Why I am always grateful for tears


Did you know that inflammatory cytokines (fancy words for inflammatory factors in our body) are released when we cry? Ok, I get how that is just a sign of how much of a biochemistry geek I am but still a cool fact, right? Despite its powerful cleansing properties, I can't tell you how many times patients cry in my office and then apologize. As if they are doing something offensive or not human. In fact, I am honored by their vulnerability. It's one of the many privileges of my job...We cry because we feel. Sometimes sadness, sometimes fear, other times joy. Tears flow for so many reasons. Please never apologize. And always give gratitude. Tears are like a release valve for all that lays compressed beneath the envelope of our skin to the depths of our soul. They are like a rebalancing mechanism for all of the emotions we store inside. And when they flow, I give gratitude that they are being released into the ether, giving me some relief from being the only one holding them for so long.

And often we do not really know why someone is crying. For some reason, sadness is the default assumption. But, even the individual his/herself can be unsure. You see, tears unlock so much of what our body holds on to that when they flow, we not know what moves with them. This week, much of my family is shedding tears for a beloved member who is struggling with brain cancer. We cry for such different reasons, at different times. Sometimes, it is feeling empathy that he has to struggle. Sometimes, selfishly and humanly, we weep because we do not want to lose him. And at other times, it may be that we face our own mortality or that other grief in our lives comes to the surface, grateful to find a way to out.

And then take this week as another example. It is my youngest child's tenth birthday. Such a big day for her and for me as I nostalgically reflect on how life has transformed in this past decade with her playful, fiery presence. But at times this week, I have shed a tear of joy for the beautiful young girl she has blossomed into. At times a nostalgic tear that she is no longer that little baby in my arms. And then at other times, I have realized that her tenth birthday is also a tenth anniversary of one of the most difficult periods of my life.

She came a month after my middle son was diagnosed with DMD. She came at a critical time when my heart wanted to shut down but there was no option other than to keep it open for this new innocent baby in my life. That was a gift. And reflection on that gift touches tender parts of sadness in my heart. So you can see how the tears I may shed this week can be for so many reasons and it is only with mindful awareness, that I can recognize all of those beautiful, human emotions within me. 

Whenever I have tears, I give gratitude.

Gratitude for emotions to flow.

Gratitude for a chance to release.

Gratitude that my heart was touched so tenderly.

Gratitude to realize as that tear touches the skin of my face, that I am alive.

I feel, I love, I grieve, I hold on and I let go.

I am grateful to be alive.

I wish you all the sacred opportunity to recognize your tears as a point of gratitude. Release them and honor them. Then thank them. They are here to teach us, to nurture us, to remind us.

Live (and cry) well,


Tanmeet SethiComment