It’s Normal to Cry Uncontrollably When Grieving
How to have crying sessions to cope with tears that seem unending
You just experienced a death: your loved one passed, a miscarriage, a marriage or relationship ended, and you can’t stop crying. Maybe it happened a month ago or a year ago.
The pain is raw and crippling. Your throat is sore from screaming. Your eyes are swollen, and you can’t catch your breath.
It was my mama’s death in late June 2018 that catapulted me into this realm of uncontrollable tears. I was broken. Frozen in shock for a week before the tears arrived quick and fast like a summer downpour and then took a hiatus for five months.
When they resurfaced, they were unstoppable.
I was crying every day for hours.
Many days, I was sprawled on the splintered hardwood floor of my 9x9 bedroom in Harlem alternating from fetal position to crawling on all fours. The tears were relentless, the sounds wild and guttural.
I was a walking mess. Crying anywhere and everywhere; on crowded subways, produce aisles, and banks. Everyday things like green peppers now had the power to trigger a crying bout.
The crying was unending, embarrassing, and exhausting.
I did not know if I was going to die or ever feel normal again.
After about a month of this, I had had enough. I was trained as a conscious breathwork facilitator and had been helping clients who were experiencing rough patches in their lives and decided to use my skills on myself.
For the next five months, I deliberately immersed myself in my grief by performing daily 90-minute crying sessions based on research: a desperate deep dive into the work of grief experts, spiritual mentors, books, articles, and personal experience working with clients.
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”
— Washington Irving
Each crying session was gnarly and messy: snot spooling, saliva dripping, and bloodshot eyes.
I remember not being able to breathe. Hyperventilating. Many times, I cried so hard I vomited.
During this entire process, I could not find a single guide that provided me with practical resources that would help me cope. As a result, after over three years of proactively engaging with grief through crying sessions, I decided to write this article in the hopes of helping anyone who is currently experiencing uncontrollable tears.
Anyone wondering if something is wrong with them or if it would ever end.
It was a long and arduous journey, and I am glad I had the courage to go through it because in facing my pain, I was able to give my grief a voice, a shape, and allow it to transform and express through poetry. It became known to me.
Myths about Crying in Grief
Before we get into how to have a crying session, I want to get rid of some common misconceptions about crying in grief.
Myth 1: Something is wrong with you because you are crying every day
“To weep is to make less the depth of grief.” — William Shakespeare
Your grief is your grief. I have heard of people crying nonstop for days only stopping in-between to pee and drink something while there are others who don’t cry at all. For some, the crying lasts for weeks, for others it is months. How your grief manifests is normal for you.
Myth 2: Your bouts of crying will last forever
“… Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
— Psalm 30:5
At first, it might feel like you are crying continuously, but over time, the waves will come less often, and it will eventually even out. Most people still cry years after, but the frequency is usually more spread out. The sharp edges of pain soften and mellow. The crying will eventually get manageable.
“Tears are the medium of our most primal language in moments as unrelenting as death, as basic as hunger, and as complex as rites of passage. They are the evidence of our inner life overflowing its boundaries, spilling over into consciousness.” — Rose-Lynn Fisher
What Exactly is a Crying Session?
When you do a google search on ‘crying session’, the first thing that comes up is a Medium article written by Dawn Teh. In the article, she explains that a crying therapy session is one where a group of people come together to watch sad movies or listen to sad stories as a means of inducing tears.
This is not what I am referring to.
To me, a crying session is just my name for what I did: setting aside time and space to let the tears flow. I would tell people I was not available between 6:00 pm and 7:30 because I needed to cry.
During my grieving process, it became increasingly clear to me that although everyone alive will experience the death of a loved one or a painful loss, no one has taught us how to cry.
How to grieve.
And this absence of education is what makes us fear our tears: the depth of anguish feels bottomless.
When I decided to start my crying sessions, they served as a container to collect my tears. A safe space that gave my sorrow a bottom and could contain the weight of my grief. With each session, I began to regain a modicum of control and stability in my life.
All-in-all, I would say a crying session is a form of remembrance, an act of self-love and compassion that a person can use to support their process of grieving and help them process and integrate an ending in a way that enriches them and honors what was lost.
What to Expect During a Crying Session
“Tonight, all the hells of young grief have opened again… for in grief nothing stays put. One keeps emerging from a phase but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats…. The same leg is cut off time and time.” — C. S Lewis
In grief, although your journey will be unique to you, there are some aspects that are universal. Below is a list of experiences you might have during a crying session.
- It will be messy: There will be snot, saliva, and mucus mixed in with tears. Your eyes will be bloodshot, your face will get puffy and contort into grotesque shapes. You might find yourself on your knees in a pool of bodily fluids.
- Screaming: You might scream and make sounds that you don’t recognize as coming from you. Your throat will get sore and scratchy, and you might lose your voice.
- Headaches: You might feel like you perpetually have a whopping headache because you are constantly crying.
- Exhaustion: You will feel physically depleted. Crying is hard on the body and takes a lot of energy and releases stress hormones like cortisol which makes you exhausted.
- Hyperventilation: Vigorous crying will increase your heart rate and cause you to hyperventilate which will make you feel like you are struggling to catch your breath. Hyperventilation also reduces oxygen the brain receives leading to an overall state of drowsiness.
- Dehydration: Your mouth and throat might feel be dry, and you will be thirsty.
Knowing about what to expect always eases the fear of the unknown. Remember that no matter what, you are safe because your body will not allow to cry for too long. When you feel ready to have a crying session, check out this article.
You will be ok.