What Our Tears Mean

I get emails from Dr. Henry Cloud regularly. He's been a mentor-from-a-distance for me for years. I'm so grateful for the work he does to bring wholeness and health, especially to leaders. I received this email this morning and it was quite timely. I'm finding myself with a lot of tears in the midst of this life-change. I hope this will be helpful for you (no edits we made from Dr. Cloud's content)...

Our different tears having very different molecular structure! But when you think about it, it makes perfect sense as our tears have very different functions depending on the kind of emotion they are carrying. In these pictures, we see grief, change, onions and laughing. 

One thing they have in common:  they all carry experience. 

They come as you express how you are metabolizing events in your life, heart, mind and soul. So, each one of them is doing its own work, carrying the message of what you have been and are going through to move forward.

So what is the work these tears carry in their various molecular structures? 

Why are they all different?

Grief says that you have lost something you were attached to, invested in, depended on, and most probably loved. In the tears of grief, the message is "it is gone. I have to let go." These tears are doing an important work of taking the pain from letting go out of your system. They are helping you value what or whom you have lost....reinforcing the power of love, reminding you to never forget the importance of that person or investment of your heat. At the same time, they are making space for new investment. They are clearing a room inside for what life is going to bring to you to invest your heart in next. This dance of valuing the past, holding on to what is good from it, and taking it forward into the next investment of the heart, making room for the heart's next chapter, is some of the best work of grief. Where do you need to express some loss and let grief do its work of healing your heart?

Change is a different kind of pain. It rips in a different way, as change gets to patterns and structures that were holding us in tact. Ways that we were doing life, maps we negotiated whether in life for ourselves, with others, or in some area of functioning. Changes means that we have to take in new data, information and ways, rip out the frame and walls of the old "buildings," and begin to try to remodel the house. If you have every been through a remodeling effort, it is messy. It is dusty. It becomes loud, painful, and you feel like you can't figure out where anything goes or how to do anything you used to be able to do. At the same time, it stretches you to new abilities and heights as you develop new muscles and ways to adapt to what you have not seen before. It can be incredibly good, yet incredibly painful. A basic law of growth is change. We cannot grow without it, and we cannot change and grow without "growing pains." What pain of change do you need to lean into now and let the tears do their work?

Onion tears to me are the tears of something invading our system that does not belong there. It is toxic. We reject it. Our chemistry says "go away, get out. You do not make me feel good." We are wired in that way, to know what is toxic to us, what burns us, what we want to "get out of us." It can be the poison of a person, group, organization or almost any aspect of life. Any experience that has a toxic effect on our system is going to feel not good to us. We want it away....it burns. These tears help us get the toxic out. What toxins in your life do you need to cry out now?

Laughing tears are our favorite, for sure. What is laughter except the expression of various positive emotional states....it is mainly  just goodness! You have taken in an experience or realization that has made life lighter. Your body is expressing it as it releases the energy of that joy, and your tears carry that message. An interesting tidbit about is that they release some chemicals that can cause depression, and lighten the internal load. Laughter is certainly good at that, and the energy release is your body letting go. Your tears are good for you....emotionally, physically, spiritually, relationally, and in making life work. Embrace them.

One more thing......have you ever wondered why your tear ducts are in your eyes? Why aren't they in your armpits? If they were there you could use some anti-tear deodorant, no one would see them, smell them, or even know you were in pain. But, they are in your eyes for that very reason. Your pain, your tears should be SEEN by someone who is looking right into your soul as you go through that pain.

Your pain needs to be seen and loved in order to completely heal.