Vignettes in Aging – Tears

Crying is one of the most powerful forms of communication. The tears crying produces speak to others and they speak to ourselves. Seeing someone else cry changes us on the inside just as our crying changes us.

There are tears of happiness and tears of sadness, loss, confusion, fear, stress, guilt, and being frustrated or overwhelmed; you get the point. Sometimes we cry when we’re angry, but those tears are attached to the emotions just mentioned. As we know truthfully, any response to anger is generated out of the underlying feelings and emotions.

I’m sure that each of us has been in a situation where, when something happened, or when someone said something, we burst into tears. Did this surprise you? Did you feel out of control? This is the release of a strong emotion that produces the need for tears – be that happiness or sudden sadness.

How have crying and our response to tears changed as we’ve aged? Perhaps you’ve felt less desire to keep tears hidden. Do they occur more often about things you wouldn’t give a hoot about in the past? I might not cry about some failures when I was young but now, as an elder, I could have been disappointed to tears by similar failures. Or perhaps a less than glowing job evaluation could have devastated me when I was young. I would be hurt and crying. Now, if I let my employer down, I’d learn what I could from the situation and move on, no crying, no histrionics, no tears. That comes with maturity and a better grasp of the bigger picture.

Crying is cathartic; it can release a wellspring of emotion. You can be breezing along and out of no where be reminded of your dog who got sick and died, and the tears could easily surface regardless of where you are or what you’re doing.

When tears appear, I always pay attention to the emotions behind them. Sometimes I’ll try to brush them off, “Oh, I’m not that bothered.” But I am. Tears always tell me that something bigger is going on. When I begin talking about something and tears well up, I know the feelings behind my words are big and important. I try not to stifle them but allow them to let me examine my feelings closer and in more depth.

Haven’t you been in a conversation and the speaker is breezing along only to slow down and start to get teary-eyed and verklempt? Usually both the speaker and the listener are surprised by the tears.

Crying doesn’t show weakness. Conversely, being stoic and keeping tears inside doesn’t show strength. Trusting your feelings and allowing them to blossom in whatever form, which is sometimes with tears, is treating yourself with kindness and respect.

When was the last time you cried? What were the circumstances? How do you feel after the tears have been shed?

When the tears well up next time, don’t ignore them. See what they’re saying. Celebrate your tears as the purest form of expression.