Tears for those who are dead

When my grandfather Ernst, or “Opi”, how we called him, died, I did not cry. I was about 12 years old and he was really charismatic. Whenever he came to visit, he had candies and coins falling out of his pockets on purpose. He looked so young and healthy, it was impossible to imagine he would die— ever. He just had an heart attack during his nap. So when my dad told my brother, my sister and I what had happened, we did not believe him. We were too young to realise nobody would ever joke about announcing someone’s death.

A few years later, when I heard my uncle Joe committed suicide, I knew it was true, but I still did not cry. It was weird because I loved him. I was always looking forward to seeing him because he liked to be around kids. We played cards and tricks and he was so funny. Once he took me to a bar when I was about 8 and I felt so great just because he was talking to me like I was a grown up; or maybe like he was my age. I wanted to know what had happened. Why in the world would Joe leave 3 children behind, his brothers, his mother, and me. I already knew he was alcoholic and depressed since his father had died, but I was probably too young to understand these reasons were enough to give up on life. Upon learning Joe had hung himself in his bathroom, I remained emotionless, a bit like a zombie.

Then my aunt Ewa died from cancer. At least this one was not a big surprise, she’d been sick for a long time. Again, I did not cry. She was also special to me though. A model of feminity, always elegant, wearing perfume and make up. Ewa was also fascinating because she was an astrologist and I believed her explanations about the zodiac signs and all. I was old enough by then to know that I desperately needed to cry, but it did not happen.

Now, I am able to cry when I feel like it, and there are thousands of times I could have cried and write something about it. But when I started crying yesterday, I was not sure why. Then I remembered Opi, Joe, Ewa and how much I still missed them. I realised how I had been tearlessly crying their loss for so long. I felt lonely and had horrible images of a faceless man hanging from a rope in a cold bathroom. I knew it was not me crying but my younger self. I could not stop sobbing. I started writing this story and about halfway through, I felt better. I remembered a line from Coldplay: “Those who are dead are not dead, they’re just living in my head”. I regretted that no-one in the family really talked about them anymore, and writing about it made me realise how vivid my memory of them still was. The words kept on flowing from me to the keyboard. Peace grew all around the computer screen and in the room. This is why I write.

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5 thoughts on “Tears for those who are dead

  1. Pingback: Is it supposed to feel that way? « Trying to be Conscious

  2. Félicitations Cécile pour cet article, je l’ai trouvé très émouvant. Je suis bien d’accord, les larmes sont un mécanisme difficile à comprendre. Pendant toute une courte période de ma vie (mais trop longue à mon gout), je n’ai pas pu pleurer, alors que je suis d’un naturel très sensible et pleure pour n’importe quoi en temps normal. Et paradoxalement, cette incapacité à verser des larmes m’a beaucoup attristé et a constitué un véritable handicap pour moi. Dieu merci depuis, les larmes sont revenues dès que j’en ressens le besoin, et c’est un vrai soulagement. Donc oui je pense que tu as raison quand tu dis que les larmes aident à libérer les émotions, mais je ne parviens toujours pas à comprendre pourquoi j’en ai été privé durant ce labs de temps. En tout cas merci pour cet article!

    • Merci Carine! Ne pas être capable de pleurer quand on en a besoin est terrible, tu as raison. Je pense que cela arrive lorsqu’on essaie de contrôler nos émotions ou de les refouler…

  3. I don’t think crying is a proof that you care, and it is not necessarily linked to your age. When my cousin died, it took me weeks to realise (I was far away then and already knew she was about to) and to eventually cry here and there (and I was 21!). It took several days for my mother when she heard her mother died (and she was 57!).
    But I agree that thinking about dead ones make them come back to life, at least for a moment :)

    • I agree with you Lorène. When my aunt Ewa died I was 26 so it is not necessarily linked to age. And I definitely didn’t mean that tears show you care. Some things are too overwhelming to cry, it is like the mind needs time to process it first. Crying is just a way to release the emotions, it is quite selfish actually ;-).

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