Don’t Be Sorry for Your Tears

When I started my internship experience and began working with clients, I distinctly remember my gut reaction was to say, “I am so sorry” if my clients would cry in session. I quickly realized that I did not need to do this, and I looked at this example as an opportunity to examine my own ideas about crying.

I believe that some of us grow up being told not to cry or even reprimanded if we are to do so. If we received these sorts of responses from our caregivers, it does not necessarily mean they could not hold space for our emotions. Although sometimes the latter is the case, it might mean we live in a world where tears are often mistaken for weakness or emotional dysregulation. Therefore, we are wired to feel unsure and uneasy when someone is crying. What if we looked at tears as a sign of strength and emotional depth?

Nonetheless, I would be inauthentic to say that it is still sometimes unpleasant to sit with someone who cries. I cannot help but feel worried and even sad. I also feel obliged to access the “right” words and provide comfort. It sounds like I have internalized the idea that tears translate to someone needing comfort or solutions. I, too, am on a journey of unlearning.

Additionally, I began to reflect on my current responses to tears. I share my reactions to allow you to heal your own relationship with crying or the ideas you may have about others when they cry. Here are some things I have learned and/or implemented:

  1. If a person cries in your presence, this might mean they feel safe with you.
  2. Sometimes tears serve as a replacement for words. Words are tough.
  3. If I feel myself wanting to apologize, I now say, “I am sorry that you are going through this.” (If applicable). The second option is helpful when I feel compelled to say sorry.
  4. Silence is usually acceptable and can be both healing and soothing.
  5. When in doubt, you might consider saying, “I am noticing this is causing you pain/joy (tears can be tokens of joy!) Observation and curiosity are rarely harmful.

If you need support and would like to speak to a professional counselor about topics, such as the one featured in this blog, and are in the Chicago area, please contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000. We are located at 6819 West 167th Street in Tinley Park, Illinois 60477.

Written by Liz, Mental Health Counseling Master’s Level Intern

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