Loss and Tears

“I know the way to your heart is through your brain and I do love you for it, or in spite of it.”


One of the major themes in the book Sun Valley Moon Mountains is “loss.” In the first chapter of the book, Kate says to Jaq, who finds her crying in the bathroom in the middle of the night, “I know the way to your heart is through your brain and I do love you for it, or in spite of it.”


That’s a very Stoic attitude. Kate admits that she is a Stoic by choice, while Jaq is “one by inclination.”

A major premise of Stoicism is not necessarily to deny feelings but to keep them from interfering with the business of living. I believe emotional trauma can register at the intellectual level and still be valid.  Like the fictional Jaq and Kate, my wife, Linda, and I tried very hard not to allow the tragedy of Katherine’s death interfere with the “business of living.”  Simply, we couldn’t if we’d wanted to. We had responsibilities, most especially to our damaged daughter.

Linda and I often joke that we cry twice a year for practice. But that doesn’t mean we don’t care.

Registering Pain

Besides registering intellectually, I think pain can also register in the heart and in the gut. Empathy pulls at the heart and may be a feeling most closely related to poignancy.  Visceral pain, like Kate’s sobbing alone, comes right from the gut. And although Jaq and Kate were Stoics, they still had their guts wrenched, but were careful as to when they would let their feelings loose.


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  1. Sometimes, I feel that deep pain, like that felt when one grieves, comes in waves and therefore rolls from the brain to the gut continuously. I’ll find myself suddenly pulled into that gut wrenching pain that takes your breath away and swallows you whole. And then, in an instant, my brain switches to everyday practical thoughts, and while i still acknowledge the loss and grief, I’m no longer paralyzed by it. it’s a strange phenomenon yet it isn’t something you consciously to do.
    So for me, pain is not something I can control and decide when I will feel it, but when the gut wrenching pain becomes unbearable, the brain comes to the rescue with mundane everyday thoughts of “life must go on” type tasks.
    maybe it’s a release valve so the brain isn’t overwhelmed by such intense emotions…life must go on, as difficult and impossible as it may seem at the time.

  2. I’m not stoic.
    Grief paralyzes me.. Pulling me into a fetal position while the pain rolls over,in and around me..
    I am in this dark place for a long time but when I venture out I find myself returning to it many times before I eventually move into life made so different by the loss.

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