To Cry, or Not to Cry? Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow…

Nov 18, 2015 | Relationships

My grandmother used to cry whenever we said goodbye – even if we were just heading out the driveway to go home, twenty miles away, and would see her the next day. I loved that woman, and was closer to her than to almost anyone – but sometimes it did “get old” watching her cry. I didn’t understand it, and I was helpless to make her feel better. I didn’t realize, as a child, that I didn’t have to do either. I only had to love her. But yes, it “got old” sometimes – especially when SHE was the one heading off on an exotic vacation to faraway lands – by choice! – and we were the ones staying home to go to school and work. Ho hum! But I always knew it was only because she loved us so, and thoughts of mortality and all that might happen in the world before the next time we met were somehow hard for her to push aside.

My other grandmother always said things like, “See you at Christmas – God willing and the creek don’t rise!” and that “got old” too, this constant reminder that one or more of us might die before the next holiday. Good God, how depressing that seemed to me at the time. No – how dramatic. I imagined this woman lived in a constant state of believing she had one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel. But I was young and she was not and I get it now. Funny thing is, SHE was one of the least emotional women I ever knew, and that was often a source of great irritation to me over the years; I took it as “insensitive,” but I think it was more a matter of faith in whatever was to come. It was all God’s will.

We all process things differently at different times. When my son went across the country for his first semester at college, I was in a funk. I didn’t cry – and somehow that seemed an inappropriate response. Inside, though, part of me was curled up in a warm blankie, sobbing for the “baby” I was losing. I wondered why – I mean, I went through that already with my daughter, and now she’s an independent, amazing young woman who still talks to me almost every day. I already knew that as we lose our “little ones,” we gain grown ups we can be immensely proud of. And indeed, part of me was swelled with pride over the man my son was becoming. Another part was consumed with worry – the world is a sometimes-scary place, but so can walking across the street be. And another part was kind of – well, not at all unhappy at the prospect of two healthy, happy grown children and an empty nest in which to reconnect with my husband. It’s all normal. And we can dance between all of those feelings in a single hour – or have them all tangled up inside at the same time.

Holly Jahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.


  1. DoD

    Oh how I remember all those tears and creeks rising! And watching a child become a fantastic adult that make us proud.

    • HollyJahangiri

      Aw, gee wiz, Dad. 😉 Thank you.

  2. Rummuser

    I am one of those men who cry at parting. But there is noone left anymore for me to do that for. Since I stay with my son and his lovely wife, I don’t have the empty nest syndrome either. Sad.

    • HollyJahangiri

      Can’t you send them on vacation or something? 🙂

  3. Patricia Stoltey

    I find as I get older, I tear up at such partings more than I used to. And I say “I love you” more often. It’s easy when we’re young to convince ourselves we (and our loved ones) are invulnerable. Over time, the truth sinks in.

    • HollyJahangiri

      I can wait a while for that truth to sink in. 😉

  4. fim

    How true it is when we’re young to not understand the ways of a generation which went through things we cannot fully understand, and that is why they come from that place of worry. It imprints on us, yet, we also reach that place and realize there are never guarantees from tomorrow. The fear of losing someone – an experience I personally began going through early enough in life, as I realized that my own parents would be the ones leaving one day. Today, what I see in that similar behavior in my family, is it is a combination of superstition which is used to ward off the fear of a possible inevitable, and a way of showing how much we are loved.

    • HollyJahangiri

      I TRY hard to remember that the only reason we fear losing someone is because we were lucky enough to have them in our lives in the first place.

      • fim

        That is a wonderfully profound thought and so true! Very well said.

      • HollyJahangiri

        I realized it after my mom died. The choice was simple: If we didn’t love and weren’t loved, we wouldn’t hurt SO bad when people died. But then… we wouldn’t love and be loved. And suddenly, the choice was clear and the pain was bearable, because the thought of not having had her in my life was 100 times worse.

  5. Aleta

    I am 46 years old and was given a miracle, my son (who is almost 3 years old). My husband (who is 8 years old than I am… and no, this was not a “planned pregnancy with Scientific help, it was a total shocker, best thing in our lives).. my husband goes around saying, “We will be lucky to be alive when our son is married. We will never be grandparents.” SO depressing. I don’t want my son to hear these thoughts and think of us not being here. Time is precious and we need to be in the moment, tears or not.

    • HollyJahangiri

      Oh, you may be grandparents. These days, I’d say it’s not at all unlikely you’ll make it till he’s 40. Your husband may, too, though it’s best for everyone if you just enjoy each day as it comes and make sure your son’s able to stand on his own two feet. We can’t do that kind of math, you know. It could drive anyone mad.


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