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The Importance of Crying in Public

Last week a very important and dear relationship ended.

This past week I cancelled The Well-Fed Woman retreat to be held at Tassajara. There simply weren’t enough sign ups. This retreat has been a dream of mine and the content was extraordinary. It’s not dead in the water by any means; we’re trying to reschedule, but do I ever feel grief.

Yesterday, Fiona, my family’s dog, died suddenly and tragically at the age of nine. She was the embodiment of love. There was not a mean, grumpy, punky, mischievous bone in her body.  Pure love.

Today, I have a heavy heart.

I have a heavy heart and the unexpected thing is that I was planning to write this post on crying even before any of these events occurred.  Now, I feel an even greater urgency to do so.

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Many of us feel shame about tears. Some only shed them in the dark of movie theaters, at funerals, when curled up alone in bed, or maybe only in the confines of a coach’s office. Others quickly wipe away a single tear and issue an apology that goes something like “I’m sorry, I don’t know why I’m crying” or “Ugh, I’m sorry, this isn’t worth crying over.”

Sadly from the time they are small, most of the men in our culture are encouraged to suppress this important and natural emotional reflex at all cost. “Be tough” we tell them. “Be a man.” “Men don’t cry.” In 2012, crying for most men is still a taboo.

Oddly when many of us cry, we feel we need to take care of those who are with us when we come to tears. We feel that we have to make sure they don’t feel too bad or overly concerned. So we buck up, we assure and reassure them “we’re fine” or “we’ll be fine.” We don’t let ourselves melt for fear we’ll bring them down with us.  But sometimes we actually need to melt and we need to trust that others cannot only handle our tears, but can benefit from them.

You see, the result of all the suppression, minimization, and hiding of tears is that we suffer alone. Humans were not meant to suffer alone.

I used to be this way. I would go through the world with a “perfect” face on and only when I retreated to my bedroom or therapist’s office would I give myself permission to fall apart. Unfortunately by holding it all together, I felt profoundly lonely and lifeless much of the time.

Thankfully, I’m not that way anymore. Today, my emotions are fluid and, to me, beautiful. I have a rich community of like-hearted friends who powerfully support me and I them. I have safe places to go and be witnessed. There is no putting on a face anymore for me.

On the other hand, having an online brand adds a complication. Others frequently project their “stuff” on to me. As a healer I must be totally healed; as a wise woman I must know all; and as a woman behind a pretty-shiny website — some people assume my life is always pretty and shiny.

These projections are not true. They are not  true for me or any of my incredible colleagues in the online sphere. No matter how pretty the online interface or wise the teachings, we all have experiences that make us cry.

When I say I want you to cry in public, what I am encouraging you to do is to feel what you feel, peel off the masks and let others (whether close friends or strangers) see you as you are. When we can do this, we heal, we connect, we give others permission to do the same and we are more in touch with the flow of our lives.

Stifled tears = stifled self and life.

When we let go and unleash sad tears, we also break the dam that may be holding back tears of joy, tears of ecstasy, or tears of empathy. I’m not saying we all need to walk around with mascara streaming down our cheeks 24/7. I am simply advocating that we allow what wants to happen to happen and we realize that when we do, the connection between us can be a healing connection.

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Reflect: How do you feel after you cry?

Reflect: What story do you have that might be preventing you experiencing emotional authenticity?

Reflect: “What I know to be true about tears is…”

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A note about the images I shared here:

The other night I began to sob. It was the kind of sob I have only when I pray. While I am not an alcoholic, it was very much in the vein of the serenity prayer:

“God (or as I say Universe) grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

Heavy emphasis on the last part. I was praying for the wisdom to know the difference. And in my anguish and aching, tears were pouring out of me.

I reached for my phone and snapped a few quick pictures because I wanted to see what that kind of pain looked like and with so many happy headshots of me, I just wanted a visual reflection of my humanity. When I took these photos, I never intended to share them. Yet, I kept going back to look at them, feeling compelled to write this post; so, sharing them seemed fitting.

You and this community most definitely inspires joyful tears. Thank you for reading.

Love, Rachel

“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” – Isak Dinesen

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Comments

  1. Angie May 14, 2012

    Message
    In your sadness and your tears I can see myself and it makes me feel less alone. Deep gratitude.

  2. Jill Salahub May 14, 2012

    *sigh*
    I wonder if anyone can get through this post without crying with you? I certainly couldn’t. First it was softening and melting around your pain, then it was the brave openhearted sharing of your pain, and then it was the recognition of my own, and then the ripple out to everyone else, that shared pain, alone and together.
    Holy Wow, this is an important post, for a thousand reasons.
    Thank you.

  3. Anna Guest-Jelley May 14, 2012

    There’s such beauty and wisdom here, my friend. When my dad passed away last fall, I left myself feel it — tears and all. Based on past experiences of stifling, I didn’t expect this to happen. But I was delightfully surprised by it. My biggest takeaway has been that feeling the grief makes healing possible.

    Hugs to you as you sit with yours. ♥

  4. Alisha May 14, 2012

    Thank you, thank you.

    I stifle–especially tears. I usually do so in an effort to not make others feel uncomfortable. But what you have done here, in sharing your tears, is not make me feel uncomfortable, but comforted.

    Lots of love to you. <3

  5. Hannah Marcotti May 14, 2012

    Holding you in light and love. We just keep getting closer to that magical unicorn, don’t we?

  6. tracey May 14, 2012

    I am so sorry that you are having so many sad things happening to you… Tears aren’t a sign of weakness in any way. They’re a sign of sorrow that cannot be contained. I often find that letting them fall allows some of the pain to be washed away with them.

  7. amy May 14, 2012

    Awash in tears of love for you. xoxoxo, a

  8. The Other Laura May 14, 2012

    I have been worrying for weeks about my son’s upcoming 5th grade graduation ceremony and that I am going to cry in that very public space and you know, I’m not going to worry about it anymore!

    I will be crying tears of joy and of pride and love and I’m not going to muck up the moment with a lot of worry about how I must look or what people might think. Thank you. Thank you.

    And I am sending good thought your way in this sad time.

  9. Stephanie May 14, 2012

    When it rains, it pours it seems. Sending you support and positive energy as you find your footing again.
    Thank you so much for your bravery. Yes, you are brave for crying. In public. Putting your self out there like that is a courageous act filled with love. It’s a beautiful thing that you are doing.

  10. Kathryn May 14, 2012

    Thank you dear, beautiful Rachel for being so vulnerable. For showing us how to let go and not be ashamed. For letting us see the layers under the “pretty, shiny” exterior. I am so very sorry for your losses. I hope Scooter provides some relief. You know this already … but you are so very loved.

  11. Alison Gresik May 14, 2012

    I feel like a watered garden after I cry. Thanks for this post, Rachel.

  12. Jac McNeil May 14, 2012

    You are so lovely. Thank you for your transparency and vulnerability.
    Tears and sorrow are an amazing part of being human. I love witnessing this level of depth of emotion with my clients. It’s often when the most clarity and truth comes forth.

    I believe that a good cry declutters the nervous system.

    With love and respect–
    Jac

    • Karen J April 21, 2013

      Thank you for this: “…a good cry declutters the nervous system” Jac!
      So true!

  13. Sadie May 14, 2012

    Beautiful & touching post, Rachel.

  14. Donna May 14, 2012

    This inspires me beyond words. Rachel is truly embodies what it is to live genuinely, completely and unapologetically. I read this with my heart tugged, my eyes watery and my soul breathing with relief. Rachel so much love.

  15. Kylie May 14, 2012

    Oh, sweetie. Sending you big, big bear hugs of support. Hug hug hug.

  16. Susannah Conway May 14, 2012

    I remember sharing a photo like this on my blog — it was in the first few months of blogging, in the second year of my bereavement. I’d taken the photo as a way to pull myself out of the spiral i was spinning down into, and it did help. of course, posting it on the blog, which felt like the most honest thing i could do at that time, resulted in a rather mean-spirited comment being left. it was quite shocking how some people just can’t deal with something so… real. in the end i took the photo off the post. it was the right thing to do at the time.

    Now i could post tearful self portraits most days if i chose to — i seem to live with my emotions painted all over my skin. But that’s not a bad thing in the long run

    Thank you for this post, honey xo

  17. Jenn May 14, 2012

    Loving you, R. ♥

  18. Christyna May 14, 2012

    Rachel,

    Being where we are, without wanting to change it, stuff it, pretty it up, allows us so much freedom and connection. Being with our pain in public, crying, offers the space for others to experience being fully human, too, with all the ups and downs, without all the intensity dampened out.

    I, too, cry shamelessly. Thank you for your beauty and your courage.

  19. teryll May 14, 2012

    This was one of my favorite quotes from the post:

    “You see, the result of all the suppression, minimization, and hiding of tears is that we suffer alone. Humans were not meant to suffer alone.”

    SO TRUE. SO TRUE. SO TRUE. Thank you for being courageous! This post shatters myths and creates space for community to circle around you and love you through this, just like you would do the same for others.

    xoxox

  20. samin May 14, 2012

    sending you warmth, rachel.

  21. Willo May 14, 2012

    Oh, my love… I’m so sorry to hear this. :(

    Last week I too spilled open, and about 6 months of tears came pouring out. I couldn’t stop them if I wanted to. I sobbed and sobbed. A deep, deep sadness and processing of feelings, fears and the intensity of life came up that can hardly be put into words.

    I let a trusted friend in and allowed myself to be seen with all of my cracks and insecurities… there in it. Not having it together. Feeling the depths. Letting it come. There’s still some work and sitting with it that I need to do, but one thing’s for sure, is that it’s so healing to allow it to come out.

    I love your vulnerability and REALness here. There are many times we do have it together… but it doesn’t negate the fact that sometimes we don’t, and that’s ok, too. You captured it here beautifully.

    Please let me know how I may support you in this time. Maybe when I’m back from my trip next week, we can do a dinner or movie night with Mati.

    Love you, sweets, and know that I’m with you, holding your hand, and giving you hugs.
    xoxo

  22. Genie May 14, 2012

    Thank you for sharing this, Rachel — it’s not just brave, it’s beautiful and so open and honest. Sending condolences for all the losses, and lots of strength for you to get through the grieving process in the time it needs.

  23. Bonnie Perry May 14, 2012

    Blessed be the angel that reveals the perfection in imperfection. Unconditional love, the fire of a full life, cannot by its very nature leave out at least the taste of all conditions. Sometimes I feel our heaviest pain comes from trying to fit into our experiences only with a pretty face, so to speak. Thank heavens that Life has other plans! Thank you for being real, Rachel and showing the way to discovering the true joy that comes from being unafraid of meeting life unmasked.

  24. laurie wagner May 14, 2012

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    beautiful honey; rich and real and gosh, there’s just not enough time for anything else. xxx

  25. Jane May 14, 2012

    Oh Rachel go you :) this is so raw and perfect. About two years ago I learnt to cry. It ended the numbness I’d been living in and it completely helped me become a total girl. Crying is sonincredibly healing and as you clearly know is a powerful tool to surrender our hearts to letting go.

  26. Kerilyn May 14, 2012

    Damn it I wish I was there…. is all I can say right now. Planning a healing itinerary in my head which would look like eating yummy food/drinking delicious adult beverages, facing each other talking on a couch (whether in a coffee shop or your spot), watching (or catching) a good soul penetrating movie, perhaps visiting a bookstore for what I like to call “stolen reading”, sitting together in silence – meditating. Asking each other coaching questions and then laughing hysterically at how naturally this comes to us. And ending (and beginning) with a BIG hug that would seemingly last forever. Until I had to let go. xoxo.

  27. Jill May 14, 2012

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    I found your message after feeling very vulnerable with tears flowing, opening my heart. Isn’t synchronicity inspiring? Thank you and blessings to you on your journey.

  28. janet higley May 14, 2012

    from someone who cries…a lot… happy sad mad glad…tears are there…whatever that means! love to you in this time of trials and growth!

  29. Larisa May 15, 2012

    Hey Rachel,
    Thank you for this. I am so sorry that you have had such difficult things happen all in a clump. That’s a lot for anyone, and I am so glad that you are sharing your pain AND your trust with us. I have the opposite problem with crying–I can’t do it alone. I can only do it when I feel held by another person. Reading your words, I felt a lot of emotion well up, but I could not cry–because I am reading this alone. Anyway, I love your post, and your beautiful tear-strewn face. And I look forward to shedding some tears with you next time I see you.
    Larisa

  30. Marianne May 15, 2012

    Much love to you, beautiful one. May the healing salt water of tears continue to wash. x

  31. Amanda May 17, 2012

    I needed this more than you know. You are an exceptional woman for bringing your tears out for everyone to see. For being raw and vulnerable, when it’s terrifying to show it. The online brand issues that permeate many of us make it hard to say, “I’m sad. I’m hurting. Please, can someone save me?”

    But you lifting the veil to let us see? This is a precedence that will not go unnoticed. I will strive to follow your example. I’ll let the fear wash over me and just… feel. <3

  32. Laura Simms May 18, 2012

    Thanks for this, Rachel. One of the best things I’ve learned in the past few years is how to let myself cry and get comfortable with the discomfort it might cause other people. Better to have the tears on the outside than on the inside. Sending love.

  33. Kristin Noelle May 19, 2012

    Thank you so much for writing this, Rachel. So terribly needed – ALL of it. And beautiful.

    Love to you, Kristin

  34. Mika May 19, 2012

    Such a beautiful post. I’m so sorry this has happened, but I believe shedding tears is healing. Thank you for sharing such a vulnerable subject.

  35. andrea June 12, 2012

    I love your tears. And I love you.

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