I Don’t Mean to Brag, But I Cry a Lot by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir



It’s true. I don’t mean to make you jealous, but lately, I have at least one long session of really great crying most days. What I call the “lovely cry,” where my face gets all red and swollen and puffy, my nose runs, I drool, and I make all kinds of noises. I’m so proud of my crying, so proud of myself whenever I manage to accomplish a really good cry, and so relieved. I get a bit worried if a few days go by and I haven’t had a proper cry. I try to remind myself how important it is, and give myself time and space for a healthy crying session.

Again, not to blow my own horn, but it has taken some work—decades of practice and effort—to get good at frequent, healthy crying. Mostly, it takes two things: 1) the courage to feel your feelings, and 2) the strength to reject our culture’s toxic sexism.

I’m sorry I can’t provide you with a well researched summary of how our culture decided that tears are shameful, weak, and feminine. It’s been a damned hard time lately, trying to recover from long-term Covid. I could also go on about my past traumas, deaths I am grieving, and fears from this pandemic and the climate apocalypse, etc. I’m sure you could, too. Plenty to cry about!

But you don’t need a well researched summary. You know as well as I do that our culture trains us to try not to cry from a young age. Our culture tells boys that tears are “sissy,” meaning feminine (weak and bad). Our culture tells girls and women that our tears are “hysterical” meaning a female, irrational, illogical, unjustified, annoying over-reaction. You’ve been swimming in the same misogynist soup I have, and it has trained you, too, to see crying as a sign of weakness, something to hide. “Choke back tears” is a well known expression because it’s a common behavior. Crying is considered at best unprofessional and at worst the sign of mental illness, stigmatized and embarrassing. Imagine – culture teaches us to CHOKE OURSELVES rather than be caught crying.

I was lucky to have a father who was a Methodist pastor and a therapist. My Dad taught me that crying is important, healthy, and sacred. Unlike many Dads, he was very present in the home. He was around a lot, which means we ended up doing a lot more work on our relationship than a lot of people my age ever did with their fathers. We spent so much time together that he had a huge effect on me, in helpful ways and challenging ways. We worked through our difficulties before he passed on, and I am left with memories of a loving Father …who cried a LOT. He cried when we watched on TV as the US bombed Iraq. He cried when he read out Gunga Din as we all had tea in the evening. He cried when he told the story of how his grandfather’s death ended up saving his family’s life. In his final years, he cried whenever I read or sang him anything I had ever written, tears of pride and love and joy. I’m sitting here crying as I remember his tears, feeling grateful for my feminist Dad, who taught me how to cry. Excuse me, I need a few minutes.

OK, I’m back. Notice I didn’t apologize? I’m so glad those memories got some tears flowing. I feel lighter than I did a few minutes ago. That’s probably because emotional tears (not other kinds, such as allergies) flush out stress hormones and other toxins, so my body is chemically more peaceful and healthy now than it was before. Crying for several minutes also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, so my body is more physically relaxed now. But I probably didn’t cry long enough to release oxytocin and endorphins, so I probably don’t feel quite as happy and pain-free as I will later on if I manage a good, long evening cry. But it did restore my emotional balance, the way crying often does when it happens in response to an intense emotion, happy or sad. Scientists are only beginning to understand the many benefits of crying and the dangers of not crying enough— this Harvard study found that people who suppress their emotions have over a 30% increased chance of premature death from all causes, and a 70% increased risk of being diagnosed with cancer.

I’m also grateful for my Methodist faith tradition, which offers me support and encouragement to weep when the Spirit says weep. I love the Psalms of Lament – a full third of the Psalms! – which model the vital importance of expressing our grief, anger, and pain in order to find peace. I love the numerous models in the Bible of boys and men who weep – Jesus, David, Ishmael, Esau, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Benjamin, Saul, Hezekiah, Ezra, Mordecai, Job, Peter, Paul, and more. Lots of women weep, too, and they are not shamed for it or told to stop; they are honored and comforted. And of course, the Divine, often personified by human symbols, is repeatedly described as weeping. Everyone who’s anyone weeps in the Bible!

I’m a little worried about you, to be honest. Are you crying enough? Has our sick, frightened culture infected you with feelings of shame about tears? Your tears are mighty and holy. They have the power to heal and liberate you. They come from the Spirit of Love and Wellness. It’s a damned hard time right now, and I want to be sure you’re getting the support you need. Your body wants to support you by providing you with this beautiful, precious gift of weeping. What will help you learn to accept it? Maybe you can jumpstart the process by watching some touching videos of puppy rescues or children surprised by new puppies[1]?

How much is enough? It has been a lifelong journey to learn to listen to my body’s wisdom. The less I choke back tears, the better I get at hearing my body, the more wellness flows through me. Imagine if all of us let our tears flow, embracing our weeping without shame, whenever our bodies told us to. What cultural choking would finally breathe free? What societal fears would find liberation? What misogynist violence would be reduced? What wellness would spread in our Earth, as the rain falls from heaven watering the soil? Imagine our culture emotionally balanced and flooded with endorphins. Divine, indeed! There is no “ugly crying;” there is only beautiful, powerful, healing, sacred weeping. Let us weep when the Spirit says weep, and embrace the Spirit of Love!

 

[1] This video has some sad instances of children being told not to cry or asked why they are crying. In one, a little boy explains to his parents that his older sister is crying because “she loves it so much.” Unto such as these belongs the kin-dom of JustPeace. <3

 

Trelawney Grenfell-Muir teaches courses about Sex, Dating, Marriage, and Work in the Religion and Theological Studies Department at Merrimack College and about Cross Cultural Conflict in the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A Senior Discussant at the Religion and the Practices of Peace Initiative at Harvard University, she holds an M.Div. from the Boston University School of Theology with a concentration in Religion and Conflict, and a Ph.D. in Conflict Studies and Religion with the University Professors Program at Boston University. She currently writes articles, book chapters, and liturgical resources about feminist, nature-based Christianity.



Categories: Grief, Healing, trauma, Women's Voices

Tags: , , ,

26 replies

  1. … it is certainly the times to be crying: I have been doing quite a bit of it … it just rises up. Thank you for your encouragement, There is the tradition of keening also – some still know it. xx

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Glenys. I’m so glad you’re crying, and glad you feel encouraged and supported. I have read a bit about keening from the Celtic traditions, and I am so glad some still know it. I hope it makes a major comeback. Bless your journey. <3

      Like

  2. Moving post and an educational one… All my life I have been called “too emotional” which apparently means that I FEEL emotions…and this is not acceptable. As for crying – well – have you ever noticed how people routinely apologize for tears? I certainly have. Crying is definitely not acceptable… how wonderful that you had a dad who modeled that tears were part of living….
    One of the things that bothers me is that I have a tendency to shed few tears as I grow older… there’s an inner voice that nags me. “What’s the point”? I would like to cry more than I do…. as you say tears relax us, release all kinds of toxins… Hopefully people who do shed tears will feel empowered by this post. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Sara. I agree, everyone apologizes, and I think that’s backwards. We should be thanking people who cry in our presence for the gift they give us of authenticity. I’m sorry to hear that you feel discouraged… I hope you can find new ways to get in touch with how to let flow whatever you want to let flow. Though it may be that you’ve done enough crying that you don’t need to cry so much anymore, unlike people who spent their early decades not crying as much as you did. I love your writing, and I am glad you find outlets for your emotions, whatever seems to meet your needs. <3

      Like

  3. Nothing better than a good cry — sad movies, sad songs, sad stories…all bring catharsis.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, and I agree- much needed catharsis. Even touching ads make me cry sometimes, and I’m glad when they do. I just take advantage of the opportunity to let some things go. <3

      Like

  4. Seems I remember a scene on that old sitcom, “Everybody Loves Raymond,” where Raymond’s wife, Deborah, leaves the house periodically “to go somewhere.” Raymond has to find out where she goes and eventually sees that she goes somewhere alone to cry. Deborah has a hard time explaining to Raymond that these are “good tears” and this is something she needs to do to feel better.

    Thanks for this post. Continue to feel better.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Esther. I am continuing to heal, I hope… slowly, with lots of ups and downs, but I hope I can detect gradual improvement. I hold on to hope. That is an interesting story about the show (I’ve never seen it), and I’m glad it tried to normalize the healthiness of regular crying. It would be nice if she also could turn to him for comfort, imo… crying alone can be really great, and crying with the comfort of an intimate loved one can be really great in different ways. Thanks for getting my mind chewing on these ideas. Blessings to you. <3

      Like

  5. You’re right. There’s lots to cry about. There always has been. Thanks for telling us it’s healthy to cry. We need that self-healing. Enjoy your feeling better. Bright blessings!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Barbara… yes, there always has been and always will be, I agree. I do hope I am slowly feeling better. I try not to expect too much because it is very, very slow. But I hope I am still improving. I do think the crying is helping me to heal as well. Thank you for your blessings, I always appreciate them. Blessings to you as well. <3

      Like

  6. Hi, my name is lena and I live in Toronto, Canada.
    Thank you, thank you for your beautiful spacious and life giving reflection on the importance of crying, of weeping.
    Thank you for all your posts.
    Gratefully!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Lena, nice to “meet” you, and thank you for writing from Canada. I’m so glad you find my posts helpful. Nothing motivates me more to keep writing than the feeling that I am actually making a difference to someone. I’m grateful for your affirmation. Bless your journey. <3

      Like

  7. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, too, Duann. I’m so glad this message resonates with you. May you have all the healing tears you need. Bless your journey. <3

      Like

  8. Thanks, Trelawney, for this important post. Tears are essential to taping into the reality of our lives. And they certainly are trivialized and shamed. Let’s not “suck it up” anymore.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Nancy. I agree with you – and I wonder sometimes if it is because they are so essential that they became trivialized and shamed. I agree, let’s not “suck it up”… let’s weep it out, instead. I like your idea that tears help us tap in to reality… a lot of the time we sort of coast above reality in order to cope and function… but we need to dive down into it sometimes in order to be well. Blessings to you, Nancy. <3

      Like

  9. I love the sound of this horn! Sweet and clarion. And thank you for the reminder that Jesus, among many others, wept!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Thank you for this post and the information about the health benefits of crying – I had no idea! I’m always surprised when I start crying for what seems like a small reason – like remembering a happy time with a loved one or seeing something beautiful in nature – but I shouldn’t be – I should be proud! A wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Carolyn. I hope you can be proud from now on, and tell yourself “well done, Carolyn!” every time. I think your body must be very wise indeed to start crying for those “small” reasons. Bless your journey. <3

      Like

  11. Thank you for writing this. I used to think that I needed to suppress tears, and now I’m trying to unlearn that. That being said, I had no idea that crying had health benefits!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Brendan. I’m so glad you are learning a more empowered path. It’s wonderful, isn’t it, that there are these amazing benefits, and all we need to do to have them is not STOP them from gifting themselves to us. I hope you are tender and gentle and compassionate with yourself as you embrace your vulnerabilities and griefs. <3

      Liked by 1 person

  12. You nailed it again Trelawney, It always bothered me that Jackie Kennedy (as her name was then) was praised so highly for being stoic at her husband’s funeral. Why was this considered to be a virtue? Your post makes it clear – we are indeed taught that crying is bad. Ugh! Does it never end?

    Crying connects us to grandmama ocean and cleanses our bodies with the flowing saltiness. Thanks for reminding me.

    I love your idea for jump-starting tears by watching puppy videos. No tears yet but I am chuckling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Janet, you always say such wonderful things. I agree about Kennedy… just so backwards. I don’t know if it never ends… but I guess maybe we are here to learn and grow and love, so maybe there’s always some hurt that needs healing… in this wild, chaotic, free, unjust world, there will always be pain and imbalance… and we can learn love by learning to restore balance…? You always make me think.

      I LOVE your statement about grandmama ocean. Is there artwork about that? It is just…. totally divine and beautiful. I am feeling it resonate through me with joy. Thank you so much.

      Well, the videos themselves are tear-jerkers, but I’m glad you got a chuckle… my sense of humor has been called “quirky,” so it’s nice when other quirky people like me can appreciate it! :) Love and blessings to you <3 <3

      Like

  13. Hello, friends – I’m just now getting a few minutes at my computer again to respond to your wonderful replies. Thank you for your patience. My Covid recovery makes a lot of things more difficult, and time at my computer is one of them. Best wishes to you all. <3

    Like

Please familiarize yourself with our Comment Policy before posting.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: