Why crying is actually the best thing you can do for yourself right now
Have you ever experienced the release after a good cry? Crying is often so difficult because it’s tied up in the lies we’ve believed. I want to tackle these lies because I want to give you permission to let yourself have a good cry this week. You’ll be glad you did.
Lie: “Big girls don’t cry”. This one is the worst, and because I care, I’m getting personal with you today. We lost our dad to a sudden heart attack when I was 12 years old. I was the oldest of the three kids and I watched my mom endure all of this like a champ. I very rarely saw some of the adults around me cry, and assumed it was my responsibility to follow suit. But after the pain of that that first year, I became numb and depressed, and passed several years of my teens without crying at all! When I started to deal with my grief as an adult, it was like a giant dam inside of me broke. I never thought one human could cry so much, and was scared it would never end. But eventually, my tears evened out a bit, and that heart that had been as numb as ice started to feel human again.
Grief victims edit or mask their pain in an effort to cope.
GRIEF ARTISTS aren't afraid to let the tears come. They learn to embrace crying as both normal and healing.
Lie: If I ignore it, it’ll go away. So false it’s not even funny! In reality, “Crying makes us feel better, even when a problem persists. In addition to physical detoxification, emotional tears heal the heart. You don’t want to hold tears back.” What’s at stake if you don’t:
- Physical and psychological problems such as depression and anxiety (check out a study on this here.)
- Isolation. People around you might not feel safe to express their own sadness. They sense the emotional rule you have for yourself and assume it applies to them, too.
Lie: Tears are a useless waste of time. I’m better off getting up and doing something. Tears have many purposes, both practical and emotional. There are even different types of tears! M.D. Judith Orloff, quoting biochemist Dr. William Frey, writes that practical tears, ones that “lubricate your eyes [or] remove irritants” are 98% water. Tears that come from an emotional response literally have an added ingredient - stress hormones. Orloff continues, “emotional tears shed these hormones and other toxins which accumulate during stress.” Orloff writes that in addition to getting rid of the bad, some studies suggest “crying stimulates the production of endorphins, our body’s natural pain killer and ‘feel-good’ hormones.” (Read the article here.)
Lie: Crying is only for “those” emotional people. I’m not one of them/don’t want to be. Did you know humans are the only creatures capable of emotional tears? Crying is literally a thing that makes us human. The bravest, strongest people I know are able to (in amateur way) show others their weakness, granting those around them freedom to express theirs as well.
So it’s time to let go of outdated misconceptions about crying and embrace the new one: it is good and healthy to cry.
Crying is like cleaning out a clogged sink. Everything will work better if you clear it out. Tears help open up the heart and especially help someone in mourning, to move forward. I’m not a psychologist, so don’t think I have it all figured out. What I can say is that my personal experience, as well as my experience in helping others, repeats itself again and again: tears are both normal and healing for those who are grieving.
Ways to put this into practice in life and art:
- Find a safe space. A crying experience where you are judged and patted on the head with a “there, there,” won’t encourage you to keep expressing your feelings. If you can help it, save your times for a place and time that is safe. It might be by yourself or with a trusted friend or family member. You pick when and where; the important thing is to do it.
- Sometimes it’s easier to talk about hard things when you’re not looking at someone face-to-face. Find a photo online, or try to paint/draw for your self what your sadness looks like and how it’s affecting you. Show it to a trusted family member or friend. They’ll be looking at the picture, so the pressure is a little less on you.
You’ve joined us in a series where we’ll focus each week on one aspect of what it means to be a “grief artist”. We’ll have a few ways you can apply the lesson both in life, and in your art.
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