“There are three things we cry for in life:
things that are lost,
things that are found, and
things that are magnificent.”
― Douglas Coupland
The little boy fell, began to whimper, and then was caught by his father’s eye. There was so much said in that silent glance, and the little boy stood up and proceeded to sniff a little and start moving forward. As a bystander, it is difficult to see in 2018 that sons are still admonished for any sign of weakness, but they are. Actually, it seems that we all are reprimanded one way or another for crying, but as Coupland discovered, there are three things we are allowed to cry for in life — things lost, found, and magnificent. Where do you find your tears today?
“What’s that new song, Susan?” My grandpa was pretty brutal when it came to my crying. I was a crier, and I have no idea why, but the tears flowed over any number of things. When people made fun of my crying when I was a child, I didn’t really know what to do with it other than feel ashamed. I suppose I fell into Coupland’s first category: crying for things that are lost. I must have lost my happy. I’ve cried at every loss I can remember — usually the loss of life, be it dog, cat, or human, and often the loss of items. I wonder what others have lost that might be much more serious than my losses.
Thinking I had lost some cash recently, I was fighting tears as I tore through bags and pockets, trusting that it had to be somewhere I wasn’t considering. When I finally caught sight of the cash, I burst into tears. The relief of finding it was filled with so emotion, and in that instance, I knew exactly what Coupland meant about crying for things found. I’m guessing that you have found things — love, lost children in a department store, lost relatives, treasured items — and crying is allowed in these moments.
When our sons were born, I cried. It was a different kind of crying, Those were tears similar to the ones I shed when my husband and I were married. Such magnificently happy tears, and lucky for me Coupland has approved of these tears belonging to one of the areas for which we might cry. I wonder what magnificent moments you have had in your life that have brought tears.
The first thing we do in taking our very first breaths, in getting oxygen to the new life, is to cry. If we don’t cry, there is a problem. The adults hold their breath awaiting the cry of the baby, and then tears seem to spill from every eye. It would seem, then that crying is, in fact, a life-giving action. If that’s true, why do we so often discount its value and even shame others and ourselves for allowing tears to be shed?
Maybe you’re thinking that Frankie Valli or Fergie wouldn’t approve, but the truth is that big girls (and boys) DO cry, and it’s a healthy thing to do. It seems that just as sneezing, yawning, or going to the bathroom are natural bodily functions, so is crying. It is a natural and necessary part of being alive.
When you let yourself have a good cry, you:
Release toxins — emotional tears are believed to contain toxins being cleared from the body (you can research that one on your own a bit more), and reflex tears literally do clean the eyes of debris and bacteria.
Relieve stress — crying helps rid the body of the stress hormone that raises our cortisol.
Make yourself feel better — crying is considered a method of self-soothing, in that after a good cry, a person feels better, even when the events that lead to the tears haven’t changed. This is partly because of the oxygen you get when you cry (remember the newborn) and because of the endorphins released that can make you a bit numb.
Help you communicate better — let’s face it, as uncomfortable as it might be when your spouse/partner or friend starts to cry, you get a clear message that something is wrong, possibly caused by your actions or inaction. Tears often say what words do not.
“It is a grave injustice to a child or adult to insist that they stop crying. One can comfort a person who is crying, which enables him to relax and makes further crying unnecessary, but to humiliate a crying child is to increase his pain.” (Alexander Lowen) As beneficial as tears are to our emotional and physical well-being, suppressing the tears, pretending that our sadness isn’t with us, is dangerous, as well. Whether the elevated blood pressure or cardiovascular risk or the heavy shame that accompanies the action of suppressing our sadness, there is nothing healthy about telling the hurting person inside of you that their sadness and tears don’t matter.
Grab a handkerchief or a box of tissues, prepare those near you that your crying isn’t about them, and help yourself be a healthier and happier version of you. Let the tears be a gift to you this week (maybe in a not-too-public place). Take in a little more oxygen, release some endorphins without putting on your tennis shoes, and enjoy the freedom that comes with letting the body do what it needs to do. You are worth it!
Susan Steen writes to encourage herself and anyone else who happens to read her words that life is better than we often think and that we are more valuable than we often believe. She lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee with her husband and faithful Jackshund, Mac. She counts herself lucky that her mother continues to be her biggest fan, as she is of her own two adult sons.