There’s a Jewish saying that goes: What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul. Have tears been like soap in your life?
During this season of recovery, tears have been my friend. They have been a release valve for pent up frustration, a way to cope with physical pain, a natural response to loss and disappointment, and an expression of relief and accomplishment.
Not everyone sees tears as their friend. For some, tears are a sign of weakness and because of that belief, no tears flow. For others, fear of what will be unleashed once they start crying holds them back.
Studies show that not all tears are helpful or serve a healing function. An issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science states..
…crying is often beneficial, but benefits may depend on the traits of the crier, their social support system, and whether the crier has ongoing psychological problems like depression or anxiety.
Those with symptoms of anxiety as well as those unable to experience pleasure were the people least likely to benefit from crying.
There are three types of tears:
- continuous tears (the kind that keep your eyes from drying up)
- reflex tears (caused by irritants such as smoke)
- emotional tears (tears because of frustration, anger, sadness or relief)
The capacity to cry is part of the human experience that travels with us through life from the mountain peaks of child birth, weddings, Olympic gold medals down into the valley depths of having a loved one die, experiencing serious injury, or facing a fourth place finish.
There is a time to cry and a time to laugh. Ecclesiastes 3:4
What is the value of crying?
- It helps you cope with the pain of loss.
Facing pain, not running from it, is the pathway to healing. Avoiding pain lengthens suffering and increases anxiety levels.
Shakespeare put it this way – To weep is to make less the depth of grief.
- It keeps you healthy.
Crying removes toxins from your body when they are emotional tears that are a result of sadness, anger, fear and frustration.
- It lowers stress levels.
Tears aren’t just salt water. They contain an endorphin that modulates pain, and hormones released during times of stress. Crying actually “flushes excess and toxic stress hormones” from your body (William Frey).
- It connects you to God.
You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, each tear entered in Your ledger, each ache written in Your book (David in Psalm 56:8).
A final word from grief counselor Dr. Lou LaGrand…
Tears communicate, lubricate, elicit sympathy, change mood, reduce tension, and help us cope with a multitude of losses throughout life. The therapeutic value of crying is clear: accept, encourage, and nurture crying in yourself as well as those you support in times of change. Don’t rush for the Kleenex. Let a good cry happen.
Never miss an opportunity to shed tears and allow the stress, confusion, and frustrations to come pouring out. And notice how laughter and tears go hand in hand, sometimes in the same breath. Together, they are twin resources to be given high priority in all types of healing and adapting to life changes.
When is the last time you had good cry happen? If you struggle to let the tears flow, what’s getting in the way?
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