In our culture we complicate mourning often by judging the amount of crying or emotional outbursts we observe. If the mourner is crying and being openly expressive, we might say that obviously they are not handling their grief well. We are making the assumption that crying is being out of control and irrational. This assumption is untrue. The release of emotions is healthy grief and a sign of a mourner meeting his or her personal needs in grief.
If we never see the mourner cry, we can often wonder to ourselves if their relationship with the person who died was close at all. In that conclusion we are assuming that a lack of emotional display or crying is the same as a lack of love. That assumption can be untrue depending upon the person, the relationship and the progress of the mourner in their grief. You may just have caught the mourner on a day in which grief was not the main task or focus for the day.
Most mourners worry how others view their crying or grief events. Almost every time a counseling client or grief support group member cries in front of me, they grab for a tissue, dab their eyes and apologize. I tell them the crying is okay by saying, “Hey, you’re sad so you cry. If you can’t cry here with a grief counselor, where can you cry?”
Most mourners would choose not to cry in front of others for fear of losing “control.” None of us mourners has control over everything that happens in our life. We were not given a choice about our grief and its emotional consequences, but we are empowered with the choices of how we deal with death, loss and the emotions we experience.
We mourners have two options. We can suppress the painful grief emotions welling up inside us or we can find healthy ways to acknowledge and express or release grief emotions and the distress they cause. Crying can help let the emotions and the distress out.
Not only do the tears of grief let the sadness and other emotions out, they serve another purpose. Emotional tears are chemically different from tears that result because of an eye irritation. Emotional tears contain more protein and beta-endorphin, one of the body’s natural pain relievers. In addition the tears of grief expel toxic chemicals produced by the body under emotional stress. Tears ease the pain of grief and rid the body of chemicals that can cause physical destruction and life-threatening diseases.
Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise” available online at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Love-Never-LPC-S-Larry-Barber/dp/1613796005 ), Barnes & Noble (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-never-dies-lpc-s-ct-larry-m-barber-ct-larry-m/1104364890?ean=9781613796016).
The grief survival guide is also available in Spanish as “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa”
Both English and Spanish versions are available for Kindle and Nook. Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX http://grief-works.org.