In this guest blog I am sharing the wisdom of Grief Recovery Specialist, Russell Friedman, from The Grief Recovery Institute. I hope you find this blog helpful.
In Crying and grief – Part 1 we focused on the idea that it can be dangerous and counterproductive to attach our personal ideas and beliefs to how other people express their grief. Especially the idea that many people will communicate tremendous depth of emotion and never shed a tear, while others cry all the time but don’t seem to complete the pain, nor derive any long term benefit from crying. In part 2 we are going to address issues of gender and uniqueness of individuals and relationships, or exactly what function does crying serve, and for whom?
We are aware of the research that indicates that tears of sadness differ in chemical makeup from tears of joy. We are also aware that tears perform the valuable function of washing the eyes. From time to time, we have even alluded to the published studies that indicate that women cry, on average, five times more than men. In attempting to discover if there is any physiological basis for that five to one ratio, we ran into a stone wall.
Failing to find any valid studies on crying that would support a physical distinction by gender, we did a little of our own research. While anecdotal, we believe that it represents the truth. We called some nurse friends whose life experience is working with infants. Without exception, they indicated to us, that the circumstances and frequency with which very young infants cry, is NOT dictated by gender. Little baby boys and little baby girls cry co-equally. There are clear personality differences between individual babies. Some cry more than others, not by gender, rather by individual uniqueness. We did not limit our search to those who worked only with newborns. We got the same responses from experts who work with children up to the age of five. From age five onwards, distinction by gender, and the resultant attitudes and beliefs begin to magnify. The logical extension of our informal study led to the inescapable conclusion that socialization, not gender, was the key to later differences of attitude and expression regarding crying.
Although there may be no innate physiological difference between males and females when it comes to crying, we must still ask, what purpose or value, if any, does crying have in recovery from loss. Let us say that crying can represent a physical demonstration of emotional energy attached to a reminder of someone or something that has some significance for you. In fact, during our grief recovery seminars, when someone starts crying, we gently urge them to “talk while you cry.” The emotions are contained in the words the griever speaks, not in the tears that they cry. What is fascinating to observe, is as the thoughts and feelings are spoken, the tears usually disappear, and the depth of feeling communicated seems much more powerful than mere tears.
On the other hand, do not be fooled by those who cry frequently. In the strangest of all paradoxes, people can actually use crying as a way to stop feeling rather than to experience great depths of emotion. The tears become a distraction from the real pain caused by the loss.
The key to recovery from the incredible pain caused by death, divorce, and all other losses, is contained in a simple statement: Each of us is unique and each of our relationships is unique. Therefore, we must discover and complete what is emotionally unfinished for us in all of our relationships. Our personal belief systems about the display of emotions are also unique and individual. We may not even have a conscious awareness of what our own beliefs are. an alert to everyone, you or old: “Don’t let anyone else dictate what is emotionally correct for you – not even your children – or your parents. Only you get to determine what is correct for you.”
Please do not interpret this article to mean that we are in any way against crying. What we do provokes tears all the time. At the restaurant across the street where we take our friends to lunch, they don’t understand why everyone who dines with us seems to cry. And if you visited our office, you would have to giggle when you see the gigantic stack of cases of Kleenex piled in a corner of the room We are neither for nor against crying. We are for recovery from emotional pain. We are for fond memories not turning painful. We are for you having a life of meaning and value even though a loss or losses may have made your life massively different than you had hoped or dreamed.
Canadian Grief Recovery Method Specialist, Tammy Adams, loves to problem solve, inspire and motivate others who are ready and committed to change. Tammy has spent over 30 years in the field of education and as a Certified Life and Executive Coach Tammy teaches individuals to challenge and conquer their limiting beliefs and insecurities to create the life of their choosing. As a Grief Recovery Method Specialist Tammy understands that unresolved grief can limit an individual’s capacity for happiness and is gifted at supporting individuals through the pain and isolation cause by an emotional loss, of any kind, to a place of happiness they believed no longer existed. A Tammy client testimonial, “Tammy helped me unpack the baggage and put a smile on my face in the process. It’s a rare quality for someone to fully listen without judgement but yet still steer you in the right direction.”