The Cleansing Power of Tears


Shirley J. Davis

Tears are nature’s release valve for the human soul. When we cry, we take our frustrations, fears and grief and allow them to vent so that our minds can reset.

If you grew up like I did, in an abusive and traumatic family situation, you may have been afraid to weep. As a result, as adults we hide our emotions, choosing to hide behind fake smiles while we die inside.

I can remember as a young girl, lying in my bed late at night after everyone else in the house had gone to sleep and sobbing as quietly as I could into my pillow. My heart was so full of sorrow I thought for sure I was going to die. It wasn’t just the abusive stuff that made me feel so badly, I had a hard time at school with the other kids either making fun of me, or ignoring me. As a teen, I longed to be asked to the prom, or out on a date, but sadly no one ever asked. In fact, the only “date” I ever went out on, was to a school dance with, of all people, my abuser. It wasn’t all the other kid’s fault that I was so lonely. I had begun to isolate at the age of nine, refusing to go outside and play with the other children. Somehow it was easier for me to be alone, and it remains that way to this day.

When I began therapy in 1990, my therapist was astonished at my lack of emotions in her office. I would matter-of-factly, relate to her a horrendous story of something that had happened to me as a child without a single tear or even a change in my voice. I might as well have been reading her a story from the newspaper. She would weep, and I always felt odd and fearful when she did so.

Looking back, I think my lack of tears came from a stubbornness not to allow those who harmed me the satisfaction of knowing they had done so. To cry in front of them was somehow giving them power I was unwilling to give. Later, as now, it slowly became a way of life. Only after two years of building trust with my therapist was I finally able to cry in front of her. I will always remember her response. She sat quietly and then said gently, “Shirley, most of the clients who come to my office for help I judge are getting well by the fact they have stopped crying. You, I judge by the fact you have begun.”

I guess I decided to write this article to say this. When you need to cry don’t put on a smile. When you are fearful, don’t act brave. When you are lonely, don’t act as if you don’t care. We are all HUMAN and there is nothing more HUMAN than emotions.

Yes, laughter and smiles are extremely important, but there must be room in your life for tears too. Being honest with others about how you feel is not a weakness. Instead, it is a strong person who can turn on the waterworks at a wedding when the bride walks down the aisle into her new life, or sees a newborn baby for the first time.

Enjoy your tears, the smiles, they will come later.

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