As somebody who’s done my fair share of crying over the years – crocodile tears and all – I feel that crying is a healthy release. I’ve also had a number of clients cry during coaching sessions and there’s one thing I never do – offer them a tissue (unless they ask for one of course).
If being in the presence of somebody who is crying makes you feel uncomfortable, consider that when you hurriedly offer out the tissues (as well-meaning as it is), the subconscious message you’re actually sending is to “stop”. And supressed tears will need to find their way out eventually, perhaps in other ways such as anger.
What I’ve witnessed over time is that some people cry frequently, but not fully. Others cry rarely and it takes a real deep pain to initiate a good cry (usually me). Some are great at crying but never seem to heal from what’s hurting them.
Crying is good for us on an emotional, physical and spiritual level; emotionally because it’s better out than in, physically because tears are the body’s way of detoxing and feel-good chemicals are released in the body, and spiritually because it’s an energy release and cleanse.
I believe that there is such a thing as “doing it right” when it comes to crying. There are healthy and unhealthy cries. During my grief, I had days where I felt like the crying would never end. Sometimes, I felt better afterwards and other times, I fell into a deeper depression.
So what makes the difference?
On the days where I managed to feel better afterwards, I cried with no agenda. There was no self-criticism or judgement attached to the experience. I was able to let go of any expectations about myself and how I was handling my grief. I allowed myself the “hippo time” and didn’t look back.
On the days when I felt worse, I noticed that the tears carried a lot of self-talk. A sense of beating myself up about something or feelings of guilt, shame, anger, etc. I struggled with my grief and fought against it whilst trying to make sense of things. It was a losing battle where inevitably, grief wins.
So ultimately, what I learnt is to just cry it out. No judgement, no expectations and no assessment of what’s happening. There will be a reason or a meaning for the reason you’re crying but you don’t need to analyse it.
Cry It Out.
“We may feel better after crying because we are literally crying it out. Chemicals that build up during emotional stress may be removed in our tears when we cry.” William Frey, professor of pharmaceutics at the University of Minnesota.
Here’s a 6 tips for a healthy cry as written by Tina Gilbertson (author of Constructive Wallowing) in Psychology Today (June 2014):
1. Cry for your own pain. Crying during movies and when listening to sad songs is a good way to let off some built-up emotion. But you may not be dealing directly with your own hurts when that happens. Remember it’s OK to cry for yourself.
2. Let yourself cry over spilt milk. Sometimes, it’s the trivial things that triggers the crying – “the straw that broke the camel’s back” so to speak. You can cry about anything that triggers you, no matter how small.
3. Don’t set a time limit on tears. Your heart will decide when enough is enough. If you connect with the true source of your pain, you’ll find it’s finite. But you don’t get to dictate a time limit for your sorrow. Be patient.
4. Pick up where you left off. If you have to keep a stiff upper lip, perhaps because you’re at work, check in with yourself later and see how you feel. Reflect on the incident in private if you feel it’s unresolved. Don’t stress out if you can’t recapture the pain. Tears are like cats: You can’t lead them on a leash.
5. Speak only kind words to yourself. When you cry, watch for self-critical and invalidating self-talk. Instead, say, “I’m sorry” and “I’m with you” and “I love you.” Don’t say these things in order to make yourself stop crying. Say them in order to be compassionate to yourself.
6. Cry in public. If you’ve never cried in public before, you may be surprised to find that many people will be drawn to you. Your tears make you vulnerable, and therefore no threat to others. Kindness is a frequent response to public tears.
if you’re feeling stuck in your grief and unable to cry it out – or equally lost in the sadness, then I’m here to help and support you. Please don’t suffer – drop me a line.