Many of us spend a good deal of time crying in the first few months of our lives. It all starts with the birth cry which occurs as the newborn's lungs expand with air. And then come the tears mothers read so well knowing when her infant is hungry, wet, uncomfortable, overtired, scared, angry and more. As adults, crying varies between the sexes, with women crying more often than men probably because it is considered more socially acceptable. As adults we cry when we hear lovely music or see something beautiful. Tears flow when we are sad and happy; frustrated, overwhelmed or trying to get attention among other things.

And most of us cry when we grieve.

Actually with grief we weep, sob, and sometimes wail because the pain is so deep. Sadly, in our society, we tend to be uncomfortable with tears be they our own or someone else's. As a result many hold them in far too often; apologize for them; and save them for when they are alone even though crying with someone is a sacred experience. My husband used to call my tears "holy water".
In the many years I have worked with clients who are in pain, I cannot tell you how many were fearful of crying even in a therapy office because they think they feel there is so much pain and so many tears that they will not stop crying once they start. I can tell you, I have never seen this happen.

When we suppress our tears we sort of deaden ourselves and with repeated "practice" we become "good" at not crying and then become unaware of what we feel. British psychiatrist Henry Maudsley says: "The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep."

It is my opinion that tears shed in grief help us heal. That does not mean everyone who grieves, cries or has to cry. Grief is unique to each person and shedding tears depends on many factors including the relationship to the person who has died. What I can tell you about crying in grief from a personal stand point is that I always feel better after a good cry. There is a biological and social reason for that. Laura Schocker  reports that criers who felt support from caring people as they cried, report feeling better afterwards. Tears release the valve and the stress we feel.
It is also my opinion that when we suppress our tears and with them our feelings, we only prolong the grief process or make it more difficult. We live in a society that seems to have little tolerance for pain and grief. Many do not know what to say or do when someone is grieving and it makes it very difficult for those who need to talk, to cry, to just be with someone. I have often found myself just sitting on a sofa or on the floor holding a client as she sobs. No talking is needed.
If you are grieving, seek out others who are grieving, have grieved or who really understand grief and are able to be there for you. Consider a support group where you can cry your tears in a safe environment. Join an online group where you can share your feelings and story. Here is the link to the one I moderate along with bereavement counselor Marty Tousley: www.griefhealingdiscussiongroups.com See an individual bereavement counselor so you have a safe and compassionate person to turn to. Hopefully friends or family members will also reach out to you. Walking into the pain is the way to heal. And that most often involves tears shared or alone. Being where you are on your grief journey means being in your pain, shedding tears, and seeking some solitude for journaling and just being quiet.

Remember what Maudsley said: "The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep."
 


Comments

10/27/2014 9:49am

Beautiful, Mary. As I read this, I imagined my grief tears as birth tears into my new life. Like a newborn, we may be leaving a safe world behind. My mother didn't weep for my father, even though she loved him madly. She was afraid she would drown. And all that stored grief made her emotionally rigid until she developed dementia 40 years after his death and began to weep her grief. Vic said my tears were a sign I cared deeply about something. They rarely bothered him--unless I was blaming him for something.

I look forward to sharing this on FB author page.
With gratitude, Elaine

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Anne Gorman
10/27/2014 10:33am

Thank you for this article, Mary. I find crying to be a relief as I grieve. This was not so with me in the beginning after I lost my Jim. Having caring people around you who do not mind your tears helps.
Anne

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Karen Anderson
01/23/2015 8:40am

I feel like your story was telling my story. I am in the middle of great overwhelming grief. I have found myself grabbing this stuffed animal and weeping. Now he is by my chair and when I hold him I can't help but weep. I feel like the tears will never end and it has turned into my crying time. I find that I just want life to slow down so I can process what has happened in my life but the days get filled with nonsense and distractions. I just want time to be and can't seem to find it. I am going to give this a big try and be ok to hold my emotions and tears for my time with Quincy(the name of my Bear) . Thanks for sharing practice.

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Mary Friedel-Hunt MA LCSW
01/23/2015 12:47pm

Karen, I do not know what your life is like, i.e. if you are working full or part time, whether you live alone or not, etc. but I do know it is challenging to prioritize needs esp when those are needs for self care. It took me a long time before I blocked off hours and days for ME. I hope you can make that happen soon so you can cry, read, wail, meditate or just be. So needed for healing. Bless you, Mary

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10/06/2015 6:01am

If persons are weeping and crying, it is an indication of grief and something wrong at large scale. It is the part and parcel of life to enjoy and feel grief. It is interesting and must be handled with confidence and courage.

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Tears are cleaning us and our minds!

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04/07/2016 12:59am

I also think that when we suppress our tears and with them our feelings, we only prolong the grief process or make it more difficult!

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