Answers In Love

Winning at Life God's Way

Why You Should Come Out of the Cry Closet


Two weeks ago I blogged about the day I started crying in church. A song reminded me of my late brother and I decided not to push back my tears but to have a good cry in the ladies’ room. I didn’t share what happened next.

The Rest of My Story

I chose to accept my feelings that day and even let others know what happened. I’m glad I did because sharing allowed me to enjoy:

  • A Hug

A young mom I once comforted entered the ladies’ room just as I finished crying and emerged from hiding in a bathroom stall. She said, “How are you?” Instead of saying “Fine” I honestly said, “I’m grieving” and explained why.

This young woman seemed happy for a chance to comfort me back. She gave me a hug, expressed sympathy and said, “It was no accident that I happened in here just now.” She was warm and encouraging and the experience deepened our bond.

  •  Touching News

My blog post prompted an old friend to contact me immediately to say she also cherished our youth-group memories and had used our group song (that made  me cry) to close out her kid sister’s funeral last year. I felt moved by this news and deeply bonded to her.

  • Affirmation of Relationship

My brother-in-law lives far away and our busy schedules prevent us from having much contact. Still my post prompted him to tell me that he thinks of me as his sister and affirmed his desire to be my brother. I felt loved.

  • More Sharing

My friend responded by sharing a similar experience. At her place of work she recently observed a woman helping her aged father. It reminded my friend of  helping her own late father and prompted her to cry all the way home. We both felt  more normal and connected after describing our mutual melt-downs.

  • Reassurance

God blessed my brother’s widow with a new marriage to a good and Godly man she  loves dearly. Still I want to know that she also misses my brother. She responded to my post by letting me know the ways she continues to remember Rand. Her message reassured and comforted me.

  • Renewed Awareness in Worship

I heard from folks who told me what songs make them cry in church. Their messages reminded me of all the emotions and associations people experience in worship and to interact accordingly. My father correctly said, “Sunday morning is not the time to conduct business.”

  • Plans for the Future

My post energized some fledgling plans for a reunion of our old youth group. We’re already talking dates after not seeing each other for 50 years. How great is that?

Benefits Waiting Outside the Cry Closet

I benefited from letting others know I had a melt-down and realized how many positives can follow when others know our pain. These include:

  • more authentic relationships
  • becoming more approachable in the eyes of others
  • letting others love us (for those who like to stay on the giving end)
  • connection to those with related pain
  • feedback (is our crying normal or cause for concern?)

Why We Hide Pain

Last week a woman in our life group started crying as she described a hardship and immediately began apologizing for her tears. Happily members of our loving group wanted no apology.

Several unhealthy influences prompt us to feel shame about crying in front of others:

  • early parental admonitions such as “Straighten up!” and  “Stop that crying right now!”
  • macho ideas linking tears to weakness (the average man cries 2.5 times a month)
  • the faulty belief that truly spiritual people don’t get anxious or down  (Psalm 102:1-5; Mark 14:33-35, 1 Peter 5:6-7).

The cry closet just introduced at the University of Utah reinforces these messages.

When Hiding Helps

Normal crying improves health and sharing our pain can bring good things. Still it’s best to hide tears when:

  • emotionally unsafe people will shame crying
  • profuse crying would overwhelm others and/or exhaust sympathies

Seek out a counselor if your tears overwhelm you. Therapists are comfortable with strong emotions.

What About You?

How do you feel about crying in front of others? Have you done it and felt glad you did like me? Have you felt shamed?

I believe acceptance of strong emotions is growing in our culture. One study shows men cry in public 3x more frequently than their fathers.

I’d love to know what you think about crying outside the closet. Let me know!


About Cheryl Savageau

Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

2 Replies

  1. Sharon Frazier

    There are times when we need to cry–in good and bad times in our lives. There is nothing wrong with this release of emotion. We are taught to “tough it out” or “don’t let others see you cry.” The truth is, big girls AND big boys do cry. Not just little children and babies. Do I cry if overwhelmed with emotion in public? Yes. And it’s OK, Cheryl. And it is OK to walk down Memory Lane in life and remember the threads of our life are what make us the magnificent piece of art we are as unique human beings–tears and all. 🙂

    1. Cheryl Savageau

      So nicely stated Sharon!

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