**Trigger warning: This post discusses grief and loss topics that can be challenging for some. Please be careful with yourself when you're reading.
Why do we apologize when we cry in front of someone while sharing our grief?
I noticed this recently after I suffered a great loss. My beloved dog, Bailey who was so much more than a pet. She was“my person." We did everything together. In our 12 years and 3 months together she was part of every place I served in ministry. We spent time volunteering at hospitals, nursing homes and schools educating others as a certified therapy team and making people feel better. She always knew who needed cheering up and who needed a little more doggie love on our visits. She was one of the most intuitive dogs I’ve ever met and she never missing an opportunity to make someone smile.
We were even told when going through our certification program that they’d never seen a team as bonded as we were. Bailey was one in a million and many people thought so. I saw this in the numerous notes, messages and even donations made in her memory.
She was diagnosed with Lymphoma back in January of 2018 (can I just say that dogs should NOT get cancer?!) and she fought hard. She fought phenomenally well, even. But by November, 11 months later, her body was tired. I offered her the greatest gift I could – I
let her go so she could find healing. I bid farewell to her, told her I’d see her again one day, and to save me a spot next to the trails we’d spend eternity walking together.
As I shared with people what had happened, I found my eyes leaking A LOT. I shed many tears, as you’d expect, and out of habit- I’d apologize. Suddenly it hit me – I had nothing to
apologize for. My tears were, and still are, a sign that I loved deeply. When should we ever
apologize for that? Our grief shows that we feel and that we love and have been loved- which are beautiful things. Sometimes they show that we’re not okay- and that is okay! We have to allow for and give ourselves room to feel whatever it is we need to feel. Whether our tears are related to grief or joy, we should never apologize for feeling.
I know, I know, some of us apologize because (as good southerners) we think or are worried that we’re making the other person uncomfortable; but, maybe it’s time to stop apologizing for being human and having emotions. Glennon Doyle Melton said it best in her novel, Love Warrior: “Grief is love’s souvenir. It’s our proof that we once loved. Grief is the receipt we wave in the air that says to the world: Look! Love was once mine. I love well. Here is my proof that I paid the price.” Maybe it’s time to show others that the proof of love, grief, and joy are such beautiful gifts, worthy of sharing.
Some of you reading this may find this time of year difficult. Maybe being with your loved ones drains you because it’s not the holiday card or Christmas commercial one would expect or desire. Maybe there’s an empty spot by the fireplace or an empty chair at the dinner table. Maybe all the emphasis on "family time" and the story of God coming as a newborn baby causes you to ache for your own family that is yet to be. Or maybe this time of year fills your heart to the point of overflowing goodness and you are spreading that joy to everyone. Keep being you! Whatever the reason, if tears fill your eyes and find themselves leaking down your cheek, do not apologize. Allow your heart to show it’s sadness or it’s joy. Let people know that you love well. Because we could all use a little more love in this world and a few more people waving their receipts in the air.
After all, love is what came down at Christmas.
About the author:
Rev. Carolyn Poling is a Deacon serving in the North Georgia Conference as a teacher in the public school system. She loves her fur babies, Zion - the lovable pitbull & Bella - the princess cat. She wears many hats in her life but of all the titles she's had - Aunt Carolyn is her favorite.