I was never a cry baby. Instead, I had already been a tough cookie. After I married my soul mate, it had been so rare for me to even have a reason to shed tears. But the past two years, I had set my own records of crying.
The early period of dealing with my late husband’s cancer diagnosis and treatments brought constant tears from my eyes. It was a bitter experience as I had to bear the shame of crying, which was one of the actions our Chinese culture doesn’t encourage. Our culture teaches us to always be strong and never to cry. I was also worried that if I broke down, then my late husband would be worried about me, which could aggravate the already difficult situation on ground. I had to hold everything inside for quite a while until a particular day when my predicament overwhelmed the courage I had mustered, and I broke down in hot tears without minding that I was in the public.
That day was after my late husband’s first chemo treatment failed and his doctor told us he only had less than a year left. I held together very well and asked all the necessary questions. Then my late husband was getting his new chemo and I went to the cafeteria to find some food for myself. My best friend called when I was eating and I told her the unfortunate news. She started to cry but I didn’t join her. After I hung up the phone, I suddenly lost control. Hot tears unconsciously dropped on my plates while I was trying to eat. I put my head down on the table but it didn’t help. I just couldn’t control the way I was feeling anymore. Suddenly, I felt someone tap on my shoulder. I looked up, it was a gentleman.
He asked me, “Are you ok?”
I wiped my tears and said “Yes. I am ok.”
He was so concerned and kept looking at me. I realized I needed to hide somewhere I could express my heartfelt pain by crying out my eyes without being a cause for worry for people around me. So I ran into the bathroom. I closed the door and just let it all out.
Suddenly, I heard a lady’s voice “Are you ok Honey?”
I thought there was just me in the bathroom. “I am ok.” I answered and already felt so much better after I had let all the tears out; my chest finally had room to breathe. After a few deep breath, I stepped out to clean up my face.
A different lady suddenly said to me “Tears cleanse the soul.”
Throughout this Living With Cancer and Life After Loss journey, I slowly learned how important it is to take care of my emotions. If my tears suddenly come, it means I couldn’t hold it anymore, just like the clouds can’t hold the water and it becomes rain drops. I only let them out so I can have space to bring out newer and more beautiful smiles. About one month after my late husband passed away, I went to our local dealer to trade in our cars. I was so used to my late husband and me doing things together that I was still using the first person plural pronoun “WE” to refer to myself only; all that time. I hadn’t got used to the title of LATE HUSBAND.
The sales guy had no clue that I newly lost my man, he jokingly said, “Just don’t let your husband touch your fancy new car.”
My face became clouded with tears and I couldn’t hold them back. The poor sales guy felt horrible. He later gave me a set of doormats to make me feel better. 🙂
Last week, I was told my youngest aunt passed away. It didn’t come as a surprise though, but it made me very sad. We were very close. My emotion is always a little bit delayed to react to an event so I knew it could take two or three days after to react to the situation. Sure enough, this past weekend, when all my step-kids and their family were here, I was cooking for them. I suddenly had to run to my room and cried for a short time. I missed my aunt, and my late husband. I missed how it used to be the whole family here together, but it was so painful that is not going to happen anymore.
Now I know, being strong and crying are not conflict. For me, being strong is knowing my limit and letting out the tears I can’t hold is pushing the reset button so I will have the strength and positive attitude later.
Photo credit: Grace Liang/Yun Bai
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