"It's alright to cry. Crying gets the sad out of you. It's alright to cry. It might make you feel better." These are lyrics from a song in one of my favorite children's albums back in the 70's called, "Free to be You and Me," which was produced by Marlo Thomas. It was sung by the big, burly former NFL linebacker, Rosey Grier.
Tears are a Gift
Rosey couldn't have said it better. Tears are a gift to humans. It is the one thing we have that is unique to us in the animal kingdom. That's not to say animals don't mourn and grieve. But can they cry from joy or laughing too hard?
So often people are embarrassed to cry. They feel it's a sign of weakness, or perhaps they're afraid if they start crying they won't stop. Really, crying is a release. It allows us to let go of the fear and tension we might have built up due to the pain, suffering and fear so many are experiencing as a result of the pandemic.
When we allow tension to build up, it shows up in our body in the form of lower back pain, stomach pain, neck soreness, sleepless nights and more.
Holding on to tension also puts our minds and bodies into stress mode. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, are released and inhibits our immune system, which is exactly what we don't need right now.
Passover Tears of Joy
I have shed quite a few tears since shelter-at-home became a thing. Tears come in all forms. Some from sadness, some from joy, some from simply being moved by the kindness of others.
Tears of joy came to me as I prepared dinner for our virtual Passover celebration with members of my immediate and extended family. I orchestrated and hosted the virtual Seder through Zoom with family joining in all the way from Florida and New York to Seattle, Knoxville, Houston, and Dallas. It was to be the first time in decades that all of us celebrated Passover together. Brothers, daughters, sons, grandmothers, babies, cousins all together from, literally, all over the country.
We had a few new members of the family who shared this day with us for the first time. One, was my niece's baby daughter, Peyton, who we call our miracle baby. She was born premature last year at only 23 weeks. She was just over 1 pound when she was born, and for all of us to see her grown into a healthy, happy, beautiful little girl was awe-inspiring. And there was A LOT of "awwwwwwws" seeing her in her cute little outfit with a big bow, bouncing up and down on her mother's lap.
The other was my daughter's husband. They just got married last summer at a destination wedding. None of our distant relatives on the Zoom call made it to the wedding, so they were meeting him for the first time at our virtual Seder. Tears of love and gratitude.
Tears of Longing
I also shed some tears of
longing - wishing I could hang out with my mom at her apartment. Now we see each other about 1-2 times a week, sitting 10 feet apart on hard benches in front of her building wearing masks.
On the flip side, I'm so happy she's here and not in New York, where she moved from last May. I'm filled with gratitude that she's healthy and living just up the road from me, and I can see her any time I want.
Cry for Healthcare Workers
I was on a phone call with my friend who lives in New York City. She was walking in Central Park talking to me when suddenly people all around her started yelling and clapping for healthcare workers who were there.
This moved me to tears.
Let it Flow
So, let it flow. No apologies. Stop holding back the tears. Allow yourself the gift of being vulnerable. Let your family and friends know. Cry with them. The ripple effect will in turn give them permission to cry and release stress that is eating away at them as well. Despite the distance you might have from them, there is no better connector than sharing one of the greatest human gifts there is - your tears.
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Phyllis Smith is the Co-Founder and CEO of Live Free Yoga that offers Yoga and mindfulness programs for youth and those who serve them.