321 Days ’til 40: It’s Okay (and Healthy) to Cry

06 Apr

In our society today it is not always acceptable to cry.  In fact, many people hand us tissues the moment they see tears streaming down our face, as if the subtext is, “Please wipe those tears away, quickly.”  While most individuals would never actually tell people that they should not be crying, the subconscious does a great job vocalizing these thoughts through subtle actions, such as the aforementioned tissue hand off.  I have also heard many of my staff members say to distressed people, “do not cry.”  Often then say this with great compassion, and they are saying, “do not cry” because they want the person to feel better and they also do not want the discomfort of having to witness the tearful event, having no clue what to do in that moment.

I believe the reason our society can be uncomfortable with tears is that we do not know how to be with and support someone in pain.  Their pain makes us uncomfortable, and can even trigger our own painful memories, which we may prefer to keep locked away.

The good news is it is easy to be with and support someone who is tearful – you do not have to do anything, you just have to be.   In fact, many individuals expressing sorrow report that they prefer having a friend who can just “be there” to listen, hold them, and offer their quiet, loving presence.  Most people do NOT want you to fix the situation or offer advice.  I remind my staff members that they need not give advice to a grieving person unless the person specifically asks for advice, otherwise they are of more value just being in the moment with the person and offering support.

I find that when I understand my role (supportive listener) it makes it easier for me to be with a person as they grieve or cry, because I know that I do not have to fix the situation or make the person feel better – my presence with them, their understanding that they are not alone in their pain, is the most critical service I can provide.

Today, 321 days ’til 40, I will remind myself that I do not have to fear the pain of others.  I can offer my companionship, compassion and comfort without worrying about mending the concern at hand.  It is an honor to be trusted to sit with my friends when they are in pain and I appreciate the trust they place in me when they share the rough parts of their life journey with me.

Remember, it is okay to let people cry, it is even healthy – and as we learn to feel more comfortable with the emotions of others, we are granting them permission to express all parts of themselves in our presence, which is a gift.



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69 responses to “321 Days ’til 40: It’s Okay (and Healthy) to Cry

  1. May I Be...

    April 6, 2012 at 00:13

    Reblogged this on May I find peace in this uncertain world. and commented:
    Why am I so freaking dissociated right now?! I don’t understand how this works! I’m usually ALWAYS crying. Now, I AM TOTALLY FEELING NOTHING! NOT A DAMN THING!! WHAT GIVES?!

    • 400daystil40

      April 6, 2012 at 04:13

      So you usually are able to cry, but when you read about crying were not able to…. very interesting…. I hope you are feeling better.

      • May I Be...

        April 6, 2012 at 21:22

        Yes! Typically I feel overwhelmed by emotion. And the past two weeks I cried and cried, sometimes sobbed, about everything. And Now that I am in some weird mental state of feeling “nothing” at all, it’s confusing! And thank you! I hope I feel better too!

        • 400daystil40

          April 7, 2012 at 02:52

          Sometimes, I think, when life gets too overwhelming we cry and cry and cry until we do go numb. When this happens, I think it is a healthy defense mechanism that allows us to function in the midst of great pain.

  2. Gineva Dyanne

    April 6, 2012 at 00:14

    There is a belief among many Native American tribes that a person aquires enough wisdom to teach others around age 50. You my friend, are a little ahead of that curve. Very insightful. Gina

    • 400daystil40

      April 6, 2012 at 04:12

      Thanks, Gina for the amazing compliment! It means a lot to me. 🙂

      • Gineva Dyanne

        April 6, 2012 at 15:40

        I used to be a guy. I know well the cultural stigma associated with emotion. It is a real man that invites moments of inspiration from from the feminine nature in all. I am thankful to you for writing your blog.

        • 400daystil40

          April 7, 2012 at 03:05

          Thank you so much, and you are so correct, men have an extra pressure in this society (unfairly) to be tough and not cry. The strong men are those who can evolve past this and allow their emotions to show… not easy.

  3. momentswithmillie

    April 6, 2012 at 00:23

    Excellent. Absolutely beautifully written. Awesome wisdom. Let those tears flow!

    • 400daystil40

      April 6, 2012 at 04:11

      Thank you so much, Moments with Millie. 🙂

  4. timzauto

    April 6, 2012 at 00:43

    Very well said …I have very specific feelings on this matter as well ….I was blogging on this tomorrow maybe .

  5. annesturetucker

    April 6, 2012 at 00:44

    So absolutely true!!

  6. mountainmae

    April 6, 2012 at 01:47

    In spite of the fact that my Mom has passed, in my head I can still hear her say,”You’ve cryed your way through life.” Not a compliment but it was my way. When someone starts crying, I do offer a tissue but not because I want them to stop but so they will have what they need when their nose starts running.

    • 400daystil40

      April 6, 2012 at 04:10

      Good tissue point! 🙂 Passing a tissue to a crying person is a huge debate, even in professional circles because of the potential subtext…. “am I helping them and being kind, or am I asking them to stop?” – There really is no fully correct answer, and a lot of it is based on the particular occassion.

  7. incidentallearner

    April 6, 2012 at 02:04


  8. terry1954

    April 6, 2012 at 02:20

    i wish i could cry. instead i keep it bottled inside. it started when my dad died four years ago. i cried for days. then because my brother had multiple medical issues and had a heart attack out of the blue, i have been taking care of him ever since dad died. i have not cried since.

    • 400daystil40

      April 6, 2012 at 04:07

      Hi Terry, this can be such a battle…. I did not cry for almost 20 years in my life, but some circumstances changed about 8 years ago that allowed me to cry….. it was scary, hard, excruciatingly painful, and the best thing that could have happened to me.

      • terry1954

        April 6, 2012 at 04:11

        i can imagine the release the body do i let it out? i don’t know. it seems when the tears are close, suddenly they dry up

        • 400daystil40

          April 6, 2012 at 04:21

          That is such a good question, and it is very hard to release tears that have not flowed in so long – giving yourself permission to sit with those feelings is not always easy. I find that often people who struggle to cry are a bit dissociated from their feelings, so that when they are close to crying they suddenly feel numb. I think the key is to work with that exact transition moment to see if you can allow yourself to stay with the feelings without going numb.

          • terry1954

            April 6, 2012 at 04:30

            you may have a point. i spend my time, my hear and soul with my brother, that at times i forget who i actually am. this may be the answer to why i don’t cry. i have disassociated from myself. thank you. you have been a blessing to me today

          • 400daystil40

            April 6, 2012 at 04:35

            You are very welcome!

  9. Aimer Shama

    April 6, 2012 at 02:28

    Crying is such a wonderful release with effects almost magical.

  10. writerwannabe763

    April 6, 2012 at 02:37

    Crying has a stigma attached to it when it is not because of grief.

    I am prone and always have been when something or someone upsets me because of something they said or did. It is seen as a ‘weakness’ by many.

    On more than one occasion I have made to feel ostracized because of doing so.

    I lost a promotion once many many years ago, because I was seen crying in the ladies restroom. There had been a disagreement with someone I had been on the phone with, and they had upset me. The person that saw me was a supervisor and when my name came up for promoting individuals to a supervisory position, the incident was reported and I was deemed…not ready for any additional responsibilities. If they had only realized what that would have done for me on a self-esteem level to have received that recognition.

    But I agree with you when someone is upset for whatever reason, sometimes a gentle touch or a few compassionate words can go a long way in just helping that person realize they are not alone. Diane…

    • Anonymous

      April 7, 2012 at 03:45

      It is so sad to think you lost a promotion by being a real human with feelings……I wish crying was not so stigmatized in different circles in our society.

  11. IntrinsicEcho

    April 6, 2012 at 02:57

    Yes!!! A million times yes! If I could like this post more than once I would. Thank you!

  12. N. Lingarow

    April 6, 2012 at 03:11

    Reblogged this on Life Behind the Pages and commented:
    So true.

  13. Louise Behiel

    April 6, 2012 at 03:26

    it is so hard for many of us to simply sit with someone who is crying and let them cry. hold their hand and honor their emotions. Let them be. good for you for figuring that out and letting it become a strength for you.

    • 400daystil40

      April 6, 2012 at 04:05

      Yes, it is such a hard thing to do – thank you for the compliment! 🙂

  14. pepaqua

    April 6, 2012 at 03:39

    Reblogged this on livingleanandinthegreen and commented:
    An awesome blog about not feeling embarrassed to cry if you need to.

  15. Lucia

    April 6, 2012 at 04:10

    Tears can be such a blessing. I often joke that I have single-handedly raised the value of Kleenex stock in the past several years. (I’m sure it’s true!)

    I’m reminded of a recent experience with a colleague. She had just received news of the death of one of her dear friends. She was in the middle of a conference call. After a few minutes of trying to hold it together, she came over to me and asked for a hug. I just held her and let her sob on my shoulder. I knew there was nothing I could possibly say or do in that moment to make things “better.” She was in pain, in grief, and just needed to get it out.

    Depending on the relationship, just holding someone in a sincere hug can be the best medicine. No words, No intentions other than to let them know how much you care. That can make all the difference in moments of deep sadness.

    Thanks for the post. Some people don’t understand just how healing our tears can be, or how devastating it can be to hold them in when they need releasing.

    • 400daystil40

      April 6, 2012 at 04:18

      Thanks for your wonderful comment with the perfect real life example. Yes, it can be so damaging to hold in all the pain that really needs to be released, for our own health. Finding the balance is the key for so many of us.

    • 400daystil40

      April 6, 2012 at 04:19

      PS – I have also had seasons where I should have bought stock in Kleenex! 😛

      • Lucia

        April 6, 2012 at 04:25

        Yep, yep, yep! Don’t know how I would have made it through so much without my trusty tissues close at hand! (Now I’ve taken to using a handkerchief to mop the tears and save my Kleenex for the nose. A wee bit to help the environment. ;-))

  16. dogdaz

    April 6, 2012 at 05:02

    Crying is so cleansing, but you are right, society has made it very unacceptable. You are learning a lot for a young one. What will you do ’til 50?

    • 400daystil40

      April 6, 2012 at 14:22

      Very good question! At least I will have something to answer after I reach 40! (What I will do until I am 50!) 🙂

      • dogdaz

        April 6, 2012 at 14:59

        In my 20’s it was about learning technology (how things worked); in my 30’s it was about humility and being in service to others (how people worked); my 40’s I learned politics (how organization work); and in my 50’s I am relearning personal balance (how I work). Now I ask, what do I plan to learn in my 60’s? Best of Luck

        • 400daystil40

          April 7, 2012 at 03:12

          Please check in and let us know what you find in your 60’s!!!! 🙂

  17. buckwheatsrisk

    April 6, 2012 at 05:42

    that is sooo true! a couple of weeks ago while with some friends, i could no longer hold back the tears of grief wanting to make their presence known, despite my attempts to block it…one friend just stood beside me, the other sat behind me with their hand on my back, and i wept. it was a wonderful gift. sadly i was crying because i am moving away and leaving them soon, and it was breaking my heart. i will always treasure that moment, where they were just there. my precious friends.
    thank you for letting others know that it is okay to cry!

    • 400daystil40

      April 6, 2012 at 14:19

      You are welcome and what a perfect example. I hope you find great friends in the next place you land – moving can be so hard.

      • buckwheatsrisk

        April 6, 2012 at 19:10

        thank you, this one is really hard, the last one i never looked back, but i left the source of all the pain in the last one.

  18. Summer Moon

    April 6, 2012 at 06:03

    I really like this post! Having someone be there for me when I’m in emotional pain can sometimes mean the difference between wanting to remain in bed all day, and being able to get up and move forward in my day.

  19. Mandi

    April 6, 2012 at 14:23

    I grew up not “allowed” to cry, unless someone died and then you better make it short because “carrying on” doesn’t help anyone. Almost 30 yrs later and i’m just starting to learn HOW. And only because I want my girls to be allowed to cry, express emotion. I don’t want them to be where I am when they’re in they’re 30’s!

    • 400daystil40

      April 6, 2012 at 14:26

      You were very wise to learn how to cry yourself and set a good example for your children!

  20. shanson3871

    April 6, 2012 at 15:33

    For me, I hate crying! It tends to make the situation worse for me in so many ways and on so many levels. First off, it gives me a massive migraine to cry. Secondly it makes my eye’s all puffy and hurt making me want to sleep. And Thirdly I feel like such a weak person when I do. There’s more but those are the top 3 reasons. My therapist has told me that the reason I get the headaches is because I haven’t cried enough which I do not agree with. I feel like I cry all the time and every time I do it makes those feelings even worse. I’d be happy to never cry again.

    Saying all that.. I enjoyed reading your post and I did agree with the best way to support someone crying is to just be there. 🙂

    • 400daystil40

      April 7, 2012 at 03:11

      I can understand all of your feelings and it is tough to find the balance. I do find that many people who allow themselves to cry do feel better in the end (probably not during). I often tell the kids I work with that crying is like throwing up…. the anticipation is awful, you try to suppress it and not allow it to happen, during the throwing up it feels even worse (and crying can too) but in the end, when everything is released, it seems to feel better.

      I wish for you, whether crying or not, that you find the peace you need.

  21. jensine

    April 6, 2012 at 15:34

    I think a tear shed at the right time in a safe place can save you years of hurt building up inside you.

  22. simon7banks

    April 6, 2012 at 17:41

    So true! There are some people who worry me – particularly in certain groups, but I won’t say which – because they seem to have fixed smiles and I can’t imagine them crying except through a catastrophic (but maybe needed) collapse of their entire self-image.

    Unless we both laugh and cry, we aren’t fully human.

    • 400daystil40

      April 7, 2012 at 03:06

      Yes, definitely, we need to experience the full range of emotions in order to feel fully alive.

  23. saymber

    April 6, 2012 at 19:48

    This article really hit home for me 400. I’m a person who cries easily — when I’m extremely happy, sad, angry, frustrated….my emotions come out my eyes and yes, it makes others uncomfortable sometimes. They try to apologize for it happening lol. Sometimes, when I’m listening to another person in a time of crisis, the empath comes out and I’ll cry. I cry for those who can’t, don’t feel comfortable doing so or think it’s not okay. Crying is one of the most healthy releases when dealing with overwhelming things for our spirit! Great article!

    • 400daystil40

      April 7, 2012 at 03:00

      You are welcome and thank you for your insight into this area! I have done exactly what you mention too – sometimes I will cry when with people and they are not crying, but clearly in emotional pain. It has only happened to me a few times….. and was quite an experience each time.

  24. Pat Bean

    April 6, 2012 at 19:51

    Great blog. I gave it a Bean’s Pat on my blog.

    • 400daystil40

      April 7, 2012 at 02:55

      Wow, thank you so much for the compliment!!! 🙂

  25. Dave Knickerbocker

    April 7, 2012 at 02:03

    My wife reminded me just the other day that I don’t always have to fix things. I hear it’s a guy thing. I’d like to say it’s a relief, but it’s hard to react to situations any other way if that’s the way you’ve always been.

    I think someone else crying makes me feel helpless because I can’t find a solution to the problem, and I don’t like that. Yet another apsect of life I have to be willing to let God control instead of me.

    • 400daystil40

      April 7, 2012 at 02:24

      Yes, what you say is so true… and I do think that it is the helplessness that is so hard for so many people to feel. I think we have to remind ourselves that if we are just there for the person, then we really are not helpless.

  26. Gideon

    April 7, 2012 at 05:53

    Good post. I remember this one therapy client that was once referred to me, who started crying uncontrollably not long after she walked through the door. She went on for about 50 minutes – I didn’t say much – offered her some Kleenex. Afterward she said, “that was good, thank you…” She came back the next week and within one session she left a different person. Empowered and strong. And it all started with a powerful connection through raw emotions. Two human beings connecting on a deep level. The world will become heaps healthier if all of us can learn again how to be truly present for each other.

    • 400daystil40

      April 8, 2012 at 05:30

      Yes! Thank you so very much for sharing your personal experience that so beautifully illustrates exactly the point I was trying to make! (Side note to the readers out there – I did NOT pay Gideon to plant this comment!!!) 🙂

      • Gideon

        April 8, 2012 at 09:02

        LOL – the commission was rather low I have to say.

  27. NZ Cate

    April 8, 2012 at 03:14

    Thank you. That is exactly what I needed right now.

  28. Maura

    April 8, 2012 at 23:57

    Oh so good, thank you. I began to learn that tears are okay over these past two years with the events in my life. It has made such a difference in my life that I now just let the tears come freely. What a gift, and I try to share it with as many people as I can.

    • 400daystil40

      April 9, 2012 at 06:10

      The lessons of allowing tears can be hard ones, but so healing.


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