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Tears are a normal, healthy part of grief. There are many different theories about why humans cry. Tears release hormones that reduce stress. They also show others when you are in a vulnerable state, which can garner empathy.
Even though crying is a natural, healthy part of being human, most people don't feel comfortable crying—especially in public. Crying is a vulnerable experience that many prefer to keep private. A funeral is one of the only occasions where crying openly is appropriate and expected by all in attendance.
In fact, crying is good for mental health and well-being. You should cry regularly to release stress hormones. You will likely never be more stressed than when grieving a loss of life. Crying lets you reach a peak point of strong emotions, release them, and move on.
With that in mind, you should actually be crying more, if you want to avoid public outbursts of emotion. Try not to suppress your feelings.
If you are still determined to not cry at the funeral, here are some practical tips that can help you delay your tears until a more private time.
Controlling breath is the first step to reducing anxiety during a panic attack, and it stands to reason that calming yourself will also be beneficial when feeling extreme sorrow. Slow, deep breaths will regulate the amount of oxygen your body receives. When you're crying, breaths can come in sudden gasps and shudders. Taking some deep breaths may help calm you down.
This tip may seem obvious, but many people forget to do this when they are consumed by sadness.
Emotions creep up on you when you indulge in strong memories or sentimentalities at a time when you are feeling vulnerable. If you begin to feel tears spring up, try to interrupt the pattern of thoughts that are causing the emotion.
This will only work if you are distracting yourself with something completely different than what is upsetting you. Tell yourself a joke, or think of a humorous show you watched recently. Don't think of funny memories with the deceased person, or you could actually end up crying more. Solving a mental math problem is also a good technique for distracting yourself from internal feelings.
Interrupting your thoughts during an emotional outburst is not always realistic or achievable. That's why a physical distraction can be even more effective if you want to stop crying. Physical sensation can take your attention from the inside out, allowing you to move past your thoughts.
Try jumping jacks, push-ups or jog on the spot, if you have enough space and privacy do so before the funeral. Otherwise, simply pinching yourself could be enough to stop crying. Others bite their cheek, dig their nails into the palm of their hand, or stretch as a means of distraction.
Some people suggest carrying something with you that can help distract during an emotional crisis. For example, a rubber band can be snapped against the skin discreetly.
Moving your eyes and blinking them open and shut is way to possibly slow down your flow of tears. Try crossing, rolling, widening and closing your eyes to physically prevent tears from forming.
Drinking water will give you the benefits of a mental and physical distraction, and will help you regulate your breath.
You don't always get to control when you cry—and that's okay. Crying is a healthy expression of grief, and there's no better time to share deep emotions that at a funeral. The people there will relate to, and maybe even gain comfort, from your vulnerability.
Consuming water to avoid crying can also help you stay hydrated if you end up giving in and letting your tears out. If you experience a headache after crying, make sure you consume some fluids, and get some rest. You'll feel better after releasing your pent-up feelings, and experiencing the benefits of stress-reducing hormones.
As you move through your grief journey, you'll cry less, and less intensely. Let yourself feel during this time and you will be on the path to better healing.
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