The Healing Power of Tears: Being Sad After Leaving Religion

Jan 3, 2023

Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

When we lose something in life, we grieve. A pet, a job, a loved one. We mourn what we had and lost, we mourn missed opportunities, and we mourn what we can never share with another. Mourning is a completely natural emotion. Ask anyone, and holding back this grief is unhealthy. It’s like stuffing a towel down the drain while the faucet is still turned on. Eventually that sink is going to overflow, and we’re forced to unstop the drain, but by then, there is too much and it’s easily overwhelmed. So why shouldn’t we allow ourselves to be sad after leaving religion? Why wouldn’t we grief our losses?

Humans Aren’t Sinks

Humans aren’t sinks, but we do process our emotions in a predictable manner. There is a rising emotion, the crescendo, and the falling emotion before we can officially say we’ve processed an emotion. Many of us plug up the drain before we reach the crescendo. It’s too painful. We fear if we really let it out, we may never come back, the tears may never stop, the pain may be too much to bear. But the sad irony is that it’s the holding it back that makes the emotion incredibly strong. It’s holding it back that allows it to build into a much bigger monster than if we’d simply allowed it to come out in the moment. Like the monster in our closet that grew with each night of not opening the door, our emotions take on lives of their own, becoming monsters in our minds. Too scary to acknowledge, to misunderstood to explore, too strong to allow out.

But the only way to kill the monster in the closet is to allow it to come into the daylight. To see them for the small bunnies that they are. The bunny I’m talking about today is our sadness, our grief.

Of Course You’re Sad

As women who’ve left religion, we’ve got plenty of reasons to be sad after leaving religion. We lost our community, our friends, possibly our family- all the people who are supposed to love us without judgement and embrace whoever we become. We have had to rethink how we see ourselves and reevaluate what we want in life. We’ve had to watch our old selves die, or are currently experiencing this death. We shouldn’t we grief these losses? Even when we know, though often forget, this death is leads to a rebirth, it can paralyze us with fear and sadness in the most unexpected moments. If we push aside this pain and just focus on the rebirth and don’t permit ourselves the time to experience our death, we are only making our grief worse.

For whatever reason we aren’t allowing ourselves to cry, we need to acknowledge that this reason is only a way of protecting ourselves from feeling. It’s a natural defense mechanism, not something to punish yourself for. We say we aren’t sad after leaving religion. We say we’re happy we’re out and we tell others frequently. We focus on all we’ve gained, ignoring what we’ve lost. We put on our own blinders to keep us focused on the light, forgetting that without recognizing and experiencing the dark, we can never truly know this light.

Sadness is NOT a Negative Emotion

No one wants to be sad, I get it. It’s considered a ‘negative’ emotion by society. And negative emotions must be avoided or shut down. Ask yourself if you really believe that, if you think that’s a healthy way to live, if you really believe some emotions are good and others are bad. Is every emotion not a natural expression of some kind? Do we not feel better after yelling, crying, or shouting? Why would this be negative? We must try to remember as we mourn our past life and those we must leave behind, that crying is the great cleanser. When we cry we process. And when we process we can let it go and move on. Without crying we hold onto our sadness, allowing it to grow bigger and bigger until we acknowledge it. The bigger it gets, the harder it becomes to process it. So feeling the sadness when it comes is the wisest way to deal with it. It’s not about prevention, thinking you can do X, Y, Z to prevent being sad. That’s not how it works. If the body needs to grieve, there is no solution to avoid grieving. The only way out is through.

And if you need some science to back it up, know that crying releases oxytocin and endorphins, literally helping to relieve pain and elevate your mood. It also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, helping you to relax. Tears contain a number of stress hormones and other chemicals, so crying also helps us de-stress and release toxins. And despite what we may fear, crying does not make you more depressed. It is the most natural stress-relieving way of releasing bottled-up energy in a non-destructive manner, while relieving pain, boosting the mood, and encouraging relaxation. There is a reason it wants to come so naturally when we are in pain, stressed, or emotionally hurting. It is the perspiration of the soul, a natural instinct to release what isn’t serving so we can feel better.

Let It Out

So when a thought disturbs your peace, when you are reminded of all you’ve lost, allow the pain to come out. Allow the tears to flow and your heart to break open. For this is how we truly heal. This is what processing feels like. This is what healing looks like. Even if you lie to yourself and say you have no sadness, you aren’t grieving, you have nothing to mourn, you’re only lying to yourself. You’ve disguised your pain, dressed it up as anger, or passion, or channeled it into helping others or your work, or are drowning it with an addictive habit.

But it remains. And the only way to let it transform is to let it out. It doesn’t have to be a hard cry, it can even be moments in traffic where a few tears are released, or watching a movie that brings up this pain. A little, or a lot, it’s all healthy. Remembering that crying is simply a means of releasing a lot of emotion. It’s the fastest, easiest way to release. And though it’s uncomfortable and painful during, remember how much of a relief it is when you finish. How refreshed you feel, how clear headed you become. In crying, we unclog the pipes, we clear out a little more gunk, and let in a little more light.

Embrace the Darkness

Welcome the shadows, dear one. Welcome the rain, the thunder, the floods. Allow your tears to cleanse you. You have suffered a great loss. Your heart has endured many hairline cracks after this tumble down the stairs of faith deconstruction. Your years in religion having already left many scars- scars for every shut down joy, for every cage you were put in, for every time your self-worth was damaged. If you can’t cry for your current self, try crying for your child self. She wasn’t permitted to cry back then, to be sad about how her church was making her feel. But you know better now. Allow her to come forth and freely shed her tears. You know now how horribly she was treated, how much she endured, and how wrong people were to make her feel so. You know how wrong the beliefs she was taught were, how much words cut into her, how low her self-esteem was. Grieve for this little girl. For all she was denied.

And as you grieve for her, remember that this little girl is you. You were the one who suffered. And it’s now you who has to pick up the pieces, who has to start over, who has to go it alone. This adult woman deserves a good cry too. She has endured so much. She has a long way to go in finding herself. Allow her to take breaks, process her emotions, and regain her strength. It is through crying that we release our old self and make way for who we are becoming. In crying, we experience great relief. From the Latin word relevare, to experience relief is “to raise up, to make light.” Trust that through releasing our pain and sadness after leaving religion, we allow ourselves to rise again, and recognize how vitally important it is to give ourselves the gift of relief. So allow yourself to be swept up, allow yourself to feel, and you may surprise yourself with the growth you experience. For in grieving, we let go of the past so it can no longer hold us back. In grieving, we are reborn. So grieve, little Phoenix, grieve. For if you do, you will rise ever higher tomorrow.

To get the most out of these messages, I invite you to join the next live circle, happening every Sunday! Come grieve with us after religion, and allow yourself to explore all the future joy that awaits you.

Reclaim Yourself In Circle

Stop struggling! Your Inner child is calling out for some attention. Remember what you enjoyed doing as a child, foods you loved, and places you liked. Then give yourself that enjoyment. Take it to the next level by bringing her out in circle! 

About Me

About Me

I’m Shelby! A proud Ex-Mormon, psychonaut, animal lover, chai drinker, rain dancer, and sacred space facilitator. I hope to see you at the next circle! Contact me if you’d like individual space holding – I’m here for YOU!

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