Do you ever go through phases where your emotions (both high and low) are in overdrive? That’s been me this week. One minute I’m joyous, enjoying the sun and singing along to a song on the radio. The next minute, I’m thinking about losing those I love to the inevitability of death, and I start crying, swallowing down raw, hard tears.
When I was a 7th grade language arts teacher, I had my students write journal entries every day. They could free write, but I always offered a sentence starter for those students who had trouble getting going with their entry. One of the sentence starters was:
I feel like crying when…
Their answers were so honest and real. I wish I would have saved some of them. One of those days, as they were writing on that prompt, I got to thinking about crying. Our bodies were created so intricately, there must be a purpose for crying. I know we have some organs (appendix, gall bladder, spleen, etc.) that we don’t particular need and can live without. But crying isn’t an organ. It’s a response, and our bodily responses have some type of purpose. I’m such a researcher at heart, and I really wanted to know the answer. When I Googled “Why do we cry?” This is what I found.
‘Crying does serve an emotional purpose, says Sideroff, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. “It’s a release. There is a buildup of energy with feelings.”
It can also be a survival mechanism, notes Jodi DeLuca, PhD, a neuropsychologist at Tampa General Hospital in Florida. ”When you cry,” she says, “it’s a signal you need to address something.” Among other things, it may mean you are frustrated, overwhelmed or even just trying to get someone’s attention, which DeLuca and other researchers call a ”secondary gain” cry.
On top of that, crying may have a biochemical purpose. It’s believed to release stress hormones or toxins from the body, says Lauren Bylsma, a PhD student at the University of South Florida in Tampa, who has focused on crying in her research.’
So there you go. Last night, a group of girls and I went to a local painting studio to have some St. Patrick’s Day fun and paint something for someone important in our lives. My mom is so precious to me. (See? I just teared up writing that sentence). Where would I be without her? I’ve inherited her persistence, determination and strong will, which can be good and bad. She’s taught me to always be kind and compassionate to others. She’s taught me empathy to the point where I often worry about everyone else before me. Over these past two years as she’s battled cancer, she’s shown me utter strength and courage.
So yesterday I was planning what I would paint for her. And as I looked up quotes on Pinterest, I began crying so hard, I couldn’t control it. Case was napping, the dogs were snoring, an early spring wind was blowing through the window, birds were chirping, but I was heaving. I cried and cried and cried. The quote for my mom started it, but the tears began flowing for all things and all people in my life and the world at large.
But you know what? After that cry, I felt amazing. I felt giddy. I felt a release. And what about babies and toddlers? And teenagers? I think all parents would agree that after they throw a huge fit replete with tears, they seem to feel much better. For these reasons and more, I agree that we cry for a purpose. We release toxins and burdens and emotions that would otherwise stay deep within us and do who knows what.
I don’t know what’s going on with me, but instead of resisting these moods when they come, I’m going to try and embrace the rawness of them. It makes me feel more connected to the spiritual and emotional side of me. And if these moods involve crying, so be it. And for you too. If you are hurting or happy or frustrated, just let yourself cry…it’s really okay.