My 16 year old son was emptying the groceries from the car. I had just finished doing an errand outside. It was dark enough that he apparently didn’t see me coming back towards the house.
It seemed to be the perfect opportunity for me to sneak up and frighten him. I decided to crawl beside the van, up close to the hatch where he was loading his arms with groceries. When I was finally positioned, I lightly grabbed his leg.
His immediate response was to throw a gallon of milk at his hidden nemesis (me).
He stared in shock at the mess he made. I laughed uncontrollably at my successful ambush.
Together we were able to rescue about a half gallon that had not yet spewed from the carton. He was so mad at me and I was so pleased with myself and the milk was so spilt.
The loss was worth it to me for the result I got. I wish it had been recorded for America’s Funniest Home Videos.
My son thought it was a waste. He felt bad about the dollars worth of milk that he spilled. I also think he felt bad for reacting so intensely to my prank.
It is interesting how people respond to different levels of loss. One person who experiences an incredible amount loss might seem unfazed by the encounter. Another person who spills a glass of milk might go over the top in grief. Milk is an interesting analogy because it is a liquid and it illustrates the very principals of grief.
It was explained to me once, that each person has a container within which they store their grief. That container can hold a certain amount of grief. For many people the grief within that container can be ignored or overlooked as long as the container is not nearly full.
My family has been to a couple hotels that have water parks in them. One of the favored features in these parks is a large wooden bucket of water that is constantly being filled. Once it reaches a certain level it begins to tip and ring a bell. The children then all know the bucket is about to pour out its contents, splashing and dousing everyone and everything that is near.
Doesn’t that sound like grief? Once our grief containers reach critically full, they become unsteady. Warnings do sound but they are often hard to understand. Most people do not look forward to dealing with loss so it is also easy to ignore.
Finally, one little thing; a proverbial “spilled glass of milk” comes and it is all that is needed to cause that unstable container to pour out all its contents.
I want to argue that it may actually be good to cry over spilt milk.
Our loss files are filled with “spilt milk” experiences. Sometime we experience a whole gallon worth of loss. Sometimes it is only a small glass of loss. These losses of varied sizes compile in our loss file. Sometimes they stay there and are not dealt with or grieved over.
Why do people fail to experience loss fully? Why do they tend to keep these feelings of grief in?
Loss is painful. It is common to avoid any level of pain. It is especially common in this era, when medical advancements make physical and emotional pain so easy to avoid. If we can avoid it, we usually will.
Another reason that it is so common to avoid grieving is because many of us have been taught to not cry when milk spills. Instead of crying we store the pain of little and sometimes bigger losses away. These feelings are filed in our limited folder for grief and loss.
Finally, the day comes when something little happens and you don’t know why but you totally lose control. You are angry and sad. You are much more emotional then the encounter should prompt.
This is all because you are finally seeing all of that previously unappreciated grief spill out, because that last little thing brought your loss file to its maximum.
Spill a gallon or two or spill a small cup worth of grief and be sure to cry over it. Somehow when you do the rest of life seems to get lighter and steadier.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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