Discover more from Working It Out As I Go
These Tears Felt Different
Something broke inside of me.
I stood in the corner of the room as she buried her face in the soft blanket that covered her daughter’s still and silent body. I introduced myself when I came into the room, but in the weight of her grief, she forgot I was there. Should I stay? Should I go? Standing back as an observer in such a personal space felt awkward, but it felt like leaving and returning would be more disruptive than helpful. So, I stayed. I stood silent and still, and my heart broke.
I’ve seen hundreds of deaths. I’m around trauma almost daily. This one was pretty “normal,” although she was young, and her death was unexpected and tragic. But my heart broke differently that day. As I stood in my silent corner, the tears began to flow. I’ve cried many times in my years as a chaplain. It’s a healthy and necessary expression of the sadness I walk alongside. These tears felt different.
Maybe I was tired. It had been a difficult week. Maybe I got caught up in the mother’s emotions. I’m highly intuitive and empathetic. I can often sense the emotion of a room and the individuals in it. Maybe it was the culmination of all the feelings my body and soul had been building up that needed to be released. Maybe the stillness and silence of these long minutes standing in the corner of a hospital room was what my soul needed to find release and relief… finally. Whatever their source, I let my tears come as the minutes ticked past. I wasn’t weeping or sobbing. My tears differed from the mother draped across her daughter, kissing her hands, cheeks, and forehead. First, they welled in the corner of my eyes and blurred my sight. Then, they grew heavy, and I let them fall across my cheeks. I didn’t try to wipe them away or hold them back. I didn’t retreat from the moment. I didn’t run. I stayed present to my sadness. I stayed present with my grief.
With each tear that fell, I felt release. What began as an awkward, internal wrestling match between staying and going became a much-needed holy and cleansing moment. Fifteen minutes passed. The sun was setting, and the room darkened, so I took a deep breath and ventured out of my silent corner.
I lightly touched the mom’s shoulder in a failed attempt not to startle her. She had forgotten I was there and apologized profusely for ignoring me. I assured her no apologies were needed, and we sat and talked for a while. She asked me to pray, and I did. We said our goodbyes, and I left the room to finish my paperwork and charting.
I made it a few steps down the hall before a nurse stopped me to say another person had just died. I thanked her and smiled awkwardly. I took a deep breath and knocked on the door of another room where another person had died, and another family was grieving. This time with a freshly cleansed soul, ready to accompany this beloved family in the early steps of their journey with grief.
Working It Out As I Go is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.