New clients sometimes look suspciously at the box of tissues on the end table beside their seat.
"You're not going to make me cry, are you?" they ask, as much challenge as question. When they do cry clients sometmes apolgize to me, as if they've done something wrong.
We have such strange meesages about tears. We compliment someone for "doing so well" during a funeral: "They didn't even cry," as if having your heart broken and your life changed was not worthy of a few tears.
It's even worse for men. In our culture, the only acceptable time for tears is if your team loses the championahip game or your dog dies. I'll never forget the young man I saw on Oprah many years ago. Arrested for domestic violence, he took it as an opportunity to do his emotional work and chang his life.
"I realized," he said, "that as a man the only emotion I was allowed to have was anger. I found all kinds of feelings like sadness and fear that I'd covered over with anger and rage."
As I reflected on the death of writer Pat Conroy, I found these powerful words from him:
“American men are allotted just as many tears as American women. But because we are forbidden to shed them, we die long before women do, with our hearts exploding or our blood pressure rising or our livers eaten away by alcohol because that lake of grief inside us has no outlet. We, men, die because our faces were not watered enough.” ― Pat Conroy, Beach Music
Honest tears are not the enemy. Sometimes they are the cleansing agents for our hearts and souls - for both women and men.