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John James, founder of The Grief Recovery Institute

John W. James

Founder of The Grief Recovery Institute®
Co-Author of The Grief Recovery
Handbook & When Children Grieve

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Do I Have to Cry To Grieve?

"My father died recently. I have been very sad, but I have not cried. Do I have to cry to grieve?"

That is a question we get all the time from people who are concerned because they haven't cried since someone important to them died.

The answer is: NO! you do not have to cry to grieve. In spite of the seemingly logical association between grief and tears, crying is not a measure of your sadness nor proof of your grief.

It is often said that we all grieve in our own way and at our own pace. That includes the fact that some people cry more easily or more often than others.

The statement, “I have been very sad,” tells the emotional truth. There is no command that says there must be tears to prove that you are affected by the death of someone important to you.

We know people who have been devastated by the death of someone in their life, but have never shed a single tear. We know they’re sad because they tell and show it by their verbal and nonverbal communications. For many of them it’s not just that they don’t cry in front of others, they’ve told us that they don’t cry when they’re alone. They are sad, they grieve, they just don’t cry.

To appreciate that grief and tears don’t have to go together, you need to understand two ideas: • All grief is individual and is based on your unique relationship with the person who died. • How you express your grief is unique to your personality and how you normally communicate your emotions.

That second reason is the more relevant to our topic. Anyone who has more than one child knows that each child arrives with a stamp of personality. Some are open and emotional, some are closed and private about their feelings. Neither is right or wrong, just different.

Those differences affect what and how we communicate our emotional reaction to death. There are other reasons that might limit your willingness or ability to cry in reaction to the death of someone important in your life. They are based on many misconceptions about how we should deal with the emotions associated with the impact of grief.

Some of those ideas relate to the reactions of others, for example: "It's not fair to burden others with your pain," or "You have to be strong for others.” Some ideas relate to how we think we should be reacting to the loss, for example: "I should be over it by now," or "I have to keep busy."

As you can imagine, believing those kinds of ideas will inhibit you from showing the emotions you experience when someone dies. For now, rather than trying to change everything you’ve learned to believe, let’s start by recognizing that you are affected emotionally by the death, and the feelings you’re having are more important than whether or not you can cry.

© 2022 John W. James and The Grief Recovery Institute®. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this and other articles please contact The Grief Recovery Institute at info@griefrecoverymethod.com or by phone, 800-334-7606.

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    April 2017
    Indianapolis, IN - April 7-10, 2017
    Princeton, NJ - April 7-10, 2017
    Reading, Berkshire, England - April 21-24, '17
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