We are at our strongest when we have the ability to experience whatever feelings are passing through—the ones we like and the ones we don’t. We find our deepest confidence when we know that feelings come and go and we can survive them, and will become a little bit stronger with each passage. —Nancy Collier1
When sharing in Java groups, feelings can come up – for participants and facilitators alike. Topics like Loneliness, Family, or even Pets, can spark emotional memories and tears result.
We often judge crying as ‘bad’ and try to stop it out of our own discomfort. Yet what someone crying needs most, is not being cheered up.
If having a good cry (or being with someone having a good cry) sounds terrifying to you, you are not alone.
We have been taught to hold back our feelings. Yet we have all been hurt and had emotional upsets in our lives that make us feel vulnerable. There are no exceptions, it happens to everyone.
Ingrid Fetell Lee writes that not all emotions feel good, but of course we have them anyway. She goes on to state: “…our ability to feel positive emotions — joy and happiness — is connected to our ability to feel the negative ones.”2
Feelings all of our feelings is good for our health
Most people think about happiness as a state that is free from emotional pain.
However, in an article called Overcoming your fear of emotions, Nancy Colier talks the importance of acknowledging all of our feelings, even the ones we don’t like.3
Others agree. According to Dr. Northrup, who is a specialist in women’s health, many illnesses are quite simply the end result of emotions that have been stuffed, unacknowledged, or unexperienced for years. She states that unexpressed emotions tend to ‘stay’ in the body like small ticking time bombs—like illnesses in incubation.
And Dr. Edward Creagan, an oncologist at the Mayo Clinic, also talks about the importance of expressing our strong emotions, such as grief.4 Unresolved grief can surface years later as headaches, relationship issues, intestinal problems, and the list goes on.
How to Comfort Someone Who is Crying – 6 Tips
Cry if you want to, I won’t tell you not to, I won’t try to cheer you up, I’ll just be here if you want me.
– Holly Cole, Cry5
Our first instinct when someone is crying is to cheer them up.
We want to help but don’t know how. It’s hard to know what to say or what to do. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Do not minimize what they are feeling or try to cheer them up. Instead, say something simple such as “This must be so hard for you.” or “It’s OK to be sad.” or “You’re not alone. I’m listening.” Avoid saying “Don’t cry”. Listen closely.
2. Take a deep breath in and out. This will help you to be present and to stay calm. Don’t take on their emotions. Give them time and be as present as possible.
3. Once they are calmer, ask if they’d like to share. Be curious but do not put on any pressure. “Would you like to share what’s going on?” Ask the question and wait.
4. Avoid saying “I understand”. We can never truly know what someone else is going through, even if we’ve been through something similar. Try saying something like this instead: “I can’t imagine how hard that would be.” or “That must be incredibly hard.”
5. Keep the focus on them. Avoid one-up-man-ship. You can share a similar experience if it feels helpful but keep it short and be careful not to make it about you.
6. Offer a hug. Never assume that someone wants a hug. It is important to ask first. Feelings come and go like the seasons. We can allow them to be with gentle self-compassion. We can offer that same gentle compassion to others. So go ahead and have a good cry. It’s good for you.
Submitted by Kristine Theurer, PhD, Java Group Programs
3 Northrup, C. (1998). Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. New York, NY: Bantam Books.
4 Creagan, E. T. Grief: A Mayo Clinic Doctor Confronts Painful Emotions. MayoClinic.com
5 Holly Cole – Cry (If You Want To) – Live 1995 – YouTube