Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations.
We all cry. At some time or other. Some of us more than others.
Tears are everywhere this week. Yes, at the Olympics. The sound of the Star Spangled Banner is enough to make most Americans well up. But tears do not just come from pride and patriotism. They come from all sorts of feelings that sport can evoke.
We’ve seen a few tears over the years at the Olympics. Who remembers Derek Redmond ripping his hamstring in Barcelona in 1992? Redmond fell to the ground in agony but somehow got to his feet and began to painfully hop his way towards the finish line, determined to see it through. And as if that wasn’t moving enough, someone emerged from the crowd to help him along. His dad. And the nation cried too.
This week in Rio there were tears of disappointment for Djokovic as he lost an early match. Andy Murray is having a better run but he has shed some tears too over the years. On losing the Wimbledon final in 2012 it broke my heart to see him cry. But this year it was just as emotional seeing his tears of joy and relief as he took the title for the second time.
Crying is a part of what it is to be human. It can be a sign of sadness, anxiety, depression, grief, fear, tiredness, pain, hurt, anger, frustration, a broken heart. Crying is a natural stress reliever. It can make you feel better. It can make people realise you need help. It’s how babies communicate, children too. And then we learn to hide it, repress it, be ashamed of it even.
A book, a film, a piece of music, the smell of the sea, the way the light slants on an Autumn day, all these can make you cry – out of empathy or a memory stirred.
But did you know:
Cultural differences aside, women are more likely to cry as they have smaller tear ducts which overflow more easily than men’s. (Can anyone tell me if that’s true?)
When you cry, your heart rate increases and your breathing slows. And that lump in your throat is known as the ‘globus sensation’.
Crying stimulates the brain’s endorphins. It’s a natural painkiller which is helpful for a broken heart. (I added that last bit.)
Crying helps release emotions. It makes you feel better for a bit, more able to cope.
Shakespeare said: ‘To weep is to make less the depth of grief.’
I say: ‘Better out than in.’