Crying Space

Photocredit: Patrice Hartsfield, LPC-Intern



I consider myself and emotional person, but maybe not in the traditional sense of displaying outward emotions. I will cry when I feel safe or feel like I can do it without being bothered. Others can be present, just don’t ask me 5,000 questions. I can’t handle it. I am particular, I don’t need anyone to kill my vibe! I believe crying can be beautiful, even during the “ugly cry”!

Some of the people you may consider to be the strongest people need a space to be vulnerable and cry. They know that it will be okay, they haven’t given up, they just need a moment to catch their breathe, a moment to breath. That may mean a place to cry, release, and keep going. Sometimes people wait to see their therapist for that “good cry”. It’s like they’re running in the office and can’t wait to close the door and hear the magic words, “How are you doing?” They are vulnerable with someone or a space that they trust.

Recently I needed a moment. A space. I couldn’t wait to see my therapist for a good cry. I had held it for an entire day. I think I was more concerned that I wouldn’t be able to control what or how it came out, but with my therapist, that wasn’t my concern. I didn’t have to hold it, I trusted that my therapist would. I may be a little biased, but I think therapist are designed to hold emotions. I didn’t want that to be my design this particular day. As a therapist I have been taught by some of the

people who I respect in this field to “hold space” for people who haven’t found or do not have the capacity to hold emotions, situations and issues for themselves. We all run out of space and need help holding the events of life. When I went to see my therapist this visit was an EMERGENCY…9-1-1! I simply just needed and wanted to cry. I no longer wanted to hold space. I needed someone to hold my “stuff” for an hour. I desperately needed to be the client for an hour.  I needed to not be rational for an hour. I needed not understand for an hour. I didn’t really need anyone to talk with or make sense of the situation. I understood the situation and the circumstances, I simply needed to cry. I knew that I couldn’t return to my daily routine and life without crying at the very minimum. It’s not that I didn’t feel that my daily space wasn’t safe to cry, I’m surrounded by mental health professionals 40 plus hours a week and have access to some of the best via a pop up visit, phone call or text. My friends are therapist! This day I had held everything that I could hold, my basket was full. I’ve been in my therapist office numerous times and wanted to cry, but couldn’t. I don’t know if I didn’t want or feel safe to do so. I think I am one of the people who needs help with crying. I’m almost positive my therapist knew I wanted to cry sometimes, but maybe thought I would do it when I was ready. I was ready, I just needed help. I think individuals needs assistance in this area just as they would with any other area of their life. It is my thought that sometimes a client wants nothing from you, but to hold everything they are holding for an hour so they have room to cry. Sometimes as the therapist you can facilitate the cry. The days I wanted to cry, but couldn’t I was wanting my therapist to do something, and I didn’t know what. Maybe I wanted my therapist to facilitate my cry. I’m not meaning say horrible things or make a person remember horrible or emotional evoking events, but sometimes help your client to dig around their box to see what they need to release. Help them to push open some compartments they’ve kept tucked away. It’s not in a homework assignment or a book, it’s not in thinking about something when they leave. Therapy happens in the room, life happens outside the room, you get to practice therapy outside the room.

Crying is cathartic. As therapist we often tell a client it’s ok to cry, but I don’t know if we feel comfortable facilitating crying outside of saying it’s okay. It’s an awkward situation. Crying is often considered as signs of being weak or that you’ve done something wrong. In my opinion facilitating a cry is one of the many intricate pieces of the art of therapy. Daily life and task often does not give us room to cry or nurture our emotions. You’ve been holding your cry waiting for a restroom break or a break long enough to let a tear drop. You’ve done the mental work, but now you need to do the emotional work and sometimes literal work that includes crying. This can be handicapping; you may need to release something through tears to make room for something or someone new.

I’ve watched clients come into my office and explain to me the reason they were emotional, tell me why they shouldn’t be feel the way they feel, and fight with everything in them to hold back tears. I’ve looked at them and felt the pain of holding the cry that looked greater than experiencing freely crying. I’m thinking to myself they need help and I’m a helper. Also simultaneously thinking if this goes wrong I am going to feel like horrible person. What if I push too hard and lose this moment all together? I’m not going to feel good about it all. My client could potentially feel worse. Through this I develop enough courage and a new level of trust in “the process” of therapy to proceed. Besides, I’ve accepted I never am 100% sure of the results. I compare this to my experience zip lining through the rain forest of Jamaica. I was scared of the initial jump, hoped nothing happened in the air and was hoping for a safe landing. This particular instance it was rough patches, and when I felt I was losing my client, and it was coming to the top of the hour. I’m looking at the clock saying slow down and asking myself, how do I wrap this up? BOOM! Therapy happened! I have yet to formulate accurate words to describe those moments. Boom is all I have right now! They stopped struggling with the cry and allowed it to happen. I felt the weight lift. It’s like the air became thinner, and they were able to breathe and through those breaths were free-flowing tears. They left smiling and their step appeared to be a little lighter. It was amazing and beautiful all at the same time. I was so happy for my client. It was a muggy session from beginning until the last 10 minutes that I went over! In hindsight the entire session was beautiful. The tears that the client walked in fighting to release were not the same tears that flowed throughout the session, especially at the end. The topics changed throughout the session and each release was different. I could sense that these were tears that were stored from different situations and experiences, because the last realization put a smile on the clients face and a relaxation in their heart. I saw the strength be restored, it looked almost like permission was given to keep going. It was exhilarating. I felt so fortunate to share that moment.

When I went to see my therapist on my 911 call I cried not only for the event that initiated the call, I cried for every other event that I didn’t feel was worthy of an emergency call. I cried for everything I held while I watched my therapist hold it, and at the end of the session I left some things there for my therapist to decide what to do with them and picked up what I needed and felt was still mine and went about my life.

Crying can be an example of strength, victory and joy; it is not always sadness and defeat. It can be a combination of things. Your tears can symbolize whatever you need them to symbolize. It’s about release and/or acceptance. Whatever it means is for you to decide, not society, not your friends and family, but YOU!  Please know it is a part of your process that we sometimes need the space and help navigating.


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