Recently I have talked with some friends about how our culture is uncomfortable with crying. We never know how to react when someone is crying, we want to look away or try to fix things as quickly as possible.
Tears can be so much more than just a sign that something is wrong and needs to be mended. I cry when I am deeply moved by something, I cry when I realize something important, I cry when I need to let go of some things and cleanse my soul. Sometimes I cry out of rage. I do cry when I am in pain, when I am upset and helpless. In these moments it means so much to have another human being notice my tears and be there for me. But maybe instead of saying "Don't cry, be strong" we could say "Cry all you need to be strong?"
I spent ten days in an Non-Violent Communication training where it was okay to cry. At every session there was a box of tissues ready, in case someone got in touch with their emotions. They did come in handy. It's not that we always knew how to react to other's tears. Some people wanted to have their hand held, some didn't. Some wanted to talk about it, some wanted to stay in silence. But there was space for tears as a way to say " I am feeling something important right now and my tears are freeing the passage to it."
As a parting gift each participant got a bracelet with a little dangling giraffe, the symbol of empathic communication. One of the things it reminds me is to make more space for myself and others to show and receive tears, even it it's not always easy.