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.

Life After Loss || Big Girl Do Cry

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.

Life After Loss || Big Girl Do Cry

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.”

Life After Loss || Big Girl Do Cry

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. 🙂

Life After Loss || Big Girl Do Cry

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.

Life After Loss || Big Girl Do Cry

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.

Life After Loss || Big Girl Do Cry

You can read all the Life After Loss series here and Living with Cancer series here.

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Photo credit: Grace Liang/Yun Bai

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  1. Grace, you are such an inspiration and so very strong. I remember after my father passed away I was so afraid to cry because I was afraid that if I started to cry, I would never be able to stop. It took me 10 years until I really let the tears flow. And they did stop after a few short minutes. So I have no idea why I told myself that I couldn’t cry. Tears really do cleanse the soul! I am so glad that you have been able to reconcile your tears and your strength as the same thing!


  2. I had felt the same way about crying. To show emotion was to be weak and I was SO wrong. The moments were I should have cried I didn’t and with that I lost moments of real life connection and only lied to myself that I was strong. I met my hubby, bf back then and we were only dating no more than a month when he cried. I didn’t comfort him nor did I show my emotion. Looking back, I would never not cry. It’s a part of being human and a part of building our own emotional strengths. Grace you are a strong woman and crying doesn’t change that. Matter of fact, it helps you be stronger and you are inspiring others to do the same.

    Maureen | http://www.littlemisscasual.com

  3. Sara Hagen

    When my husband died, I didn’t cry until 6 months later. It was the first Christmas without him. I felt so much better afterward. Tears do cleanse the soul.

  4. I was just like you. I couldn’t cry in public, it was not a thing to me. When my granddad died, I was there with him. He and I were like best friends, we were super close and everyone said to me that he was waiting for me that day, he knew he was going to died and waited for me to give me one last kiss and one last smile. I saw him die at my grandmom’s house floor, I made the calls to 112 and to my parents, I went to the train station to give my aunt the news, I went to my little sister schools to take her home without saying her what happened, and I didn’t cry. My chest was so full of pain and anger and still I couldn’t cry. But I came to the point that I couldn’t handle anymore and out of the sudden my tears appears and I couldn’t hold them anymore. I always was the strongest one and in that moment I just had to let my tears come out to be able to breath again. My granddad died 5 years ago and sometimes I still cry for him, because I miss him a lot. But I find out that crying is normal and really cleanse the soul. Your blogpost and your story is such an inspiration. I wish you the best!

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