I could tell the moment she walked through the door that she’d had a hard day. Middle school is hard enough. Middle school during a pandemic is a whole other level.  

She had been trying so hard to roll with life’s punches. I’ve watched her take each new guideline, change, and mandate in stride—and with a maturity that inspires and convicts me. I’ve watched her learn to cope through writing, cycling, and crafting. She even taught herself to knit and crochet, which she had to learn from YouTube because I can barely sew on a button!

But it’s been a lot. And she finally hit her breaking point. 

RELATED: Dear Daughter, Middle School is Hard But it Won’t Last Forever

Tears she has fought hard against for months begin to breach the dam—finding passage down her freckled cheeks. And yet, still she attempts to hold them back. She swipes at her cheeks, a futile attempt to control the tidal wave of emotion. 

I was looking at my daughter—I was seeing myself. 

Seeing how hard I’ve tried to keep moving forward when all I’ve wanted to do is hide under the covers. Seeing how hard I’ve tried to fight against despair, frustration, sadness, anxiety, anger, and fear. Seeing the effort it has taken to keep my own feelings locked up tight behind the dam of holding it all together.

Looking at my daughter—gazing into her blue eyes shimmering with tears—I hear myself whisper, “Sweetheart, strength comes through our tears. Don’t fight them, just let them fall.”

I was talking to my daughter—God was talking to me. 

As I pulled her into my arms, I felt God pull me closer into His. 

“Why don’t we just sit here for 10 minutes and let ourselves feel sad?” 

I press my lips to the top of her head as she nods her agreement. 

We sit together and allow our tears to fall. They fall for different reasons. They signify different hurts. But at that moment, we don’t need to talk about the reasons, we just need to let them out. 

And as people with big feelings—and a bigger desire to want to control those feelings—I knew we needed a time box. Identifying an end to our temporary surrender somehow allows the tears to flow more freely. 

Ten minutes later we wipe our faces, giggle at our puffy eyes and snotty noses, give each other a hug, and move on with our day. 

Nothing was solved. Everything felt a little better. And somehow we felt a little stronger. 

That night, as I snuggled into bed, she poked her head into my room. 

“Hey, mom? Is it OK if we take 10 sad minutes again tomorrow . . . if I need them?”  

RELATED: Dear Teenage Daughter, It’s OK to Feel a Little Lost Right Now

“Absolutely,” I reply, emotion rising in my throat. She comes in for a hug. I savor the moment, before pulling back to look into her ocean blue eyes. “I will always be here for you—for your sad minutes, for your happy minutes, and for all the minutes in between.” 

The words came from my lips. I know they were spoken by God’s heart. 

It was a hard day. 

It was a great day. 

It was the day I learned that strength truly can come through tears—especially tears shed while in the arms of a loving, strong, compassionate God

Originally published on the author’s blog

Jennifer Bleakley

Jen Bleakley is the author of several animal-themed books including Joey—how a blind horse helped others learn to see, and Pawverbs—inspiring stories for the animal lover’s heart. She firmly believes that animals have much to teach us  about ourselves, each other, and about God—but in order to learn from them we first must PAWS and pay attention (she also really loves a good pun!) Jen lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband, Darrell, their two teenagers, and a menagerie of pets—which includes a very needy golden retriever named Gracie.You can connect with her online at jenniferbleakley.com or on social media @jenbleakley