Have you ever heard the term “Old Tears?” I hadn’t until one day some years ago when I was sitting in my therapist’s office.
In one of my sessions with my therapist she caringly asked me if I was aware of what depression was. I found this question a bit odd, but I answered her with what I knew. Depression was something I heard of in different ways such as advertisements for medication, and stories I had read and heard about people being depressed.
She listened attentively and smiled and said, “okay,” and we went on with our session. For the next few visits she would bring up the topic of depression. I finally asked her: “Do you think I’m depressed?” She looked at me and said, “I see a very sad woman.” These words reached a place in me that I had no idea existed. My heart cracked open and the floodgate of tears opened. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t breathe. The tears came from deep within me and I thought I was going to explode, not knowing if I would be able to stop.
I apologized for crying, and my therapist gently said to me, “No need to apologize, your tears are old tears.” I looked at her with a confused look and she proceeded to explain. “These tears are tears from your past that you didn’t cry, and grieving that didn’t take place, tears you have been holding in for many years.”
During reflection of this session, I traveled back to my childhood. Living in a home with two emotionally wounded parents was not a safe place for me. My father was a very angry and violent man. Because of his own wounding and not having had the opportunity to heal, he did the only thing he knew to do. His way of disciplining us kids was to beat us with whatever was available to him.
I recalled the many times when I was being “disciplined” by my father and all his wrath that came with it—and perhaps even his old anger. He took his belt off and started to beat me with it. I started crying because the pain was too much to bear. He hit me again and told me to stop crying—crying meant more beatings.
This experience taught me not to cry when pain came. So for most of my life, I was unable to cry no matter how painful my experiences.
Along my journey I have had the opportunity and the gift of crying many old tears and much healing has come. Today I know the difference between old tears and new tears. I also know tears of joy, which I’m able to cry because of all the old tears I’ve cried.
Sharing this part of my story with you is also part of the healing. I believe it is important that we know we are not alone and that by healing our wounds we help others heal. We also heal the wounds of our past generations and break the cycle of wounding so that we don’t pass on what was done to us. We can be free to love, to trust, and to cry tears that cleanse and nourish our soul.