Photo by Karen_Nadine
As adults, whenever we feel the need to cry, we tend not to cry in public or in front of our families. We tend to wait until we are alone to start crying. We hide our tears even when we are badly hurting.
I don’t know how many times I have heard, ‘Oh I didn’t want to cry in front of …’ or ‘I almost started crying at the shops so I just came home…’
Whether you want to admit it or not but there is a stigma around women and crying. Often, we can be viewed as being too emotional or “sensitive” because we cry. However, when we are dealing with the loss of a loved one then it is expected that you would show some emotion and cry.
Are we still allowed to cry 2 months after losing your loved one? How about 6 months? Or a year?
The both times I have experienced loss I was told “be strong and stop crying”.
The first time I heard it, I was a naïve young woman and believed what I was told and tried to stop crying. But the thing was, the more I tried to stop myself from crying the more I cried.
This small, innocent piece of advice I later found to be my downfall and what ultimately had me go to counselling.
It was in one of the later sessions with my counsellor that I came to realise that crying was not my enemy, if anything it was actually good to cry and let the tears out.
I had finally worked out that I shouldn’t be ashamed of my tears or hide them, no matter how long ago I had lost my mum. I realised that “being strong” had nothing to do with crying and that “being strong” was actually expressing emotion and not feeling sorry for doing it. I realised that if people were awkward around my tears, it was on them not on me.
But it wasn’t easy getting to this point. It took me almost a year and a half after my mum’s death to finally get it.
My breakthrough came after reading this…
“As hard as it is, allow yourself to feel sad and cry. These are normal responses to losses of any kind. Crying is one way of releasing the build-up of pain when you are grieving.” (Morris, S., 2008 ‘Overcoming Grief’ pg 31**)
I specifically remember after reading this paragraph I started to cry. But this time they weren’t tears of sadness but more like tears of joy! Finally! I had someone that normalised crying. Reading this made me feel like I wasn’t in the wrong for crying and that I am normal.
From that point on, whenever I needed to cry, I would do so without feeling bad about it or try to hold back my tears. It didn’t matter where I was, I was no longer ashamed of crying.
Reading this paragraph on crying made me an advocate from crying. Anyone that needed to cry I would tell them to express their tears and not hold back.
But crying isn’t just normal response to loss. It is one way the body knows how to cope.
Research has shown, the act of crying is the body’s way of releasing a chemical build-up. When someone we love dies, the body’s natural reaction is to produce narcotic like chemicals that are similar to heroin or morphine. These help to numb the pain many of us feel when we first find out the news. These chemicals are than released when we cry (McKissock, M. & McKissock, D., 1988. ‘Coping with Grief’ pg 24***).
But crying isn’t just about releasing the chemical build-up. There are many other benefits to crying which can include:
- Having a soothing effect on your body Helping to calm you down
- Relieving pain
- Helping you to sleep better
- Making you feel better (especially because you’re not suppressing the emotions any more).
In the book, Coping with Grief, the authors suggest that one should facilitate a good cry and that your support person should ask questions that would help bring the tears on!
So the next time you feel like crying, don’t hold back the tears and let them come. Don’t ever feel bad for crying and don’t ever feel like you have to apologise for your tears.
Give yourself permission to cry without judging yourself, without questioning yourself and without wondering if you are “normal”.
If anything you read resonated with you, please let me know in the comment section below!
**Morris, S., 2008. ‘Overcoming Grief. A self-help guide using cognitive behavioural techniques’. Robinson London.
***McKissock, M. & McKissock, D., 1988. ‘Coping with Grief’. HarperCollins. Australia.