Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. Ecclesiastes 7:3
There is sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. Rumi
Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak, whispers the distraught heart and bids it break. Shakespeare
It is amazing how often I hear people apologize for their tears. When clients cry, I always tell them they don’t have anything to be sorry for and I encourage them to cry. I have also worked with many people who have told me that they prefer not to cry with another family member who is grieving, because they need to “be strong” for them. I gently encourage people trying to “be strong” to consider crying with the person they are trying to protect. It is healthy to talk about our feelings and to cry with one another.
In our American society we are all about the pursuit of happiness and so learning to get in touch with our hurts and our tears is often something we resist. But we need to make space to feel the pain of life. These are just a few of the struggles you might be grappling with right now:
- Worries about your health or a loved one’s health
- Frustrations at work
- Dealing with financial problems
- Concerns for the country and the world
- Struggles in a relationship
- Heartache over a break-up or divorce
- Facing infertility
- Trying to overcome an addiction
- Grieving the death of a loved one or pet
Rumi said our tears give us power. Perhaps what he meant by this is that in our weakness we find strength and in our tears we find a release. Shakespeare tells us that we must give our sorrow expression through talking and crying, and if we do not, he tells us our hearts will break. The author of Ecclesiastes, Koheleth, advises us that a sad face is good for the heart. So the paradox is that we will actually be happier, in the long run, if we allow ourselves to experience the pain. Even if a there is a scientific reason you can’t cry, such as a hormonal issue, there are still ways we can let our our pain. Embodied practices, such as yoga, help us to release pain through the breath and assist the body by calming the nervous system. Simply talking to a friend about your concerns can be a way to give sorrow words and find a release. Prayer and meditation are also wonderful ways to let out our pain and feelings. Playing music, singing, or creating art are also ways to let go of the heartaches we store in our bodies. One somewhat unique way I find a cathartic release is watching what Saturday Night Live might call a “debbie downer” movie. Watching a sad movie can actually help me to empathize with other stories of grief and access my own pain. What helps you to let out the feelings that you internalize?
Almost 14 years ago my grandmother Bell died. She was the last of my grandparents to die and I was extremely close to her. When she died, I can remember wailing. I cried and cried and cried some more to find a cathartic release. Think for a moment about something difficult you have experienced in the past. How did you deal with this loss? What helped you to let go of some of the pain? Do you allow yourself to feel the pain of life? If, so how do you release your pain?
We all need to give voice to our sorrow, whether we talk to a friend, a family member, a clergy person, a counselor, join a support group, or by utilizing specific practices to release our pain. We each have our own unique ways of grieving the suffering we encounter on our journeys. So I encourage you to find a time in the near future to give yourself some space to feel the difficulties and pain of life. Again, some people are not able to cry, but however you do it, I encourage you to find a way to give your sorrow words and let out some of the pain you are holding in your body and soul.
Please join in the following meditation. Take your right hand to your heart and then take a deep breath in through your nose and on your exhale let out an audible sigh. The louder the sigh is the more you will release. I invite you to do this 5 times. This exercise may seem uncomfortable, especially if it is the first time you have tried something like this, but we can let out pain through simple embodied breath practices.
May we find ways to give sorrow words and release our pain,