GOOD GRIEF

Types of tears

This is a repost from 2017, but I think it is timely this holiday weekend when so many are dealing with grief and the empty chair. Sending you all blessings and wishes for a happy Thanksgiving.

Have you ever wondered why we were created with the ability to cry?  I am privileged to sit alongside my clients as they shed many tears.  People are usually embarrassed and tell me they are sorry for crying, but I tell them they never have to apologize for shedding tears.  In my own life, I have gone through a seasons of tears.  There were days when I wondered how I could produce so much water!  Finally I decided to do a little research on crying and what the Bible has to say about it.

According to scientists, there are three types of tears and they all differ in their function and chemical makeup.  All tears are salt water and they drain through our nasal cavity, which is why so many of us have to blow our noses after a good cry.  Basal tears are the tears that we have in our eyes all the time.  They keep our eyes from drying out.  We produce about 5 – 10 ounces of basal tears every day.  Basal tears are about 98% water. 

Reflexive tears are those that protect the eye from irritants, such as smoke, onions, or dust.  The sensory nerves in your cornea send a message to your brainstem that in turn sends hormones to the glands in the eyes that produce tears.  These tears contain a bio-chemical called lysozyme, an antibacterial protection for the eyes.  

The third type is emotional tears.  Most scientists believe that only humans are capable of producing this type of tear. God created us with this unique ability among all His creatures.  I think it is interesting that Jesus (God in human form) also wept (John 11:35; Luke 19:41).  These emotional tears are the ones I am most curious about, and it turns out that they have special health benefits.  Dr. William Frey, a biochemist at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis, has done extensive research on tears.  He discovered that emotional tears contain stress hormones that are excreted from the body through crying.  Dr. Frey’s research suggests that when we are under stress, even good stress, our bodies produce stress hormones which are necessary for a fight-or-flight response.  However, over prolonged periods of time, these hormones can be dangerous to our health.  Dr. Frey proposes that tears are the body’s mechanism for releasing these built up toxins.  Crying is beneficial to your health, and research shows that stifling emotional tears can elevate the risk of heart disease and hypertension.  Psychologists believe that those who are experiencing grief do better through talking and crying, rather than holding it all in.  Sometimes having a good cry is the healthiest thing you can do.

The Bible has a great deal to say about crying.  In fact, there are almost 700 references to crying and tears in Scripture.  One thing stands out loud and clear: God sees our tears.  David says in Psalm 56:8: “You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book.”  Tear bottles were used in ancient (and in some more modern) times during mourning.  They were used to collect the tears of the bereaved and often buried along with the deceased as a sign of respect.  

God collects our tears.  He knows when we are grieving, hurt, sad, frustrated, and angry.  He even knows when we cry tears of joy.  He sees every tear that falls.  And He records all these tears in His book of remembrance (Malachi 3:16).  God keeps a database of all our sorrows.  And He promises to wipe away all our tears when we get to Heaven (Revelation 21:4), where death, sorrow, crying, and pain will be gone forever.  

We take comfort in these things.  We are so fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), that even our tears have a purpose here on earth.  But when we get to Heaven there will be no need for tears.  God Himself will tenderly wipe them away.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.  Revelation 21:4 (NIV).

THE EMPTY CHAIR

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The following is a letter my friend Cathy wrote to some of her friends who have recently lost their mothers.  She gave me permission to share it.  I know too many of my friends are facing an empty chair this Thanksgiving.  You have lost parents and grandparents, spouses, and even children.  Please know I am thinking and praying for you all, even as I type these words.  You are not alone.

THE EMPTY CHAIR

The holidays are coming . . . and I dread the “empty chair”.

You are receiving this letter because you are my friend and we share a common bond. We are each one of six who have experienced the passing of our mother and walked with her through death this past year.

For all of us this has not been a sudden event, rather a long and plodding journey we have travelled with our mothers inch by inch. This journey has brought emotions and questions as each of our mother’s health and function declined and we could see the end coming. In moments of angst and suffering we would wonder when the end would come and yet . . . we embraced her at every turn not wanting to let go. And then . . . we knew the end was near.

As my mother came closer and closer to death in her final weeks, I felt more and more the presence of God. I prayed for His grace and mercy for her soul and mine. Death is a most sacred time . . . a time no one can completely understand, but you know God is near and your loved one is transitioning into the life after death. For all of us this is part of the human experience, we know it is coming, but it takes on a much deeper meaning when you sit by the bedside of the mother you love. You know God is there as you witness the spiritual mystery when her soul leaves her body like a whisper in the quiet of the night. She is gone.

Now after several weeks, I still reflect often on my mother’s life and her passing. And now . . . the holidays are coming and I face the “empty chair”.

As the holidays approach I hope to embrace the gift of the “empty chair”. I know from the life my mother lived that I am worthy of receiving and giving love, joy, and generosity. I know my mother faced challenges, difficult decisions, and made mistakes in her life and yet she endured. She never gave up, but kept on keeping on. This remembrance inspires me to do the same . . . forgive others and yes also myself, when I am weak to remember I can be strong, and know I can be kinder and gentler, more compassionate and empathetic to others.

The empty chair also reminds me of the depth of love within my family and the reason to keep that love alive and make it even richer. I am also reminded of the love of friends and how that love blesses my life and how I want to be that kind of friend to bless others. And . . . walking with my mother and witnessing her death reminds me to turn to a more consistent life of prayer and dependence on God embracing His love and mercy.

All of our mothers lived long lives and they endured and pressed on. And now . . we have the “empty chair”. We have been left with many gifts from the “empty chair” and It is our time to press on, to reflect and examine our own lives and genuinely embrace the joy and pain of life, allowing it to mold us into a better person, one filled with love and hope, kindness and understanding.

As you and your family gather, I pray you, my friend, have holidays filled with an abundance of love and joy and remember the gift of the “empty chair”. Yes there will be tears, but through these tears we have received many gifts.

Keep on “keeping on” my friends . . . and know I will be thinking of you and your family during this holiday season. I am sending abundant wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving and Christmas season with prayers for comfort and peace.

Lovingly,

Cathy