The Gift of Tears


“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, and augment his rigidity. We stop other people from crying because we cannot stand the sounds and movements of their bodies. It threatens our own rigidity. It induces similar feelings in ourselves which we dare not express and it evokes a resonance in our own bodies which we resist.”
Alexander Lowen, The Voice of the Body

“He wept, and it felt as if the tears were cleansing him, as if his body needed to empty itself.”
Lois Lowry, Messenger


Some see tears as a sign of weakness. I see tears as a gift. So many of us keep our emotions, particularly those we see as negative, stuffed down inside ourselves. We hold the memories associated with those emotions in our bodies too. Our bodies then are given charge of holding on to what our mind does not wish to acknowledge. Our bodies, which are meant to be our means of negotiating this physical plane, are given the additional responsibility of holding our memories in check and blocking the emotional expression of our spirits. No wonder so many of us are so sick and worn down.

When we give ourselves permission to express our sadness, our anger, our disappointment, our hurt, we are freeing ourselves from the burden of carrying those things always with us. Even when we forget a particular incident that caused the anger or hurt, if it’s unacknowledged, it stays with us in our bodies. When something similar happens again, all that emotion will either come out then or be stuffed down even further. By releasing the tears the first time, we allow healing to begin right there and then.

When we continually stuff those emotions in, rather than expressing ourselves,  we also become further disconnected from our emotions, and therefore, our very self. If we do it over and over again, which many of us do without even realizing it, we lose a connection to ourselves. We find it harder to express our emotions (even the “good” ones). Eventually we have  a harder and harder time even knowing what it is we are feeling. (I have done this without realizing it for so long that sometimes I don’t even know that I am angry or stressed. I don’t know about you, but I find that frightening!) We then cut ourselves off from those around us, including those we most wish to be intimate with.

Sometimes I feel it frightening to let the tears flow. I’m afraid I’ll be judged or that I’m being silly and petty or that I’m taking away from someone else or just that it will take too long. Then I think about what I tell others. “You have a right to your own feelings,” I tell people. “What you are feeling is valid.” “You need to honor what you’re feeling.”  “I honor what you are feeling.” “It doesn’t matter what any one else experiences. This is real for you.” “We will take all the time you need. This is important.” All of those things are true and valid. It does help if I remember to tell them to myself, but I have to admit, I hear it better when somebody else says them.

And when I do let those tears flow, it is indeed a gift. Whoever said, “crying never helped anything” obviously hasn’t tried it. It’s as if my whole body is being cleansed of that hurt or anger or sadness. All forms of water are cleansing for the body and the mind: immersing ourselves in rivers, lakes, oceans, baths, showers, even washing our hands or drinking water, is cleansing and healing. But tears, now in tears, we can do some of our greatest healing work.

That’s not to say I will no longer have those feelings when the tears are dried. Sometimes they are. Sometimes those tears were all that was needed to release and move on. At other times, I feel ready to address the situation that brought on the need to cry in the first place, whether by adjusting my perspective of the situation, doing something to change the situation, or communicating calmly and clearly about what happened.

Tears of joy and beauty are just as important – they too help us to connect to ourselves, to express, to share with others, to heal. They speak of deep joy and wonder. What a gift to be able to experience such deep joy and wonder.

The more we express that deepness – whether it is of joy or anger or grief – the more we are able to feel. The more we are able to feel, the more we are able to connect with ourselves and others. The more we are able to connect with ourselves and others. The more we are able to connect with all of Creation.


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