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“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” –Washington Irving
It seems like the older I get, the more easily I cry, and most of my friends tell me the same thing.
Have we become more sensitive, or do we just have more opportunities for sadness? Some will admit they’ve always cried for any little thing. I think most of us simply decide that tears are a perfectly acceptable response to the emotional nature of life. We cry for so many reasons beyond whatever set us off. It’s the depth and breadth of feelings that suddenly overwhelms our ability to express ourselves.
I practically burst into tears when I learned that my daughter was pregnant with her first child; the surprise announcement of this precious new life was such emotional news. Parents know what it’s like to gaze upon a child and be filled with so much love that your eyes fill with tears.
Tearing up while listening to a song means it’s touched a tender place in my heart–perhaps one that still aches with hurt or a bittersweet memory.
Sometimes I can handle it, and other times I just can’t.
Of course, tears are common in love relationships. We cry for the lovers who break our hearts, for the ones we try to save from themselves, and for the ones we can’t have. I probably wasted the most tears on men who eventually proved they weren’t worth a single teardrop.
I remember tearfully hugging my first husband after a close friend’s disclosure of her upcoming divorce, and suddenly realizing I was mourning the end of my own marriage—something I knew was coming, but that was oddly confirmed in that moment. Mine were tears of good-bye, and I was out the door dry-eyed not long afterward.
This past March, I spent 3 nights lying on the bathroom floor alternating between vomiting, dry-heaving and weeping.
Not ‘tears rolling down the cheeks’ mind you, but the gasping for breath sobbing that leaves you shaking and exhausted.
The tears began when I felt so sick, but that was just superficial. I was well aware of what had triggered this emptying out of body and soul. A week earlier I’d been part of the failed resuscitation of a young drowning victim, and the day before I’d talked with two of his friends.
I knew that every gush of liquid coming up that night was symbolic. Anguish and sorrow was pouring out of me like seawater. I wept for the young man and his loved ones. I sobbed until I was cried out.
However, the floodgates had literally been opened, and for the next two days and nights, I cried for everything and everyone. I cried for the tangled knot of painful events that overshadow this time of year for me. I cried for my mother, who died so unexpectedly. I cried for the spouse I had lost to disease, dementia, and divorce before he actually died. I cried for the young man who took his own life in desperation, and for the one who went down fighting. I even cried for the pets I’d loved and lost. I lamented everything I should and shouldn’t have done. I cried for the unfulfilled dreams and missed opportunities I’d had as a young woman. I grieved the wasted years.
I wept angry tears for the series of events that had brought me to this moment in time.
What I longed for was someone to wrap me in a loving hug and tell me everything would be okay. I was tired of being strong for myself. I cried because I was alone on this cold tile floor.
It was as though every hurt was being dredged up so I could examine and finish mourning each one properly. It was the purging of a lifetime.
When it finally ended days later, I was spent and exhausted. But at peace; liberated from pain that needed to be released. I felt light-hearted and healed.
I’m grateful for all I have and thankful that I’m usually happy, but every so often it seems I must be broken open to the core so tears can wash me clean and restore my soul. It’s not just woo-woo thinking, either.
Emotional tears are filled with stress hormones the body wants to rid itself of.
At the same time, crying stimulates healing and production of “feel good” endorphins. A good cry genuinely helps us feel better and able to cope more efficiently with whatever life throws at us.
Maybe it’s true that we only ever weep for ourselves, that even when we think we’re crying for another person, it’s only for how we’re affected. Yet tears are visible expressions of pure emotion; validations of a heart and soul that feels and loves deeply.
In the end, perhaps the sacredness of tears implies nothing less than the blessing of a life well lived.
Until next time, stay sassy!