Crying is something that every single person has done in their life. Many of us cry often, and yet the only place that seems to be safe and acceptable to cry in our society is in the privacy of our own homes (or closets, or bathroom stalls) so that people who don’t love us unconditionally need not see it/hear it/know about it.
…which is super weird. Imagine if we had the same taboos about laughter as we have for crying. After all, laughter is a very similar physiological process to crying—breath, diaphragmatic movement, and facial expressions are often indistinguishable. Laughter sometimes leads to crying (and vise versa) and both are universal, basic human emotions. Sure, there are occasions during which laughter is frowned upon, but as a whole laughter (unlike crying) is acceptable in every social sphere. Laughter (unlike crying) is not considered unprofessional. And laughter (unlike crying) is not considered to be a gendered activity.
I’ve always been sensitive and emotional, but in 2016 my mother died. And then for the next 4 years I experienced a string of losses so deep that for the first time in my life shock, trauma, and grief became my constant companions. And though I am smart and independent and capable and all the other things I’ve always prided myself in being, I was wholly unprepared for grief. Because we don’t talk about it, and we don’t prepare ourselves for it. We don’t prepare ourselves to experience it, and we don’t prepare ourselves to support our friends and loved ones going through it.
Why is that? Every person, should we be so lucky to live long enough, will experience deep grief. So why is it such a secret? Why do we apologize for crying? Feel inappropriate, unprofessional, or embarrassed for just feeling what we’re feeling, when that feeling is sadness? Why is it more acceptable to be visibly angry or anxious than it is to be visibly sad? How did we get here, and how do we change it?
Well, I don’t have the answers, but I’m hoping that by asking the questions and sharing my experience that I can arrive at something helpful. Or comforting. Or make you feel less alone, or validated. Or help you understand why the person you love is crying, and what you’d like to do in response.
Not crying isn’t an option. So let’s make the best of it.