. Still, my life has no real options for cozy-down and sincere “little spoon” action in it at the moment.
::: shrug :::
I am grateful for what I do have.
Grateful to again have a place in the ether that’s as mine as anything can ever be to write about all of this. Share it. In the hopes that someone else might need to see that the heave-sobs are a thing.
A thing for me.
A thing for others
An okay, perfectly natural thing.
An honest experience of the human condition.
Neither ugly nor beautiful and often soothed at their tail end by long, slow, even breaths.
That there is no shame in our big emotions and that the job is to meet them as our own big spoon: Lovingly, firmly, unconditionally.
Surrender to them.
Let them pass through us and back out into the world from whence they came.
We need to do what we can to ensure that whatever big, messy emotions have wrung heave-sobs from the fabric of us like the strong hands of a hardworking 18th century laundress, those emotions are not making our decisions for us while we face them, process them, and heal them.