“The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep.” — British psychiatrist Henry Maudsley

Tears are your body’s release valve for stress, sadness, grief, anxiety, and frustration. Also, you can have tears of joy, happiness, excitement, or surprise.

Our bodies produce three kinds of tears: reflex, continuous, and emotional. Each kind has different healing roles. For instance, reflex tears allow your eyes to clear out noxious particles when they’re irritated by smoke or exhaust. The second kind, continuous tears, are produced regularly to keep our eyes lubricated – these contain a chemical called lysozyme which functions as an anti-bacterial and protects our eyes from infection. Tears also travel to the nose through the tear duct to keep the nose moist and bacteria free. Typically, after crying, our breathing, and heart rate decrease, and we enter into a calmer biological and emotional state.

Emotional tears have special health benefits. Reflex tears are 98 percent water, whereas emotional tears also contain stress hormones which get excreted from the body through crying. Emotional tears shed these hormones and other toxins which accumulate during stress. Some studies also suggest that crying stimulates the production of endorphins, our body’s natural pain killer and “feel-good” hormones. Interestingly, humans are the only creatures known to shed emotional tears.

It is good to cry. It is healthy to cry. This helps to emotionally clear sadness and stress. Crying is also essential to resolve grief, when waves of tears periodically come over us after we experience a loss. Tears help us process the loss so we can keep living with open hearts.

Grief affects people in different ways. Some are able to cry and feel a release. Others worry that if they start crying they will never be able to stop. Some never cry. There is no right or wrong to grief, tears, and healing. Grief has no road map. There is help along the way, though. Through trusted friends and family, honored clergy, and bereavement support groups, you can navigate through the desert of grief.

Friends of Hospice offers 2 monthly drop-in support groups. The group in Colfax is on the 2nd Friday of each month, 12:30 – 2:00, in room 309 at Hill Ray Plaza. Pullman’s group is on the 3rd Friday of each month, 12:30 – 2:00, at Trinity Lutheran Church. Eight week, in-depth groups are held three times a year. The next one will be held in January 2017. Visit the Grief Support page on our website or call 509-332-4414 for more information.