The Spousal Caregiver: More on Crying

November 2, 2013

In my last blog, I wrote that a good cry helped to dissipate the mental overload I was suffering. As a caregiver, I have learned the therapeutic effects of crying. Growing up, I was taught that crying is bad, that we shouldn’t cry, and certainly not in public. I remember so many times in my childhood trying to hold back tears: one trick I learned was to hold my breath and count to three.

Fast forward 40 or 50 years, and I find myself having just married for the second time, and my husband immediately showing signs of his genetic, neurodegenerative illness, FXTAS. My whole world was quickly collapsing around me, having to take on more and more of Vince’s care, as well as responsibility for every other detail of our lives. And worst of all, his dementia took him away from me—even though he is physically with me, he has barely spoken in years. Over the past 14 years of this ordeal, I have not only cried a lot, but have loudly WAILED. There has been so much emotional pain inside of me, that if I didn’t cry, I would SCREAM or throw things, which I have actually done.

In more recent years, thankfully, I have learned that when the anger comes, I can sit down and talk it out with myself (and with God), being compassionate with myself, and the anger will turn to tears—healing tears that empty the sadness and cleanse my spirit. I think of it as “mindful crying.” I know why I am crying, and I know that it will alleviate my grief, whether it takes 10 minutes, or even half an hour or more.

I have read that crying is physiologically healthy—it rids the body of stress chemicals and enables us to feel comforted. God gave us tears for a reason, and we should not be ashamed to take advantage of this natural healing process. It is so wrong that we are often taught to be “tough.” Developing a tough skin, as many people advocate, walls us off in our own fortresses and makes us insensitive to the pain of others. I am no longer afraid to see other people cry. If someone cries in front of me, I encourage it, give them a hug or take their hand, and assure them that crying is perfectly natural and a good thing.

Of course, if you are crying all the time and feel out of control, you should seek help from counseling, antidepressants, more sleep, or a better diet—less carbs and sugars, and more proteins and fats.

About the Author

Terri.2012.Web_.Lg1Terri Corcoran lives in Falls Church, Virginia, and has been a full-time caregiver for her husband, Vince, since 2004. Vince is severely disabled physically and mentally by the genetic condition Fragile X-Associated Tremor Ataxia Syndrome (FXTAS). Terri is on the Board of Directors of the Well Spouse® Association (, which offers support and resources for spousal caregivers.

She also serves as the association’s PR chairperson and the editor of their quarterly newsletter Mainstay. She has published articles and has been interviewed for magazine articles and on radio shows about FXTAS and the unique challenges of spousal caregiving.

Although not formally trained in caregiving, Terri has, by necessity, become well-educated in the trials of family caregivers.

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