Divorce can easily feel like a failure, rooted in something you could have done or said differently. You fill your mind with sentences that start with “If only I had…” and end with “we might still be together.” Maybe you replay every detail of the events that lead up to the divorce on repeat while lying in bed at night. Maybe you start questioning yourself along with everything else: How did I allow myself to be so devalued? Am I even desirable any more? How did we grow so far apart? Should we have even been together in the first place?
This type of thinking is extremely common and can be a source of immense pain and suffering, yet it’s a critical part of the healing process. As humans, we have an innate desire to understand the experiences we have, including the experience we have when love dies. Questioning our losses and feeling the pain associated with answering the difficult questions they bring up is key to processing the experience of losing love. The understanding that comes from it is essential for healing.
When going through a painful process like this, crying can be extremely cathartic. Instead of holding onto the pain or channeling it into anger directed at yourself or others, you can release it through tears.
The Health Benefits of Crying
In addition to being a powerful tool for emotional healing, crying has an abundance of physical health benefits, too. Emotional tears—the ones you cry in response to an emotional situation—contain higher levels of both stress hormones and mood-stabilizing manganese than other types of tears like lubricating tears (the ones that simply keep your eyes moist all day) or reflex tears (the kind that flush dust out of your eyes).
According to research, crying also activates the parasympathetic nervous system—the part of your nervous system that relaxes your body in preparation for digestion—and helps to bring balance back to the body. William Frey II, a biochemist at the St Paul-Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis, found that emotional tears contain leucine enkephalin, an endorphin that regulates pain, as well as prolactin and adrenocorticotropic hormones that our body releases during times of stress.
This means that emotional crying actually helps to release stress and rebalance the body during trying experiences like divorce.
Also, Crying is Cool
Yuka Muroi, a specialist in couple’s therapy in Japan, started crying ceremonies called rui-katsu because he found that couples parted ways on better terms after crying together during a divorce ceremony. He found that sharing emotions openly without fear of judgment allows the former couple to heal.
In fact, the pervasive need to have a safe place where crying is accepted without judgement has led to the creation of “crying clubs.” Yes, there are now places across Japan where people gather together to watch a sad movie for the purpose of crying.
The Road to Healing is Paved with Tears
If life has brought you to your knees because of unpredictable events like divorce, it’s time to release some stress, let go of the pain, and restore balance in your life by shedding a few tears.
If you find that your crying happens most often in front of someone else (as it most likely will), be sure to pick a someone who listens, truly loves you, and lets you cry without judgement. If you don’t have someone like that in your life, you’re not out of options—it’s a great chance to begin to become your own best friend. When you cry, treat yourself with kindness and don’t judge yourself. You can also take the opportunity to find yourself a killer therapist.
The takeaway? Crying is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. Your tears are a clear sign that you have begun to heal.