The Healing Power of Tears

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Veteran Member

Date Joined Feb 2005
Total Posts : 730
   Posted 6/12/2009 5:46 PM (GMT -7)   
I received this in an email today. I find it to be so very true. I can remember 8 years ago when I was first diagnosed, people telling me that crying wouldn't help. I hope that some of you that are just beginning this journey will read this and realize that tears are a good thing.

The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep.
~Henry Maudsley ~

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I thought there could be no scarier words than those my surgeon had just said to me. I was wrong. Over the course of the next few months, I heard far more frightening words over and over again from well-meaning friends and family members. At least once a day someone said to me, "You have to have a positive attitude! That's the only way
to beat this thing!"

Each time I heard those words, my heart skipped a beat, and I had to swallow hard to
keep the rising panic down.

I had just been told that I had cancer and that I was facing at least a year of what the medical professionals mysteriously referred to as "very aggressive treatment." Before any of it could begin, I had to sign a 13-page consent form that outlined all of the potential complications and side- effects I might encounter, including "sudden death."

I desperately needed and wanted to cry, and yet everyone kept telling me not to, that that would be "giving in to it" and evidence of a "negative attitude." I began to believe that if I cried, it could actually cause me to die. I thought that I would not die of cancer, but of negative thinking.

I want to say again and really emphasize that these were well-meaning friends and family members who love me. But they were not cancer survivors. They were people who cared about me who were only repeating words they had heard somewhere because they didn't know what else to say. The fact of the matter is that the best thing someone could have said to me at that point was (and please listen up here, caregivers), "You need to have a good cry."

There is considerable scientific evidence to indicate that the shedding of tears may be involved in removing waste products and toxic substances from the body. The chemical composition of tears resulting from emotional stress (grief, fear, anger, etc.) is known to be different from that of tears produced while cutting onions. Scientists speculate that this is why we experience an increased feeling of well-being after having a "good cry."

University of Minnesota researchers who are studying the chemical composition of tears have isolated two important chemicals (leucine-enkephalin and prolactin) in emotionally shed tears (as mentioned earlier, tears released in response to an unemotional activity, like cutting an onion, don't contain these chemicals). The researchers say that leucine- enkephalin may be an endorphin, one of the natural pain relievers released by the brain in response to stress. William Frey, Ph.D., a biochemist and the leader of the research team, suspects that tears cleanse the body of substances that accumulate under stress. In other words, crying seems to be a healthy and very appropriate way to respond to stress.

Conversely, to resist crying may be harmful to your health. It's possible, say researchers, that men develop more stress- related illness because they don't cry as freely as women do.

So are we to ignore the "positive attitude" advice? Absolutely not! But we need to understand that it will develop over time. It will come with experience along the way of the cancer journey. You will reach a place where you will feel more positive because you will regain control. You will understand more. You will not feel that you are lost and floundering in a foreign land. You will learn the ropes. You will become something of an expert on your specific cancer and treatments, so far less will be unknown to you and you will therefore experience less fear.

But there will also be times when you feel like crying, and when that feeling comes over you, you need to give in to it. Crying does not mean that you don't have a positive attitude. It simply means that your body needs to cleanse itself of some stress-related toxins so that it can get on about the business of healing. Help your body and your spirit heal by having a "good cry."

Dear God, help those around me understand that it is okay for them to cry and it's okay for me to cry. Remind us all that the shedding of tears is a natural cleansing function of our bodies that You, in Your infinite wisdom, provided us with when You created us. Help us remember to thank You for this and all our many gifts, Lord, and remind us to encourage one another to use your gifts,
not refuse them.


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