If I had a dollar for every time someone apologized to me for crying, I just might be able to retire as independently wealthy.
Crying is so often seen as a sign of weakness, or something to feel bad about…like somehow watching someone cry might be offensive to me. It seems almost automatic for most to apologize when tears start.
Which is a problem in my office…because people talk of matters of the heart. And when people talk of matters of the heart, they weep…because it matters.
Tears come during moments of
- heartbreak…really feeling the depth of it
- need for emotional release with built up stress/distress
- acknowledged and experienced sadness (it’s one thing to talk about, it’s another thing to not push it away and just sit with the pain)
- during moments of exquisite beauty that taps into a deep part of oneself
- as a body’s way of acknowledging publicly that there is stress/distress–it calls for others to notice pain (which if used consciously so, can be seen as manipulative…but more often is simply an unconscious means for one to signal to another that gentleness is needed)
So, at Bergen and Associates, when people apologize for tears, we might sometimes explore where it is they come from that a need to say sorry for tears exists…but, more often, we just simply pass the kleenex.
Tissues are everywhere in our office…two in various places in each counselling office, in the larger office, in the waiting room. We always have lots and lots of kleenex…and there is a garbage can clearly available in each room…pull, wipe and/or blow, toss and repeat.
And the tissues have lotion…because we know that crying at length means eyes are repeatedly wiped for tears, dabbed at for minor leaks in the presence of mascara, or pressed hard into tissues to contain sobs. That’s hard on a body…and we do what we can to make crying a healing experience.
There’s evidence that most folks feel better after crying…especially if they feel like the space for tears was safe and validating.
Around our office, tears are:
- signs of vulnerability which we see as a form of courage
- valued forms of expression
- signs of trust in the therapist and in the therapy…and therefore are valued
- evidence that a person’s soul is daring to express itself…and so it is a sign that poignancy is present…and that means slowing down and honoring the moment
- little symbols of something important…and so we honour each tear
Students will sometimes ask me (in anticipated horror): “What happens if I make a client cry?”…inevitably fearing that it means they have said or done something horribly upsetting. I respond to them that if a client should shed tears with them, it is a sign that they feel safe enough to let the sadness/turmoil/depression or whatever voice to express itself. It is already there…crying is the expression of something meaningful in the moment…of feelings that have been there unexpressed all along.
So…like I said, if I had a dollar for every time someone apologized for crying with me…well, know I love my job and have no interest in retiring.
Please know that tears are always welcome in our office. Always. Welcome.
The tissues are waiting…