Grieving is an individual process that no two people will ever experience the same way. The way you express grief and sorrow is determined by different types of grief and the many life experiences that have molded you into who you are. Grief in its simplest form is the sorrow you feel after suffering a significant loss.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Are There Any Benefits to Crying?
- How Do You Know If or When It’s Appropriate to Cry?
- Quick Tips for Having a Good Cry
The expression of grief can manifest in feelings of intense emotional experience. It often appears unexpectedly in the form of bouts of uncontrollable crying and can happen to anyone. These emotions can overtake you without warning.
There’s nothing wrong with letting yourself have a good, long cry. In fact, you might be even feeling right as rain after having a good cry, thanks to its benefits and ability to help you express your grief.
Are There Any Benefits to Crying?
Crying is an essential part of the grieving process that helps you heal from your pain and sadness. Tears are an authentic expression of sorrow and should be allowed to flow freely.
In her Psychology Today article, The Health Benefits of Tears, psychologist Dr. Judith Orloff, M.D. describes having a good cry as a way to cleanse and purge pent-up emotions. She discusses tears having specific health benefits tied to the release of stress symptoms such as fatigue and pain.
Other benefits of crying are:
- Releasing the stress hormone Cortisol
- Stimulation of the production of endorphins - the body’s natural pain killer
- Dulling of grief-associated pain
- Restoring emotional balance
- Helping in grief recovery
If you’re unsure how to have a good cry, the steps below may help you overcome your insecurities about expressing your grief.
How Do You Know If or When It’s Appropriate to Cry?
Displaying emotion is a natural and normal part of the grieving process. It used to be that it wasn't okay to cry in front of others in certain situations, like in the workplace. Crying was seen as a sign of weakness and wasn't always looked upon favorably by bosses or coworkers.
The cultural climate has shifted in recent years. Nowadays, crying is no longer seen as a character flaw but as a sign of grief, sadness, or an inability to cope with a stressful situation, whatever it may be.
Although crying in public is no longer taboo, there are still times when it's appropriate and when it's not. When an individual has suffered a significant setback, crying is expected and even encouraged. But allowing an emotional outburst because of frustration or anger still feels uncomfortable to some and may be seen as inappropriate in certain situations.
On the other hand, the expectation for children is different. Children often cry to get their needs met. Many children learn this manipulative behavior based on their caregivers' reactions to emotional outbursts. Similarly, adults cry in public to garner support from friends and family when grieving or because they may feel emotionally overwhelmed and need reassurance.
Socially speaking, our society teaches men that they should remain brave and strong for their families and loved ones to signify masculinity. While openly crying showed weakness, emotionalism, and lack of control. In contrast, women are almost always encouraged to release their pent-up emotions in any given situation so they could let it all out and start the healing process.
With all of these societal and workplace unwritten rules, it's sometimes challenging to figure out what's acceptable and what isn't. The modern approach is to release your tears whenever and wherever it feels right to you.
Quick Tips for Having a Good Cry
Holding back tears and exhibiting emotional restraint can backfire when the expression of imbalanced feelings overtakes you and leads you to lash out in anger and resentment. Crying helps you experience positive emotions such as relief while releasing negative feelings bottled up inside. Here are some quick tips to honor your need for emotional healing.
1. Let Go of Your Insecurities
One of the reasons people hold back their tears as they mourn is because they’re insecure about what others may think of them. Men and women grieve differently, with men being more self-conscious about public displays of emotions. Men tend to hold back their tears to the detriment of their emotional well-being.
Suppressing your emotions is unhealthy and can lead to unresolved grief that manifests later on in life. When you stop caring what others think of you, you’re able to express yourself more freely.
2. Find Your Safe Space
Finding a private area for you to retreat provides safety to help you let out your emotions without feeling self-conscious. Depending on whether you live alone or with others, you may have to look outside your home for your particular spot to go and grieve alone.
When you’re in your safe zone, you’re able to express your emotions freely and let out a good, long cry. Afterward, you may find that you feel better and can go back to your daily life, feeling less stressed and anxious.
3. Allow Yourself to Mourn in Public
Crying at a funeral is seldom a cause for embarrassment and in fact, is still an important part of a death ritual in some cultures. For some mourners, the shock of losing their loved one may make them feel numb to their pain and sorrow in the first few days and weeks following a death. The funeral may take place within days, leaving some to not having yet fully processed their loss. They may not yet be ready to cry it all out.
The benefits of mourning in public are that you call attention to your sorrow and elicit the support of others who come and comfort you. Crying in public is nothing to be ashamed of and can lead to the healthy processing of your grief.
4. Acknowledge and Accept Your Emotions
People will mourn their losses in many ways -- and there is no one wrong way to mourn. Acknowledging and accepting your emotions doesn’t make you less successful in handling your grief. Contrary to what people may think, having a good cry and letting it all out is healthy for you and allows you to release some of the emotions you may have been holding back.
Some of the things you may have heard in the past regarding the displaying of grief and emotions are simply not valid. It’s okay to have pain and sorrow, and it’s okay to cry if you feel like crying. You don’t need to be ashamed nor make excuses when mourning your losses.
Here are some simple grief affirmations to help you along your grief journey:
- Crying is not a sign of weakness.
- I don’t have to get over it.
- It’s okay to cry if I feel sorrow.
Repeat these affirmations whenever you need an extra dose of courage in allowing yourself to cry.
5. Go Over Your Loss
Taking stock of everything that you’ve lost, how it’s affected your life, and the impact that it has on your future will all give you reasons enough to cry. The goal of going over your losses is to help you with accepting your loss and that your life has forever changed.
Crying over your losses is a natural grief reaction. Losing a significant part of your life is expected to make you feel sad, and there is nothing wrong with crying over it. If you’re embarrassed to show others how you’re feeling, get in your car, go for a drive, and let it all out.
6. Figure Out Why You’re Suppressing Your Tears
Sometimes your natural grief reaction is not to feel anything when you lose something or someone you treasure. If this is happening to you and you don’t understand why you haven’t or can’t cry over your losses, take some time to think about why this may be.
You may have been taught from an early age that crying isn’t allowed or that it’s a sign of weakness. Or, perhaps, your spiritual or religious upbringing shuns the concept of crying over certain losses. The reasons you come up with why you aren’t allowing yourself to express emotions may shock you.
7. Call a Friend
Friends are a great source of support and almost always offer you a shoulder to cry on. Consider calling a friend when you need to open up about what you’re going through. Not everyone will understand what you’re feeling exactly, but true friendship doesn’t need explanations.
Tell your friend why you’re calling and invite them over if they’re open to sitting with you while you grieve over your loss. Prepare a comfortable spot in your living room for you both to sit and talk. If you live with others, it may be best to meet elsewhere to share in this intimate moment.
Let your friend know that it’s okay if they don’t know how to comfort someone. You just need their physical presence to help you come to terms with your sorrow.
8. Have a Pity Party for One
Sometimes you just need to shut yourself off from everyone and everything, pull down the shades, and dig into that pint of ice cream. You don’t need to wait for an invitation to grieve your losses. Mark your calendar and have a pity session for one - you.
Things that may help you release some of that pent-up emotion are listening to sad songs, watching tear-jerker movies, and pulling out old photographs. Prepare your space with some or all of these things that’ll help you get in the right frame of mind for grieving. When you’re all done, wash your tears away, and look forward to a new day.
9. Write a Letter
Another good way of getting your emotions flowing to the surface is to write a letter to your loved one who has died. Tell them about how their death has affected you, how much you miss them, and how you manage without them daily.
Write this letter as if you’re having a conversation with them. Don’t hold back on the things you want to say. After you’ve finished writing your message, go on a long walk, and find a quiet spot to read it out loud to them.
10. Don’t Hold Back
As much as you might be concerned about your public image or what your social media pictures look like, don’t hold back from having a good cry - even if it means having red, swollen eyes for the next two days.
You may find it difficult to let go of your public image and be afraid of looking bad in front of others. When you’re grieving, remember that none of this matters. Almost everyone understands the power of pain, loss, and mourning. There’s nothing to be ashamed about if you look like you’ve been crying for a few days. When it’s all said and done, get yourself together, hold your head up high, and move forward from your grief.
11. Permit Yourself to Grieve
Permitting yourself to grieve is a big step in the right direction towards healing from your sorrow. Instead of pushing down your emotions whenever they surface, allow them to flow freely and manifest in whatever way they’re going to.
It may be that you break down in the middle of the supermarket, and people look at you strangely but know that even that’s okay. It’s okay to cry whenever the feeling surfaces, wherever you are, and in front of whoever is there. You’ll feel better after you let out your emotions, and you don’t need to give strangers any explanation as to what your grief is.
The Healing Power of Crying
Crying has a healing power that is far greater than any advice you can get from reading books on grief. While still helpful with learning about the grieving process, nothing replaces having a good long cry and letting it all out.
- Orloff, Judith, M.D. “The Health Benefits of Tears.” Psychology Today, 27 July 2010, psychologytoday.com.