faith, Uncategorized

The Grace of Holy Tears

When I was just six years old, my grandfather, my beloved Paw Paw, took his life and so my journey with grief began. I didn’t know how to grieve and as you can imagine, my family was upside down. I held it in and made sure I was well-behaved and responsible.

Meanwhile, I looked for my Paw Paw everywhere, in grocery stores, malls, in every passing car and at church. I didn’t understand the mystery of death, how a person can be here and then just not. I still don’t understand it. His death led me to ministry. I didn’t know much at age six but I knew if I could help anyone not take that path, I would.


Six years ago today, I began another, more grown up grief journey when I lost a friend, co-worker, treasured ministry colleague with no warning. One day we were happily engaged in ministry and planning Sunday worship services, the next he was gone, leaving an entire congregation reeling, and me, devastated and suddenly in charge of a whole church. Once again, I held in my grief and was a well-behaved, responsible pastor. It was all I knew to do.

Holding it in was not that good for me. Six months later to the day, I learned I had breast cancer at age 49. Later, I melted in even more spectacular ways. It was all grief.

Doesn’t it seem like we should all be better at dealing with loss?  Everyone dies. Our lives are inexplicably interwoven with people we love. We have all lost loved ones. Why is grief so hard?

Grief is hard because it rubs up against sad, angry, guilty, mixed up, real life feelings. Sometimes we are not so good with feelings. Grief is also messy. It really has no time-table and it pops up at the strangest of times. For a while, I was a grief counselor and I remember a woman sharing that after her husband died, she misplaced a shoe in her own home. She found herself sobbing as she searched for a simple shoe. Later she realized she, like the shoe, had lost her sole/soul mate. A lost shoe triggered her sobs. Grief is also hard because we all grieve on different timetables from one another and we are all grieving the unique relationship we had with the person. No one else lost what you lost.

Listening to all those grieving people taught me that the most important thing about loss is to just go ahead and feel it. If you keep it in, it will circle back around to hurt you. We are not meant to keep grief in.

Go ahead and express what you’ve lost. Let the messy feelings come as they will. Don’t judge yourself because it is weeks, months, years or decades later. Cry. One of my supervisors once told me he believed our tears actually baptize our feelings. Baptize: to bless or sanctify, to make holy, to infuse with grace and God’s spirit.

This morning, six years after losing my friend, I cried as I’ve done lots of times now. I cried because so much shifted on that day. I cried because I still don’t understand the mystery of death. I cried for his family and for the church that lost him. I cried for the way my life changed that day and the challenges I’ve had since then. Each tear, baptized a messy feeling. Each tear felt like it cleansed a wound. Each tear not just a tear but a bit of Holy water, embedded with grace, forgiveness and a peace that passes understanding. Thanks be to God for the healing power of Holy tears for little girls, and big ones.


10 thoughts on “The Grace of Holy Tears”

  1. Thank you…for understanding…for permission…for wonderful insight.

    On Sun, Feb 19, 2017 at 11:26 AM, drcindyryanblog wrote:

    > drcindyr posted: “When I was just six years old, my grandfather, my > beloved Paw Paw, took his life and so my journey with grief began. I didn’t > know how to grieve and as you can imagine, my family was upside > down. I held it in and made sure I was well-behaved and responsib” >

  2. Thank you for sharing.
    Paul says to the people of Ephesians… “I don’t stop giving thanks to God for you when I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you.”

    I really appreciate it, especially at this time as I deal with my son & his depression.

    And remembering that friend too.


  3. Amen, sister. Grief rolls over us sometimes like a steamroller, other times like a whisper. The sermon you gave the Sunday after Ken died stands to this day as the most healing, powerful sermon ever. Thank God you were there when we needed it. I trust there were (and continue to be) people in your life who can be there for you.

  4. Thank you for tour important and always right on the mark message. After several goodbyes in my life, our friend is the one who actually convinced me that tears from grief were truly okay… Little did I know how many I would shed for him…He always said the more the tears the more the love and connection that was shared…For quite some time I only felt the loss, but on this 6th anniversary I could honestly tell my children that although the pain of loss is still with me, I can truly be thankful for the time shared with him and for the continued influence and lessons learned from him! I pray that all who grieve can also feel the same!

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