When did you last hear someone wail? Not just a sniffle and tear, but a full-blown, vocal cry?
We expect it from children when they are hurt, overtired or afraid. You expect a baby to cry. The caregiver hears the signal and determines the best response to bring comfort.
Sometimes, the very act of crying brings its own comfort. Have you heard a child’s cry start to soften and drone until they fall asleep or get distracted and move on?
It’s another matter when an adult cries. Like a parent, we may be moved to go the one crying and assess the need. We want to provide appropriate comfort. Or their tears trigger our own. We may at times cry with those who cry.
I will always remember a young mother who lost her baby with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (i.e. crib death). At the funeral service, she wailed loudly and inconsolably for the child she had lost. You will not forget when you hear this kind of crying.
An adult’s cry can sometimes touch us in unusual ways. It can grow our capacity for empathy. Or, we will feel helpless, angry or afraid at another’s cry. Victor Hugo said,
“Those who do not weep do not see.”[i]
Some men get worried when the woman in their life starts sobbing. Comic book author Donna Barr said, “Guys always think tears are a sign of weakness. They’re a sign of frustration... She’s only crying so she won’t cut your throat in your sleep. So make nice and be grateful.” [ii]
Usually there is a point at which the crying subsides and something else can now happen. C.S. Lewis said, “Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.” [iii]