The other week, I responded to a question in Ask Reddit and for once, it was a really good question. I’ve lost track of it now, buried far deep in dozens of comments and replies. But the gist of the question was this:
I can’t cry. I want to cry. I know I should cry. But I can’t cry. How can I teach myself to cry?
My response was fairly short, as I was on my phone. If I’m commenting using my phone, responses are short because I’m all thumbs when it comes to texting. It’s legitimately painful. I’m better at a computer with a keyboard. And so, I kept my response to short, but to the point. And then, like many other comments, I walked away from it and forgot about it until the next day.
Well, my phone had blown up with over 30 comment responses overnight. I had received a couple of rewards and over 1000 upvotes. It’s crazy how fast those things can add up over comments you don’t think are important.
What fueled my response was thinking back to my mother’s death. The days leading up to her death, spent with the family curled up in her hospital room – I was comfortably numb. To coin a phrase. I didn’t cry on the day she died. I teared up. But the tears dried quickly. They were more like dry sobs. If that’s a thing.
The funeral came. I let out one heavy sob when my dad started crying. And then nothing. For weeks, no tears would come. I remember chatting with Greg about it one night and I said, “I think there’s something wrong with me, I can’t cry.”
Greg had known me during my worst years, when I could cry over dropping a glass of milk. That was due to a hormonal imbalance. I know that now. I remember he called me and said, “They will come. Just be kind to yourself. They will come. And when they do, I’m here for you.”
It was – one of the sweeter moments of our relationship.
So, what was my comment that received so many upvotes?
“Crying is therapeutic. It’s a healthy thing to do that helps to release emotions. Just pop in a feel good movie and have a good, ugly cry.”
I had no idea the comments section would spark so much – healthy discussion about crying. I received so many suggestions for movies that made other people cry. There was a good amount of Pixar movies in the mix and people were shocked when I mentioned Toy Story.
I’m telling you – as an older person, that movie hits hard at times. Especially the last installment. Or maybe it’s the soundtrack.
This discussion left me with lots of thoughts about crying. Why is crying so good for us? Why does it feel so good to finally cry after a long period of not being able to?
Crying is a cathartic release
Crying is a way to release emotions through a healthy and natural response. It’s a way to purge ourselves clean of emotional baggage that may bog us down. Whether it’s a response to emotional or physical trauma, grief, loss of a loved one, or just an extremely stressful day – crying can be a good way to release those feelings that you weren’t even aware you had.
A more scientific mind would tell you that crying releases endorphins. These are feel-good chemicals that can help with lessening of emotional or physical pain.
But men aren’t supposed to cry
My father was one of those proud men that never seemed to show his emotions in front of us. He rarely got angry and the few times he did shout – you knew you were in real trouble. I’ve only seen my dad in his younger years, cry twice. Once was at his mother’s funeral. Later, it was his sister’s funeral. That was hard to watch. My mother couldn’t be with us that day, and I had to be his “rock” or shoulder to cry on. It was a position I gladly accepted, for he had held my hand many times when I cried. Now with late stages of Parkinsons, he can become very over emotional and cry at a memory. It doesn’t take much with him. It’s really hard to watch.
Dad grew up in the era that “real men weren’t supposed to cry” and we got used to not seeing men cry. I’ve only seen my brother cry a couple of times too. One of those days was when my mom died.
(please continue reading…before commenting).
It’s okay to cry
What I’ve come to learn as an adult, is that it’s okay for people to cry. No matter what age, gender, or what the reason might be – we should ALL be able to tear up or cry without judgment from others. I mean, if anything, holding in all those emotions for all those years, can’t be good for a body. If crying releases endorphins, then just imagine 50-60 years of emotional trauma trapped inside.
I used to be one of those people. I found it hard to talk about my emotions or feelings without getting angry about them. This blog has helped so much with that. It is my therapy. My cathartic release. And sometimes, reading comments can even make me cry. But that is a very rare thing.
How can I learn to cry
For me, these days, with anxiety and dealing with health issues, I find crying easy to do. Maybe a little too easy. All I have to do is think about my mom. Or my dad. Or anyone I’ve lost over the years. Sometimes it’s a good romance movie like PS I Love You or While You Were Sleeping. Or Disney movies like Lion King and Wall-E get me every damn time.
If that doesn’t work, try listening to music. I have entire playlists dedicated to those rainy days. I have songs that remind me of my mom or another special moment in my life. Songs like “Say Something” or the one that I played at my mother’s funeral, “Wind Beneath my Wings,” or the Danish song, “Day by Day” – these are all songs that evoke emotion in me and make me tear up.
Find that one song that makes you think of that moment in your life. Whether it was the loss of a friendship, the loss of a pet, loss of a loved one. Or just a really bad day that you had. Sometimes stress can make us feel over emotional, and crying can be a good release for that.
If those methods don’t work, then meditate. Think of what makes you really emotional. Clear out all other thoughts and just focus on those memories. Think of other people that you care about.
Just be still with your emotions.
The tears will come. When they’re meant to.
And if none of these tricks work, then this one almost always does it for me too. Eight years later, still makes me cry.
It would be irresponsible of me to post a disclaimer. While crying is a healthy release, crying every day – might be an indicator that something is wrong. If you are grieving, consider talking to a healthcare professional. Grief comes in many forms. I’ve written about this before. If you think you are crying more than usual, please consider seeking professional help.