Catharsis

“The process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.” (derived from a Greek verb that means “to purify, purge”)

This has been a long week, one that has weighed heavy on my heart. Many many times this week my grief backpack has been opened up and brought me to tears. On most days of my life, I will say that I “hate” crying because I’m kind of an ugly crier — it shows on my face for hours after I’ve pulled myself together again. I also, in an unusually self-conscious way, often think that crying makes me feel or seem weak. But more often than not, my tears have been the emotional release I have needed that I couldn’t express in words.

Throughout the past seven days, the overall themes of life & death have been on my mind. Never more so than when one of my very best friends called me late on Friday morning to tell me that after battling illness and pain for an extended period of time, it was very likely that her dad was going to die. Her family had already decided together that they would not resuscitate him. As soon as she started talking, I had tears in my eyes, because I could literally feel the pain in her heart through the sound of her quavering voice… and because I felt sort of helpless and far away; I so wanted to hug her. But I took lots of deep breaths to steady myself and allowed us both to sit in moments of silence on the phone as needed. What struck me the most was not only the fact that she was crying while talking to me, but that she said her mom had “finally” let herself cry that morning as well. In my head, I knew that they both needed to do that, to let out that huge mess of sadness and anger and relief and love and whatever else all at once. Catharsis.

The next morning she called again to tell me that he had passed away. Another kind of catharsis — releasing him from this earthly, physical pain into Eternal Life.

I don’t know what it’s like to lose a parent, and when the time comes I will learn what it means for myself. I’ve been trying over these past few days to make sense of it, and there are only a few things that come to mind. The first is that my mom, irreligious as she may be, has always taught me that each of us will eventually be called back to our Maker, and that is a basic fact of life. And because we have little control over when that moment will be, we have to live the life that we want to have now and love the people the way we want to love them now. The second is that with every ending, we are met with a new beginning. In the Hero Cycle of literature, once the Hero figure goes through the Journey and reaches the Return, guess what happens? There is another call to action that starts the next cycle. So it is with the passing of my friend’s father… I trust that his love and his spirit will continue to guide her as she enters into a new phase of living as a daughter, a sister, a future wife, a friend, a woman reaching for her next goals in life and love.

So even while I am praying for and thinking about my friend and her family, there is a part of me that knows that this moment — as sad and painful as it likely is — is also a time of renewal for her family, to reconnect and strengthen their sense of Love for each other. May their tears provide much-needed catharsis and lead them to a place of Hope.

For her father: Eternal rest, granted to him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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