I Was Not Allowed To Cry

Should every cultural practice be retained?

Agnes Louis
Mar 20 · 3 min read
Photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash

You can’t cry.”

I stared in disbelief at not one but multiple people who had said this to me in different separate times. All of the adults who have a family of their own.

I couldn’t cry?

It was my mother’s wake3 days before her cremation

I couldn’t cry? I couldn’t bloody cry? I should be allowed to at least wail!

Now some of you reading this might be thinking, what is this lady on about? Of course, she could cry, she just lost her mother.

Apparently, according to my culture or religion or both, those who just lost a loved one shouldn’t cry during the wake or near the body of the ones he/she just lost.

I was told that my mother would think that I couldn’t let go and would refuse to cross over because I was crying my heart out.

I was also told that my tears were symbols of attachment and that it was bad for the departed because it might cause them attachment too and again, they would find it hard — if not impossible — to leave.

I was feeling so numb during the first day of the wake that I simply nodded when someone told me to stop crying. I actually tried my very best to hold my tears.

I still couldn’t help but cry despite my effort and near the end of the second day, I cried so much I felt a little woozy when I stood up (the family had to pray and repeatedly kneel down and stand back up during the praying sessions) and my head was pounding.

On the third and last day before the cremation, I snapped.

I didn’t go batshit crazy although I could have well been and definitely was in my head.

My family members and I were putting flowers on top of my mother. It was one of the farewell tradition. We had to repeatedly say our farewell as we laid flowers on my mother. We had to say goodbye and wish her a safe journey. How could I not cry?

I was sobbing uncontrollably when someone next to me told me not to spill my tears on the flowers as it’s bad luck for the departed. I understand he had only the best intention so I nodded and tried my best to do as he said.

But he kept saying the same thing over and over again.

Before I knew it, I snapped at him, saying “I KNOW!” in a slightly raised voice.

On hindsight, I shouldn’t have snapped at him. He was older than me and I was being disrespectful. He was actually just trying to be kind and helpful. The culture or religion had been ingrained in him for so long that he just couldn’t help it.

I suppose it was during this wake that I really questioned the belief I have been taught since I was young.

I know my mother good enough to know that she would understand that my tears were not because I’m holding on and refusing to let go. It was just sorrow that I had to let out. I would have exploded otherwise.

I have experienced a culture different than my own and I have learned over the years that it’s not good to bottle up feelings. Even my dad at some point during a praying session told me his head was pounding because he was trying to hold back his tears.

Yes, culture is important.

It’s part of our identity. It’s part of who we are. But we should take a closer look at some of the culture we are so hellbent to preserve.

Are they healthy? Are they good for our wellbeing?

And most importantly, is it sensible?

Asking a husband who just lost his wife or children who just lost their mother to stop crying… Is that humane?

Some of the practices of a culture should be examined and analyzed first before they are passed on to the next generation. Being humane should always be our first priority.

After all, shouldn’t we choose compassion and humanity over a culture that is not good for our wellbeing?


Stories that matter. Emotion first and foremost.

Agnes Louis

Written by

Writer by heart. Teacher by trade. I teach English, Yoga and Pilates. Avid reader. World traveller. Model.



Stories that matter. Emotion first and foremost.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade