I always tell my clients “tears are welcome; if you can’t cry in a counselling session, where can you cry?” But I still find a majority of clients still apologizing for their tears. Indeed a common theme I talk about with clients is that we don’t live in a society that recognizes the value of tears. Even people who’ve lost a loved one in the past year think there is something wrong with them for “breaking down” and crying. “I’m a wreck. I’m falling apart” are phrases I hear often. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job or loss of our identity due to an illness or injury or relationship; our pain is denied by messages like “hurry up and get over it or its not that bad.” I believe it is well intentioned people that don’t want to see us suffer. But in their effort to make us feel better, we can often feel worse. So I tell people if you cry whether it is at home alone, in the car, at work or in the grocery store, it is because your body and soul needs to. When we deny our pain, it tends to take on a life of its own.
I think about young people today and how sad it is to see so many teens and young adults struggling with self-harming behaviours. I remember feeling immense waves of sadness during my teen years but thankfully I had journaling and my tears to help me move through and past this pain. To feel is to be human. Perhaps if we encouraged and modeled an open expression of our most vulnerable feelings, less young people would feel overwhelmed to the point of needing to injure themselves.
As the year draws to a close, there are many reasons to be sad. The month of November drew attention to both bullying and woman abuse, which are more common than most would like to believe. As someone who has worked with abusive men, I truly believe “hurting people hurt” and perhaps if men were supported rather than shamed when showing their vulnerable emotions at a young age, there would be less bullying. Unfortunately this message often continues causing many women and children in our community to live. I was thrilled to see some exciting initiatives taking place through the White Ribbon Campaign, the Male Allies program and without our local colleges and universities.
With the holidays quickly approaching the longing for our loved ones who are no longer with us often intensifies. But by allowing our tears, we can help protect ourselves from irritability and anxiety. As we move through the pain we can come to a deeper awareness about what we need to take care of ourselves and get through these difficult times. Holidays can also be especially painful when we are no longer with a partner. Memories of happier times and doubt can seep in. For some it is the pain of not having a safe family to go to that can weigh us down. Put one hand on your heart and one on your belly, breathe slowly and simply allow these feelings to wash over you. Remember, if the tears flow, it is because they need to.
Another area where tears can transform us is with regards to how we relate to ourselves. I’ve come to discover that showing kindness and compassion to ourselves is one of the hardest things I can ask of my clients. Going back and grieving the origins of this critical relationship to self can put you on a journey to healing and hope as you forgive the child within. These healing tears are cleansing and often represent a sense of relief and “rebirth”.
So I hope you will remember in relating to yourself and others, as the movie “Inside Out” reminds us, we need to recognize and embrace the transforming power of all our feelings, especially sadness. There’s no getting around it, we’ve got to go through it and feel it to heal it. We are here to help!
Nicole, December 2015