Part of a mourner’s behaviour is the attempt to hold on to the deceased. Weeping may be a calling out, a way to summon the deceased, just as a baby cries to summon the mother.
This ‘calling’ weeping – shallower, because the breathing is rapid – is trying to hold on to the deceased.
Whereas deep weeping – sobbing – is a letting go of them. We possess within us both a ‘calling’ weeping and a ‘letting go’ weeping.
In the ‘letting go’ weeping – the vulnerable and helpless sobbing – there are forces that heal both mentally and physically.
Children can weep almost from birth to relieve tension.
But this innate ability to relieve stress is often obstructed as we grow up.
Perhaps you were told: ‘Oh, that’s nothing to cry about!’
So some children, in order to please their parents, learn to control themselves, so that as adults, they never weep.
‘I haven’t cried for twenty years,’ a vicar said to me recently.
Others may be tearful, but with shallow breaths; tears which never give way to deep weeping. Something somewhere is held back, and so they frustrate more than heal.
Deep weeping releases body tension; dissolves it…which reminds me of a Jewish story concerning the origin of tears.
When Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden, God saw their sorrow and felt pity for them.
He said gently, ‘Poor children! I have punished you for your offences and driven you out of the Garden of Eden, where you lived without grief or worry.
Now you are entering a world full of grief and unhappiness that defies description. You will encounter much adversity and it will embitter your lives.
But you shall know my generosity and my love in a special gift, my most precious treasure, this costly pearl – the tear.
When you are overwhelmed by grief, when your hearts are about to break and great pain is clutching your soul, then this tear will fall from your eyes and the burden will at once be easier to bear.’
At these words, Adam and Eve became overwhelmed with grief and began to sob. Tears welled up in their eyes and spilled down their cheeks, hot rivulets of pain and sorrow released, falling on the hard ground.
And so their pain was eased, and, for the first time, the soil moistened.