Why Do We Cry When Someone Dies? 12 Reasons Why

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Crying when we lose someone we love is a normal part of grieving. Tears play an essential role in the healing process of grief. Because of our inherent need as human beings to feel better about our losses, it’s not unusual to feel both better and confused as to why we cry when someone dies. This is true whether it was someone who played a significant part in our lives, or someone we didn’t know at all.  

Having a good cry is very therapeutic to the grieving soul. Without tears, we would be more susceptible to mental, emotional, and physical health issues. Holding back tears can make you more vulnerable and susceptible to depression that goes beyond grief-related sadness.

Jump ahead to these sections:

Is It OK to Cry When Someone Dies?

Holding back tears takes a lot of effort. Not only is it okay to cry when someone dies, but it’s also almost essential as an outlet to releasing pent-up emotion. Sometimes when someone dies, the urge to sob uncontrollably overcomes us, and we lose control over our emotional responses. Uncontrolled crying can happen when least expected. It’s sometimes the result of suppressed emotions having nothing to do with that person’s death. 

ยป MORE: Are you helping someone through a loss? Make sure you're on the right track with this post-loss checklist.

 

Why Do We Cry When Someone Close to Us Dies?

Sadness following a loved one’s death affects everyone differently, and not everyone will cry after someone close to them dies. Your emotional responses are unique only to you. Whether you shed tears will depend on many factors that include past unresolved trauma that you may still be working through, or a general inability to show emotions. 

Crying is part of the stages of grief and can be a healthy emotional release. We tear up for various reasons when we suffer losses, and most people report feeling better after they’ve had a good cry. The following are some of the reasons why we cry when we lose someone close to us:

1. To release grief and sorrow

Crying is a normal and natural grief reaction for most people who’ve experienced losing a loved one. Crying can be the ultimate healer in the release of grief and sorrow.

When you hold back tears, it registers stress in your brain and signals that something’s wrong. Allowing yourself to shed tears can be the emotional and physical release that your body needs. A good healthy cry from time to time will not only make you feel better but will help you move forward in your healing. 

2. To feel better

When you allow your tears to flow freely and naturally, it’ll make you feel better to cry whenever the mood strikes. Crying releases specific mood enhancers that can instantly work to lift your mood when you’re feeling overwhelmed with grief. It’s also okay if you don’t feel like crying.

Allow your feelings and emotions to flow freely without overthinking it. This can mean crying whenever you feel like it, as well as not forcing yourself to cry in front of others because they’re expecting you to. You don’t need to force tears to show others how sad you are over your loved one’s death.

3. To cleanse

“Tearless grief bleeds inwardly.” - Christian Nevell Bovee

Crying cleanses you from your pain and sorrow and begins the healing process. Having a crying spell is usually a good sign, especially for someone who’s deeply depressed. Depression can have the effect of numbing your feelings and emotions.

Some people affected by sorrow aren’t able to cry when someone they know and love dies. While crying can be a sign of depression, it can also be a way out of depression. 

4. As a grief ritual

Crying at a funeral is a normal part of many cultures’ traditions to express lamentation and regret the person’s death. It’s also a sign of respect and honor.

Some cultures practice what’s known as a death wail. It’s a mourning lament performed ritually soon after the death of a family member. A death wail is often performed at the funeral or wake. Not crying may be seen as a sign of disrespect. 

5. Physical healing of pain and sorrow

Bottling up your tears creates a blockage of releasing emotions that help you heal from your pain and suffering. When you’re feeling overwhelming grief, it helps to let go of your tears instead of fighting against them. 

There’s nothing wrong with crying after the death of a loved one. You cry because you love and miss them. Not crying can seem like an unnatural reaction to their death. However, don’t feel guilty when the tears don’t come right away or at all. You may be numb for a few weeks as you get over the initial shock of their death. Don’t punish yourself if you’re not yet ready to cry. 

6. To seek support

There’s comfort in shedding tears over the loss of a loved one. Crying can be a call to your friends and family to rally around you for comfort and support.

They may not know how to comfort someone who’s upset, but their collective effort can make a big difference in your healing process. In some ways, it’s good to know that there’s always someone there for you when you need emotional uplifting and support.

Why Do We Cry When Someone We Don’t Know Dies?

Crying soothes your sorrow even when you cry over someone you don’t personally know. When you lose someone you look up to and admire, feeling sadness is a typical reaction to loss. Crying is a healthy part of the grieving process and is essential when trying to heal. The loss of someone famous or well-known, for example, can lead to you feeling intense emotional distress. 

You might feel this way for a variety of reasons, some of which may confuse you. Some of the typical explanations of why you may react so strongly to this type of loss are:

7. Their art or work dies with them

Whenever a celebrity or artist dies whose work you admire, you mourn the loss of their contributions to the world. You lament knowing that you’ll not ever see them create anything new for the duration of your lifetime.

When you face your feelings openly and honestly over this type of loss, the feelings of sadness will soon pass. Ways to get through this are to seek out and find other artists whose works you love and admire. 

8. We relate to how they died

When someone you don’t know dies, and you feel like crying, your sadness may not have anything to do with their loss. Sometimes, the way they died may trigger a strong emotional response because you know someone close to you who died in the same or similar fashion.

This may leave you feeling vulnerable and frightened and may bring back memories of your past losses. 

9 We feel that we know them

Celebrities and other people of influence sometimes share many of their lives with the general public through social media and other news outlets. When you follow certain famous figures’ lives, you begin to feel like you know them personally.

When they die, it can leave you suspended somewhere between the past and the future. You live vicariously through what they’ve shared in the past and are sad over the loss of knowing where their lives would have led them to in the future. 

10. Our hopes and dreams vanish

The death of a public figure you look up to may leave you disillusioned with the loss of hope and reassurance in what the future holds for you.

When you tie your joy and happiness to the lives of others in the public eye, it’s easy to distort fact from fiction. You may lose hope in your dreams for the future when they die especially when their contributions helped to lay the path for you in your career.

11. We think they’re invincible

Celebrities, public figures, and the rich and famous seem to all have this ethereal invincibility shield around them. Their general admirers seem to think that they’re invincible and are crushed at the news of their death. When this happens, it’s natural to feel extreme anxiety and loss of emotional control.

Their death can come as a personal shock to the senses and to everything you thought you knew about death and dying. Sometimes it’s challenging to come to terms with the death of someone we thought would never die. 

12. We form personal attachments

Forming personal attachments to those we don’t know is part of what it means to be a fan of that person. You find ways in which that person mirrors who you are or how the way you live. Personal attachments grow out of the similarities between you.

When they die, you’re left feeling the same type of loss you feel when someone close to you dies. You may cry at the news of their death and mope around for a few days or weeks afterward. This is normal, and in time, those feelings should pass. 

Why We Cry When Someone Dies

Grief is a natural human experience, and crying is the ultimate healer. We cry at the death of those we know and love as an expression of our grief. Tears can transform suffering and help us pick up the pieces to move forward in our sadness. Whether you’re supporting someone bereaved or going through it yourself, you’ll find that having a good cry can make you and everyone who’s suffering feel better.

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