When I broke up with my boyfriend in my early 20’s (approximately a thousand years ago), I laid down on my bed and sobbed so hard that my comforter was soaked. I remember it like it was yesterday.
Hello, my name is Claire and I’m a crier. I love to cry. Doesn’t matter the time of day, the gloominess of the weather or the sadness of the event. The tears I have shed during my adulthood could fill a body of water, oh, about the size of the Atlantic Ocean. My crying jags give new meaning to the term “pity party.” I have been known to have some amazingly extended pity parties. Some have gone on for so long I really should have hired an event planner.
But did you know there are therapeutic benefits of crying? Judith Nelson, psychotherapist and crying researcher says, “A good cry is restorative, creative, and cleansing. It can help us heal and regain a sense of hope.” Just what I suspected. Crying is required behavior when emotionally overwrought. Who knew I was behaving in an exceptionally healthy way?
And, for those of us in physical pain, another researcher says crying is good for physical as well as emotional pain. Dr. William H. Frey, a biochemist at the St. Paul-Ramsey Medical Center in Minnesota says the tears we produce when under stress, which includes when we are in physical pain, (as opposed to tears produced when we watch, say, a sad movie) contain more of the protein-based hormones prolactin, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and leucine enkephalin (a natural painkiller).
Many times we are told to “suck it up” or “be a man, stop crying,” but that is not good advice. Crying when in physical pain may actually relieve the hurt of some of our achy, creaky, flea-bitten joints. I’ve been crying a lot recently due to my chronic pain (no more crying over boyfriends – the boyfriend I was crying over in my early 20’s is now my husband – who’s doing the crying now? – wait a minute I think the joke’s on me). Anyway, the tears I shed now are a result of my acute pain.
I have arthritis and a few years ago it got worse. I started to feel intense pain when I did my favorite activities like cooking, baking, gardening and my preferred form of exercise, Zumba. Besides feeling emotionally distraught because I thought my active days were behind me, I was also in serious pain. It took me a while to find some relief but, long story short, I am now doing a bit better. I went through more practitioners than Donald Trump has gone through wives. But eventually I found the right ones for me – Western and Eastern practitioners as well as yoga, postural therapy, and massage.
I still have days when the pain is so bad that I can get really down in the dumps. That’s where my crying comes in.
But I have learned this about myself over the years: my body tells me when I’m done crying. Something clicks, the waterworks turn off, and the emotional (and many times the physical) pain is gone. I am able to get up and start putting one foot in front of the other. I feel a little bit of hope.
And there is hope – there are answers to relieving some of your pain. Go on the hunt for what helps you – be open to new modalities. Not everything will work but something will. Including crying. You are allowed to cry about your pain and your suffering. It’s okay. I give you permission to cry. My massage therapist calls it “surrendering.” I love that term.
So, don’t keep the tears in. Let them out. Your body will tell you when you are done. The old adages of “shake it off” or “suck it up” are over for me.
(Important caveat: if you are depressed and crying all the time it’s not good and you might need help.)
But a good cry every now and again is cathartic and literally healing. So be generous and treat yourself to a good, old-fashioned pity party.
Claire Gawinowicz lives and writes in Oreland, PA. She and her husband have two 20-something children who keep her young and supply her with endless writing material.