Need a Better Way to Process Your Emotions? Try a Crying Map

Jamie Sumner
Special needs mom and author
04/26/21  8:00 AM PST

As I sat on a bench at the park under the chilly spring sun while my kids played on the almost abandoned swing set, I started to cry. And by cry, I don’t mean a stray tear that could be mistaken for watering eyes. It was the kind of crying that triggers a runny nose and the need for a tissue. I’m not even sure why I was crying. The kids were fine. I was fine. The day was bright and halfway done. But I was in a reflective mood and I got to thinking that this bench used to sit under a wonderful oak tree that had since been chopped down to make way for a future dog park. I missed that tree and it’s gnarled knot right in the middle that looked like it could hide treasure. And it was the kind of missing that required tears.

So many things about 2020 was triage. We hung in there and did what we had to do to get to the next minute, the next day. We were busy plugging too many leaks in the dam. We never got a chance to process all that the last year encompassed. But now that we are coming out of the crisis, or hoping to, those feelings we pushed away out of necessity are going to come up. We will need to grieve all we lost and that grief will come in waves. On that bench that day, I was crying over so much more than that oak. I was riding the wave of emotions that was 2020 and it was all the better for where I was – outside, in the open, unashamed.

There’s something cathartic about crying. It is a physiological reaction to an emotion and it makes you feel the feels whether you want to or not. But crying alone in your bathroom or car or closet can add a sense of shame to something that is perfectly natural and quite healing. I felt a sense of freedom crying while my kids played under a forgiving sun. I think we could all benefit from this kind of open form of expression. I think as we walk through 2021, we can be creative in how we experience the sorrows over 2020, including where we choose to mourn.

Think of all the public places that bring you comfort…the park, that outdoor table at your favorite coffee shop, the fountain in the center of town, the back steps of your porch, the table by the big window at your local library. Whatever places you can name, add them to spots on your crying map. Then go. And let yourself cry in public. Let the waves come. As you notice your body in the space that you have deliberately chosen to process your emotion, it creates a distance from that emotion at the same time. You can feel it while also keeping yourself detached to better examine whatever comes up. It’s like creating a film of your life. You are in it, but also watching it from one step removed.

If you have trouble expressing your emotions, the crying map might help. Because grief, especially over all that the last year has taken from us, will have to be processed one way or another and better to do it in a healthy, proactive way. Charles Dickens wrote in Great Expectations, “We need never be ashamed of our tears,” and this has never been more true than now. Private reflection like this in a public place can remind you that you are not alone. It can help you heal. It can help you move on to whatever comes next.

child with special needs
Jamie Sumner is a special needs mom, author and blogger.
Read her blog, The Mom Gene.
Follow her on Facebook.

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