The Gift Of Letting Others Cry


A Guest Post by Nikki Douglass

A few months ago I spent an evening with a group of ladies discussing a book we all read. At one point, a woman began crying—sharing a few of her own fears and struggles. These ladies weren’t best friends—everyone knew each other’s first names at least—but this wasn’t a closely knit circle. But one woman took a risk and shared her burdens and wept in front of the others. And people wanted her to dry her tears and offer comfort, so they said, “you just have to pray about that” and other christian phrases dismissing her feelings. Her vulnerability made others uncomfortable.

This wasn’t my close circle of friends—I didn’t know any of them well enough, but I what I wanted to do was just listen to the woman tell her, “Yes, that is hard. I hear that. You are doing a good job.” And just sit with the one being vulnerable and let her know her tears were not too much- they were just right. And I will help carry some of that load, now that she’s been able to set it down.

This happens often with women… either crying or listening where it gets a little uncomfortable for both parties. People don’t like to watch each other hurt and cry. Similarly, sometimes when I have been the cryer, I will regret sharing and want to take back the feelings I just let seep out. I think, “Quick! get the focus off me.” Regardless of which end of the crying I’ve been on and regardless of how distressing it is momentarily, it’s one of the sweetest aspects of living in community and sharing life with one other.

I’m not in the medical field, but I know that usually blood will clot on it’s own once it’s been exposed to the air; similarly, tears will stop, but they might need to pour out for awhile. A number of years ago, my best friend went through an enormous marriage crisis. She spent every Friday night on my couch for months. And I didn’t have answers or solutions or magical words of comfort, but I gave her space to mourn while I listened and sat with her as she cried.

Usually that’s what people need—to lament, to cry, to be allowed to bleed until the time comes to clot. Not hand them a box of kleenex to stop the crying. Not tell them what book they should read to solve their problem.

Last week, I watched a grandfather read aloud parts of his memoir to his family. Having not read it aloud before it brought him to deep sobs. People continued to converse around him or casually with him as his hunched shoulders rattled with sobs, as if his nose was just running with a cold… except for his granddaughter who pressed in to him. Put her arm around him and eventually leaned her head on his shoulder while he cried his way through the rest of his reading… How lovely to watch this young girl understand the beauty and sweetness of tears even from a dignified man.

Tears are part of life. They signify deep emotion and can bring healing as they are exposed. It’s a gift to give another person the freedom to express their emotions, whatever they may be, without the need to fix them.



Nikki is a counselor, mentor and friend to many, mom to three girls and wife to a pastor and handyman.