Where Have All The Tears Gone?

Published on 29 April 2012 by

Category: New Blog Posts, Updates


Some of us are old enough to remember this Pete Seeger classic, the beginning of which is:

Where have all the flowers gone?

Long time passing

Where have all the flowers gone?

Long time ago

Where have all the flowers gone?

Girls have picked them every one

When will they ever learn?

When will they ever learn?

The song goes on to wonder where all the young girls, then the young men, then the soldiers and finally the graveyards (where the flowers the girls originally picked, eventually go) have gone and in all cases, when would they ever learn.

A couple of recent encounters caused me to begin wondering, “Where have all the tears gone?

When my children, Brad and Brenda were very young, we would take the six hour trip to visit their cousins Adam and Amanda. They always had a grand time, and for them at least, the time spent together was always far too short. When it was time for us to leave all four of them would be crying, almost inconsolably.

As parents are wont to do, I am sure we would try to comfort them, try to get them to stop crying by assuring them that this wouldn’t be the last time, making (what proved to be) unfulfilled promises to them, each other and ourselves to not let so much time pass before we got together again. Whatever we could think to do to lessen the pain our loved ones (and perhaps, unknowingly, ourselves) were feeling. Looking back, I wonder where my tears were. I am sure I had them too. As I remember it, despite our best parental efforts, they refused to buy into our platitudes, and continued to grieve the very real loss of the never-to-be-repeated moment.

What made me think of this and its application to the present is that I find myself in situations just like this today. Situations where I have to accept the forced separation from someone that I am not ready to leave, or a much anticipated get-together is canceled, or the ending of an experience I am not ready to walk away from. I am wondering what I do with those tears. Simply put, I do my best to avoid them.

Here’s what I have come up with as my two primary “tear avoiding” techniques.

Denial: As I did in my parental role above, I do my best to assure the other person that the ending we are experiencing is not really an ending, but just a pause. I talk and point to future plans. Once, on an airplane I said to my seatmate, a total stranger with whom I had had a very rich four-hour conversation, as I was leaving “I’ll see you later”. Really? Not. I have a have a hunch that there is a wise part of our ancient soul that knows that such promises are full of holes, just as my children knew. I also willingly accept such statements to me from others, without challenge. We know better, but we pretend that we don’t know.

Distraction/Aggression: I get abrupt. Someone mentions “I have to go”, and I say “Go, then, goodbye” “Don’t let me keep you”. I get busy with the details of leaving, collecting my things and/or, change the subject from the topic and the sensations associated with the pain of leaving to something else. I was recently on the receiving end of this particular tool, when a friend, knowing I had to leave, suddenly moved from a pretty tender moment, to an officious “You need to go now” statement. It felt like I was being booted out the door. When we talked about it later they admitted that they were feeling a lot of pain and loss and instead of saying that; got dismissive. If we hadn’t talked about it, I would have interpreted the comment as meaning they didn’t want to be with me, and I would have obliged them. I have done that kind of thing too.

So, what’s the problem? These tools work, right? Well, I am not so sure. Yes, they help in the moment, but they also can create a lot of misunderstandings, as in the example just mentioned. They also prevent me from experiencing the gifts of being in the moment. I miss the lessons to be learned. I miss the expressions of tenderness and specialness of the moment. I miss the unique connection. They are tools fraught with pain side-effects.

There have been times when I have known, for sure, it would be the last time. I have been fully present. No pretending that we know there would be a next time. Never a misunderstanding of what was said. There was always an expression of love, just love (whatever that means J). It is always an incredibly rich moment.

Some would say that we can’t possibly live with that level of intensity and awareness. I wonder about the degree to which we are not actually living, when we aren’t doing that?

I think that the tears and sadness go somewhere deep inside if they don’t find expression. Usually re-emerging in disguise, mostly unrecognizable, to myself, to others.

As the song asks, “When will I ever learn?” To be in my truth. To allow my feelings. To not be ashamed of my tears.


No Responses to “Where Have All The Tears Gone?”

  1. Pedja says:

    A beautifully stated truth. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I love this article and I do agree that we must learn to live with this level of intensity and authenticity because it is what will enable us to save our planet……..and for me, when I am with someone who is also willing to be in this sacred authenticity and intensity, I do sense that “I-Thou” relationship and also a sense that the sum of our parts is greater when together. Thank you Ted as always…….

  3. This is such a beautiful inquiry. I appreciate your revealing what you see, and being honest with yourself and the world.

    In the kind of coaching I do and live by, the goal with feelings is to “feel more.” There is a cultural misperception that if we feel a feeling that is strong we could fall into it and never emerge. People can pass this way of being onto their kids. The reality is that when we give ourselves and our kids the space to feel, and be curious, we move through a full-feeling cycle. That honors their feelings, which are a reflection of our ability to connect to things and people and value them. Isn’t that beautiful?

    I want you to know that even if they have been hidden for some time, feelings are available to be re-engaged if given the invitation to be fully accepted and encouraged.

    Blessings to you.

  4. Great article, Ted – I totally resonate with your thoughts and feelings. Maybe I didn’t feel like crying when we didn’t get to meet at the Financial Therapy Assn in Athens, Ga. last September, but I sure felt sad and disappointed. Hope our paths cross directly eventually – truly. Livvie