Why do we cry at weddings?
Weddings evoke a lot of emotions, not only for the bride and groom and their parents, but also for friends and other family members, some who cry and some who don’t. Through witnessing the love between the bride and groom, we open our hearts and when we have an open heart, we feel our emotions… deeply.
We can feel overwhelmed by the intensity of what we’re feeling. Generally we’re not used to fully opening our hearts and feeling our emotions, especially intense emotions. Feelings of happiness, joy, love, connection, hope or possibly regret and a longing for the same love and connection in our life. We remember our own wedding day, our love, our hopes and dreams. In this remembering and in witnessing the love between others, we can also feel a sense of loss. The perceived loss of a son or daughter. The loss of unfulfilled dreams and expectations. Losses associated with aging and abilities. Remembering past relationships and loved ones who aren’t there with us to share the day. This loss touches a sadness inside of us, a memory of separation – unresolved grief that is hidden from our conscious mind.
Witnessing the celebration of love at a wedding connects us to our heart. When we connect with our heart, we not only connect with the love that lives there, but with unresolved pain, pain we’re yet to transform into love, pain that is waiting for its transformation.
Some of us are easily connected to our heart centres and some of us hold great pain in our hearts, pain that is yet to be transformed. We tell ourselves, we’re just emotional, we cry easily. We apologise for this seeming weakness because we judge it as a weakness or we sense others are uncomfortable with our tears. Some of us are more sensitive to the energy of others, and we have our empathic ability dialled up high. We’re sensitive souls, empaths. It’s natural for us to feel the pain of others, the anger of others, the love of others. The energy of other people’s emotions can overwhelm us. We don’t always know whose energy we’re feeling, ours or theirs. As we progress through life, many of us try to shut down our empathic ability and build a wall around our heart to protect ourselves from being overwhelmed by the energies we encounter as we walk through our day. Yet there is another way. When we’re aware of our empathic ability, we can learn to walk through life with an open heart and not feel overwhelmed by the energies of others.
I didn’t always recognise my empathic ability and I certainly didn’t regard my crying as a blessing. I used to be embarrassed and apologetic about my tears, and usually confused about why they were showing up. I was definitely confused about why I was so upset at my niece’s wedding five years ago. At first, I blamed it on my hormones. That’s always a good scapegoat for emotional outbursts for women. I’d never cried at weddings before, so this seemed a reasonable explanation.
It was an outdoor wedding, warmer than I had expected for April. I looked to my elderly aunt sitting a few chairs away from me and thought how wise she was to have brought an umbrella. I wished I had one to shield me from the heat of the afternoon. The drone of dozens of different conversations between old friends filled the air, with the occasional outburst of laughter raising the volume on the noise. Then…silence. The bride had arrived.
The guests who were lucky enough to be seated, joined the rest of the crowd on their feet. All heads turned to get a glimpse of the bride. The bridesmaids began to walk down the rose petal covered carpeted aisle, led by the flower girl who was eager to reach the end of the carpet where she could see her dad, the groom’s brother. Lastly, the bride and her father.
I felt a warm rush of energy pulse through my body, my breathing quickened and tears welled in my eyes when I saw the bride, her hand threaded through the folded arm of her father, my brother. I reached into my bag for a tissue and fumbled around to dry my eyes underneath my glasses, all while trying to capture photos as Bruce and Abbie as they walked down the aisle and got closer and closer to where I was standing. I could feel the love between father and daughter, a deep palpable soul connection.
The bride looked absolutely gorgeous, a picture of glowing beauty. This is where most people would say, all eyes were on the bride, but mine weren’t. My eyes were on her father. I could feel what he felt, how happy he was, how proud he was. I could feel his love and joy, yet I also felt a deep sadness.
“Bruce reminds me so much of my father” my elderly aunt confides in me later, over dinner. I wasn’t the only one noticing the love and connection between father and daughter, I thought. I struggled to hold back my tears during the reception, still feeling an uneasy sadness I couldn’t explain. I left the reception early, and in the privacy of my hotel room, I allowed the tears to flow.
I not only sobbed, I wailed. Uncontrollably. Unexplainably. For hours. I didn’t understand it and couldn’t ease my husband’s concerns for me. I surrendered to my feelings and allowed the sadness to have its expression.
It was the early hours of the morning before I finally fell asleep cocooned in my husband’s arms. I woke 5 or 6 hours later and the sadness was still there. I slid out of bed, tying not to wake my husband who I knew would be worried about me, and had a shower, figuring I could wash my tears away without him knowing.
I couldn’t understand why I was so distraught. It was while I was in the shower, I recognised my sadness was accompanied by a foreboding sense of tragedy, of separation and a longing for connection. I knew it had something to do with Bruce and separation from family, and it felt like an impending death. I believed Bruce was going to die, and this weekend would be the last time I saw him.
My sadness stayed with me for a few weeks after the wedding, my tears visited intermittently and my brother didn’t die. I diverted my attention to some health concerns I needed to address, and a potential threat to my own life. Or at least, that’s what my subconscious mind thought. A couple of weeks after the wedding, I found out I needed a hysterectomy. I’d lived the past 43 years associating hysterectomies with dying, because my Mum had died days after having a hysterectomy.
It was while I was preparing for my surgery and considering the potential for my transition from this life, that I came to understand my breakdown at Abbie’s wedding. The feeling of separation, the sense of foreboding tragedy, the fear that Bruce was going to die, my profound sadness. It was grief. I was grieving my Dad.
Seeing Bruce as the father of the bride, walking down the aisle arm in arm with his beloved daughter, feeling his love, it wasn’t Bruce I was seeing at all. I was seeing my Dad. I had connecting with my own father, and with the love he had for me. Bruce was the surrogate for me to feel this connection, as he was for Aunty Jean, who connected with her own father, my father’s father that day.
My tears were tears of grief. The separation, the feeling of abandonment, the disruption and disconnection within our family, the loss of fatherly love and no more fun and cuddles and play, no more reading story books, no more horsey rides on his legs or him blowing raspberries on my belly, no more piggy-backs and riding high on his shoulders, no more feeling safe being held in his strong arms. My tears were tears of grief, tears that had never been shed by my two year old self in recognition of her loss. Grief, no two year old could ever understand, yet a loss all two year olds would feel.
It took me fifty years to grieve the loss of my Dad. Grief I never knew or even suspected I had imprisoned in my body. Fifty years of sadness and pain that needed to be expressed, emotions that waited for me to acknowledge them, waiting until I was ready to release them.
Today, the 21st November 2017 would have been my Dad’s 87th birthday. He only got to celebrate 31 times, but he may have orchestrated a remembrance of the day through organising for one of his great grandsons to share this special day with him (happy birthday to Jack who is 12 today). Coincidence? I think not.
PS My Mum shares her birth date with a great granddaughter, Abbie’s daughter, Ayla who was born on what would have been Mum’s 86th birthday. Coincidence? No such thing in my opinion.