At the end of a client-packed day, the trash can in my office is often overflowing with used tissues. Richard, seeing this, usually comments; “Good day, huh?” and we both laugh. He knows that, when clients cry, they’re usually breaking through and healing something. I’ve been known to joke with clients that I’d like to create a “crying spa:” a gorgeous resort with boxes of the finest tissues everywhere, even towels, which are great for a really good cry. We’d play sad and soothing music, there would be big, soft beds, lovely overstuffed chairs and sofas with cozy throws and soft lighting. Big bathtubs, hot tubs and roomy showers with lots of hot water, and secluded outdoor areas for being alone. A good cry can be the most healing thing you can do.
American culture is perky. We’re enjoined to be happy, and grief and sadness is too quickly labeled “Depression” and supposedly banished with drugs. People who are legitimately grieving are often told to feel better, when what they need is to honor their profound loss by grieving.
A dear friend of mine who lost her husband of about 50 years recently told me that now, after two years, she has had the first glimmers of feeling energized and hopeful about the future. She did not spend those two years at home, wallowing in her grief. Indeed, she went on with her busy life as much as possible, surrounded by friends and family. But she did grieve: writing poetry and talking with a few close friends who could understand. No matter how profound the grief, if you honor it, a day comes when the clouds lift and optimism rises again. Human beings are not easy to keep down. We are resilient, and one reason we are is that we can cry.
However, there’s a difference between a good cry and wallowing in self-pity. A good cry is cleansing, and leaves you feeling lighter and more able to cope.
My clients have many different reasons to cry:
• A relationship breakup
• Loss of a dear friend, relative, partner or pet
• Recognition of damage done in the past
• To relieve pressure from stressful situations
• Relief at finding out their feelings are normal and healthy
As people mature, they tend to cry less. As you gain more life experience, you can handle the resulting emotions better. In youth, everything seems critically important (a snub, a breakup, a bad mark) but with age, you learn that life has its ups and downs, and you’re less reactive to them. Plus, with experience, you develop coping skills: positive ones, like talking yourself out of feeling bad, or talking to good friends and getting support; and negative ones, like eating, drinking, smoking, all of which help you handle emotions without tears.
Your emotions and your hormones are intrinsically connected. Emotions are hormones. Emotional reactions to events send hormones coursing through your body. Crying is your body’s and mind’s way to re-balance after a physical or emotional shock. Crying helps deal with emotionally shocking events and assimilate them.