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Meaningful Reflections with Chaplain Kim Crawford Meeks is a monthly column that provides words of encouragement for associates at USA Health.

Published Jul 31st, 2023

By Kim Crawford Meeks
Spiritual Care Manager

As a chaplain, I often provide support for someone who is crying for many different reasons. We cry because of fear, anger, hunger, sadness and even joy. Unfortunately, my experience is that people almost always apologize for crying, regardless of the reason.

Crying is an expression of the heart and soul. It offers an opportunity for expression and relief, and it aids in processing emotions. In our society, crying seems to be viewed as weakness.

I am often called to a room to comfort someone, and the person requesting the visit points out the person who is crying the most. Perhaps we should consider that the person crying may be expressing their emotions, while those who are stoic may be holding in their feelings and not allowing them to process.

There is a story about a little girl who tells her mother that she is late getting home because her friend broke her doll. Her mom asks, “Did you help her fix it?” The little girl replies, “No, I helped her cry.”

I have witnessed many attempts at people trying to stop tears. I have seen many tissue boxes placed in hands, even when the recipient said “no” to the tissue. Unfortunately, I have seen many others literally point a finger at a loved one and say, “Don’t cry.”

Once, I witnessed tissue boxes being thrown over the heads of many people gathered in a waiting room filled with those who were grieving. The idea is that tissues will help to “fix” the grief by stopping the tears.

My most impactful experience with tears was during my residency. I was working at a level I trauma center, and a young person had died in a car accident. A large family came to see him, and the adults were expressing their emotions through words, sounds, tears and physical displays.

One of the family members turned to the 10 children in the family and said, “Sit still, don’t cry, and be quiet.” The adults went to the hospital room, and the children were left in the waiting room with the order to not move, speak, or express their fear or sadness.

I had to choose to go comfort the adults or to provide support for these children. I asked the children to join me in a circle in the floor and created a safe space for them to tell me about their family member and how they felt. We talked about why we cry, and they told me stories about their cousin as tears puddled in their eyes and ran down their tiny cheeks.

Creating a safe space for others to share, express, feel and cry is the best thing we can do when providing support. Telling someone not to cry, or not to feel, can eventually cause them physical, emotional and spiritual harm.

When you see someone crying, it is not the time to judge, give orders, or to throw tissue boxes across the room. Witnessing tears is an opportunity to say, “I care” or “I’m here” or to ask the question, “Would you like to talk about it?” Then – as the listener – just listen. We should never tell someone how to feel, express their feelings, or try to fix them. We should be there and care.

Please also visit the USA Spiritual Care Page for other stress reduction exercises and resources.

Patients, family members and USA Health associates are encouraged to call the Meaningful Reflections Line at 251-445-9016 for a daily recorded word of encouragement.

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