Grieving is frowned upon in America.  We are expected to buck up, to smile, and continue on with our day even in our deepest despair.  Grief, in America, is marker for a visible weakness and those in active grieving are required to put on a happy face and sing a tuneful song to demonstrate their fortitude and their goodwill for their fellow kind or risk being indelibly labeled as a crybaby:  If you must cry — do it in private behind a locked door and under the covers in the middle of the night and don’t make any sound.


The inability for the heartbroken to grieve in public in America is festooned by the false bravado of our historic pioneer spirit:  “Our ancestors never wept or felt sorry for themselves, and so must not you!”

We need only to look to David to understand that public grieving is not only appropriate, but important, as part of the healing process. 

2 Samuel 12:16-17:

[16] David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. [17] The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.

In that visceral, dramatic, expression, David renders for us all why grieving must be part of our expectation of life.

We must always be free to grieve — in our own way, and in our own time — and that strange, but necessary, gift to each other is the most magnificent expression of the human condition:

“I may not be able to help you; but I will weep with you.”

5 Comments

  1. Indeed, we are encouraged to grieve as Jews for an appropriate period of time – not indefinitely. It is inappropriate to not grieve at all, however.

  2. That is the lesson of David, Gordon, just as you so thoughtfully point out. He grieved during the death process and when the child was dead, he returned to his life and stunned his servants in the process because they did not understand how he could so quickly stop grieving. He taught them that once the child was dead, the deed was done, there was no going back and so it was time to move on.

  3. Grieving can be an overwhelming emotion!
    Consequently, the grieving process is also the healing process for the soul. Without truly grieving we are not permitting ourselves to heal fully from whatever pain is gripping us.
    Tears should never by a symbol of weakness regardless of the gender. Truly, tears represent the compassion of an honest, loving heart. We cry because we are heartbroken and ultimately because we care. This depth of compassion and caring is not limited nor refined to just the female race. For example, even Christ himself wept over the passing of Lazarus! He was heartbroken and devastated by the death of a dear brother.
    If there were no grievances in our lives to deal with then there would be no joy. By that, I mean that when we grieve it often triggers a fonder memory that lifts our spirits and causes us to smile, in spite of the pain. That healing is necessary for us to adjust to the changes and to move on with our lives.
    It seems that for the most part, women are somewhat more tender hearted than men. Thus, we are more accepted and free from ridicule if we cry in public. However, that should not be used as a stereotype! There are tender hearted souls in both genders. Why should one be permitted to release their emotions … while the other is to suppress it? Ironically, there is strength in grieving.

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