Tears move us to resiliency

Acknowledging our losses during COVID-19 Pandemic

By David Robertson, High River United Church March 31, 2020

Today I am especially mindful of all the lacks and losses we are experiencing. All we can do is find our tears and grieve. “What?” You may ask. “What do you mean find our tears? Isn’t this the time to be strong and be resilient in the face of such a crazy time?”

Stay with me now. I want to invite you to walk with me into the territory of human emotion. Let’s be honest, as human beings we have emotions. We just do. They are what they are, and we have them. No one emotion is good or bad, positive or negative. If we say anger is bad, or that sadness is a sign of weakness, that’s just us assigning our value or quality to an emotion. We are the ones deciding if our emotion is good or bad when in actual fact, emotions just are. In my mind, they are value-neutral. They just are.

During the past few weeks, I was forced to cancel a pilgrimage to Ireland, Wales and England. I had to cancel the Highwood Lions Music Festival, endure the disappointment that my son’s university recital is also cancelled, and that the graduation celebration for my older son is likely toast, too.

That’s just a little bit about me. It will be similar for you too. Every one of us is experiencing losses right now related to cherished plans, celebrations, get-togethers, travel, adventure, and separation from each other. Closures, cancellations and isolation are all around us right now.

Here’s what I know to be true. We need to find a safe place in our lives where we can cry about the things we cannot change and grieve our losses. Perhaps that’s in the arms of our loved one, or in the quiet company of a lit candle, or while watching a sad movie. Our tears of sadness and futility are nature’s design, a design which serves to deliver us into resiliency and grant us the capacity to adapt. A stiff upper lip is not resiliency; it is only a defence against vulnerability.

When we have a good cry, we are soon moved to feel better and be able to adapt to whatever is before us. Our culture doesn’t like emotion very much, let alone expressions of sadness. Most of us are uncomfortable with tears and many are afraid that if they start to cry, they won’t be able to stop. I can’t tell you the number of times I hear people say that to me. But it’s not true. Tears are nature’s way of delivering us to healing, recovery and resilience—resilience as defined by our capacity to bounce back.

Just so you know, we won’t be able to cry for more than two hours at any given time. Our tears will deliver us to the other side of sadness. In this time of cancellations, disruptions, disappointments and all the letting go that we are having to do, it’s important that we gently come alongside our sadness and take up a relationship with it. It’s important to cry about and grieve that which cannot be. Having our tears takes some courage (from the Latin root cor “to have heart”), and if you are like me, tears don’t come easily. But I’ve learned that if I can find my safe, quiet place and have heart just to weep, I know I will feel better. I know I will bounce back.