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You Only Cry For Yourself
understanding why crying is necessary

It was so funny, we had tears in our eyes. Crying as a consequence of laughing would seem contradictory, until you consider that this is typically human. Here is one of those reactions which seem to be the overflow of a person's innermost feelings, but it can easily be misinterpreted because the real reason for this peculiar behaviour is in the mind of the weeper. There can be tears of sadness, joy and pain, both physical and mental. Dust, pollen and foreign objects excite the tear ducts. Peeling onions can make eyes stream, a result sometimes used by actors to produce the effect of crying artificially. The really dedicated ones, however, can bring it on by simply recalling something from their past appropriate to the scene they are playing at the time. They make it so real that the eyes of the audience begin to mist as they too become emotionally involved, perhaps being reminded of a similar situation in their own lives or, as at the end of a feel-good movie, wishing to be blessed with that same resolution themselves; sometime, somewhere.

So, what is crying and why do we do it? I heard tell that there are different kinds of tears. Analysis found that the chemical composition of tears resulting from the introduction of an irritant, or from being struck on the nose, wasn't the same as that in self-induced emotional crying. I don't know if there are variations between tears that come from negative as opposed to positive feelings, but that's for the researchers to worry about. For us as individuals, the fact remains that we seem to cry even when there is no apparent tangible or physical reason for it. Or is there? I'd like to share a few personal experiences with you which you may be able to relate to. I hope they will help and perhaps be of some comfort.

My family originated in the UK, and when my sister emigrated to Australia, I felt a sense of betrayal. The disappointment, even bitterness, eventually subsided to be replaced by a sense of rejection. Being considerably younger than her, we had never moved in the same circles and after her marriage we saw each other only occasionally. So, her leaving shouldn't have had much impact, but it did. Suddenly it dawned on me that her presence in my life was more important than I had realised, and when it had gone I might never see her again. I cried for that loss. Although I had a wife and children with me along with both parents and the same friends I'd grown up with, there was still a vacant space that was my sister's and it was immense. In my self-pity I guess I must have crawled into it for comfort and to be as close as I could to where she had once been. I think the solitude in that terrible emptiness helped me focus on myself and gave me the time to discover a remedy for my sadness, along with the courage to put things right. The decision I made then to join my sister in her new country banished my dark thoughts, and the crying stopped.

Tears of sadness are arguably the easiest to understand. The day my mother died, I didn't shed a tear. In fact, when the paramedics arrived they probably thought me a very heartless son because I was cheerful and flippant. At the time, however, I had no reason to be mournful. Mum died peacefully in her sleep the way most of us would like to go. Although her life had been mainly good, the few months prior to her passing had not been so fulfilling and I truly believe she had decided to call it quits in favour of something new and more challenging. At that point she had all I ever wanted for her - peace and contentment, a just reward for the trials and achievements of a long, meaningful life. How could I be sad about that? It wasn't until the family was casting her ashes into the sea along with those of my father's that I broke down. Then I cried: for the emptiness their passing had left in my life; for the times I could no longer share with them; for the words of love and gratitude I hadn't thought to say when I was with them. I cried for my loss, my loneliness, my shortcomings. They were in a better place, while I cried for myself.

Grief is a most natural part of life, one I had faced before, but not as emotionally. Trying to rationalise it was too objective and clinical. That was for psychiatrists and strangers. After all, I was mourning real people who were extremely important to me. It seems that the closer we are to someone, the harder we take their loss. Eventually, the pain did ease and the tears dried, enabling me to see more clearly. It was then that I found a way, not just to honour my parents and what they had done for me, but to justify their being by carrying on the work they had started. A father in my own right, I had a duty to be strong for the sake of the family. I would be to them what my parents were to me - ever-caring and always there for them. The time for crying was over for now. I knew, however, that it would come again, as it did, but in a different way.

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