The Benefits of a Good Cry

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“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.  I was better after I cried, than before –more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.” – Charles Dickens, Great Expectations.

Yesterday I had a crying jag and I was criticized for it by the men in my life, both husband and son. “You’re too emotional” my son said. “You cry way too much.” from my husband, Okay, so I do cry but like bleeding, I am not going to feel ashamed for it. It seems natural and cathartic to me and I generally feel better when the tears dry up.  I am also on my period and so this got me to thinking, maybe tears are part of our cycle just as changing hormones, mucus and blood are.  I started surfing the web and found some very interesting facts about crying that I would like to share.

Emotional tears (unlike those produced when your eyes are irritated by wind, yawning or onions for example) contain many physical therapeutic properties and elements, most notably enkephalin, manganese and the hormone prolactin.

Enkephalin is an endorphin and natural painkiller with opium qualities which reduces the emotional as well as the physical impact of pain.

Manganese is an enzyme which is essential in the detoxification of free radicals.

Prolactin stimulates the mammary glands to produce milk. Postpartum, which I have been thrice and thrice I cried a river. But you know what? I produced enough milk to feed my babies and they grew strong and healthy. So I’m thinking that once again, Mother Nature has shown her genius in unexpected ways. I remember as I cried, rocking my newborn baby in my arms, how I needed to cry and it felt right to do so. I cried for all the pain and heartache and sadness that is an inevitable part of life that I’ve just brought this innocent child into. I cried knowing I wouldn't always be as capable of protecting my baby as I was right in that moment,  when they were helpless and safe in my arms. For each child I spent hours rocking, nursing and crying and I never thought it was a sign of weakness or imperfection because I was grateful to emerge revitalized with a peace of mind I’ve never known quite the same. Interestingly, prolactin also provides us with the feeling of sexual gratification.

I feel lighter after a good cry, as though I’ve lost weight. I have. The weight of could-haves and should-haves. The pain of hearing horrible words cannot be erased but somewhat desensitized by some salty tears.

I have reached a few epiphanies during a fervent lament and those have inspired me to move forward with grace and forgiveness and optimism. I don’t know that I would have attained such peace without the tears and feel they were necessary.

I tend to cry the most just before and during my period, but any time of the month can wring a few tears, some joyful but more often than not, I shed tears of sadness. Unfortunately, the world can be such a cruel place and oftentimes I feel like Holly Hunter’s character in the great film ‘Broadcast News’, who would sit and cry for 5 minutes every day just to release the sadness inside and get on with her day.

The more I think about it,  it’s like the monthly natural detox courtesy of Mother Nature. She knows that this month’s egg has not been fertilized and attached to the walls inside us, so our body cleanses itself through our vagina and our soul cleanses itself through our tears. It’s a healthy part of our cycle and to deny it does nobody any good. So, go ahead and cry. You’ll most likely feel better for it.