The Luxury of Tears

My husband is away on a golf trip and I am very good at alone-ing. I clean, bake, read, write, walk the dog, watch documentaries, work, and use complicated beauty products (moisture mask, micro planer, green self-tanner…). I listen to podcasts on speaker and eat supper at 8 pm.

The only thing I don’t do well in the Mr’s absence is go to bed. Correction: go to SLEEP. I actually go to bed earlier than usual but then procrastinate the actual “lights off” part. I’ve written many times about dreading sleeplessness. I know better, I do. I have strategies and thought processes and tea with valerian, and truth be told I don’t often need any of that. Sleep comes easily once I remember to give it a try.

Nevertheless, maybe I am a little short on sleep, okay? Just a few hours behind, but enough to weaken my defences. And also I am reading this great book on attachment theory (“How We Love” by Milan and Kay Yerkovich) – I’ve been picking it up and putting it down for months because it has just been to raw to consider various aspects of my childhood now as I help to care for a parent with Parkinson’s. The then and the now crash together like thunderheads and I have to stop and draw slow breaths and blink blink blink. But with all this alone time I’ve been trying to finish the book by reading chunks and then walking the dog while processing the information.

This afternoon I felt an emotional *clunk* halfway through my walk around the lake. Scattered memories sorted themselves into a pattern and I was simultaneously enlightened and despondent. The combination was overwhelming so I hurried home with a quivering chin (and an oblivious Schnoodle). Safely home, I was about to busy myself with some distraction – the laundry and a Bubble Hour outline for next week’s show – when it suddenly occurred to me there was no reason not to feel the feelings I was pushing away.

With the same sense of wonder as I feel when turning off the lights to sleep (“Oh right, this isn’t hard at all”) I sat on the stairs and held space for myself. (“Go ahead now and allow the response that occurs as a result of those memories.”) I wanted to see what might happen next and I bet you can guess: a cleansing cry of the private sort, the kind that doesn’t worry about how it looks or what anyone thinks but just releases and renews. It went on longer than expected and I marvelled at my own capacity to weep. It felt good to give up this burden I didn’t know I’d been carrying.

Several tissues later, I realized my little dog was watching me with concern. Whoosh! The reflective self returned. I never trouble my loved ones with my uncomfortable emotions and I can’t even tolerate worrying the damn dog. Deep breath…it was finished anyway…I felt better….

I will call my therapist tomorrow. It’s been months since my last appointment and I could use some help making sense of things. Just because it felt good to cry alone does not mean I need to process everything that way.

If I have learned anything in these years of recovery, it is the power of asking for help.


  1. Jean….please make sure you call your therapist and please make time for therapy to cope with this difficult time.

    My dad passed away in February of this year after a long and courageous battle from Parkinson’s. I didn’t make it past your sentence of

    “… has just been to raw to consider various aspects of my childhood now as I help to care for a parent with Parkinson’s. ”

    before I started crying……..sobbing because of how hard it has been.

    How I wish I had asked for help. I hit the bottle HARD to cope and it did not work. I drank because trying to remain present in the moment caring for a parent with Parkinson’s was just too damn hard for me at times and while I couldn’t change the situation I wanted an escape. Alcohol numbed the feelings because I felt emotionally trapped with nowhere to go.

    You’re going to have a real challenge on your hands because this next journey is painful and all about having to respond constantly to the unexpected and being in crisis mode – you will not be in control. This alone is a major threat to sobriety and will be a cause for relapse.


  2. “My husband is away on a golf trip and I am very good at alone-ing.” I laughed out loud, so true when my husband travels, you took the words from my mind. I found your blog after listening to you chat with Catherine on your latest podcast while I was “Alone-ing”.

    I find my tears are almost combustible when I don’t sleep well, but also when I push away them away. Thanks for writing this because there’s no shame in a good cry.


  3. I have a Schnoodle too, and I happen to know they make excellent hankies to wipe your tears and runny nose on. A few months ago I was writing my morning pages of random thoughts when all of a sudden a childhood memory popped up, actually not just one memory but a whole pattern of how my mom’s over-protectiveness almost smothered me. She couldn’t help it and she didn’t mean any harm, but her fears shaped my own fears and my whole life. I can now understand my urge to hold her at arm’s length as I got older and I can forgive myself for not allowing her closer before she died when I was 27. I can also understand why I back off from people when they get too needy. I wish I’d had the knowledge I have now and the desire to know her better, but I can also look back at the child I was and feel sorry for the little girl who sacrificed her exuberance and daring to keep her mother comfortable.

    Cry all you want for the little girl that is inside you, it let’s her know she’s loved.


    • Wow, KareyMay, your email just blasted me. I have wondered for so long why I back off from needy people. My Mom (who is now 97) was a war bride, and I believe she was so lonely and needy that she leaned on my dad, my sister and me to fulfill her emotional emptiness. I am also the eldest, so I was the one who had to make sure Mum was OK. It wasn’t until my dad died in 1991 that I finally stood up and learned more about her, and the “why” she was the way she was (and still is, to a certain extent). I hated her at times, because she had to be right and she had to be the center of the universe. Now I am her caregiver, although she still lives on her own – in an independent living facility. Her world is very small now, as she has macular degeneration and her hearing is crap. I never stopped to think that I’d become a prisoner to her demands, because the guilt of “how can you treat me this way” if I got angry with her (not allowed) pushed down my own needs, to keep her happy. Thank you for allowing me to recognize my own issues, and my need to retreat from others needs.


  4. Hi Jean,
    I know I allow myself to feel my feelings, too.
    At least most of the time.
    I had a dog, Sam, a long time ago, and he was my best listener.
    I used to cry a lot just holding him.


  5. You’ve got me thinking over here. Each time my girls and husband go away I’m struck by a deep sense of loss. I’m fine when one of them is with me but if all 3 are away and I’m alone there’s an empty feeling that I struggle to ignore…..


  6. What a beautiful story. It reminds me of my current situation except my response is much different. I have slipped into a state of not getting anything done. I too walk my dog to process my emotions. Instead of allowing them to flow out the way you did, I shove them back and I drink them away. This story is what I needed to hear. I needed to know there is another way, a different way, a healthy way. Thank you for writing this post. Today I am committing to getting sober after nearly 10 years of abusing alcohol. I just added “Find a therapist” to my list. I know God put this post in my inbox today for a reason. Thank you so much. You and your Father will be in my prayers.


  7. Stuffing, shoving with a healthy dose of alcohol was my standard for dealing with those damn emotions that kept cropping up in my daily life.The one thing I have learned is no matter how much I want to minimize or all together dismiss feelings, recovery dictates you must acknowledge in order to move forward instead of falling back into old patterns of behavior. Asking for help when you do not understand the whys or whats of what you are currently experiencing is the best gift you can give yourself. Going it alone did not work before, and it definitely does not help in recovery.

    The best to you Jean as you continue to navigate the ups and downs of recovery and share your experiences with this sometimes road weary traveler. I just celebrated 12 years, and know that some days recovery does not come easy. xoxo


  8. Ah Jean! Such a beautiful post! Encouragement to feel. Kind of tricky since we’ve both gone to great extremes to avoid feeling. Sending so much love to you. Thank you for this beautiful picture of such a tender moment. It was great getting a chance to chat a few minutes last week. Can’t call it catching up. We would need a week on the beach in Mexico to do that!!


  9. Connecting the dots of when we were small with where we ended up can be both an enlightening and troubling realisation and talking to a trained therapist a valuable tool. It helped me no end 🙂 xx


  10. Lovely post Jean. I’m sorry that you’re going through that with your father. My mother is about to start her fight against breast cancer this week and I also find myself resisting my feelings or unsure as to how I do actually feel. I’ve been so used to pushing all feelings aside with wine that I have to really concentrate to know how I feel.


  11. Sending you hugs and plenty of virtual tissues. I’ve never commented before, but the mention of Parkinson’s hit so close to home that I knew it was time. What a brutal disease, for everyone involved. Giving yourself space to feel and cry is so difficult, but really is the best thing.

    Thanks for your blog. Your story was the first alcoholism story that I could relate to enough to know it was time to get sober. If I hadn’t found it, I’m pretty sure I’d still be stuck wondering if I was really bad enough to quit. (In hindsight, the amount of worry I wasted on whether or not I “qualified” as an alcoholic is unfathomable to me!)

    Thanks so much for all you do for this community. Always feel free to let us know how we can help you!


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