We all have something that we’re ridiculously afraid to do, even if it might help us feel better. My husband will do anything not to throw up (who can blame him??); I will do almost anything to avoid the ugly cry. Ladies, you know the one: your skin gets blotchy, your face contorts uncontrollably, your nose runs more with each sob, and you can’t turn it off until the ugly cry has run its course. Guys, you’ve all seen it at least once (many, many more if you’re married…), and you feel powerless in its wake: the woman you love has morphed into a blotchy, snotty, sobbing beast – usually for a reason beyond your control – and nothing you do will return her to you. Ah, the ugly cry. Life would be so much more dignified if we could shed quiet tears and sniffle gently into a handkerchief.
As much as I try to avoid it, the ugly cry has its place, especially in the grieving process. Somewhere between depression and acceptance comes the ugly cry – the moment all of the emotions come rushing out in the inglorious process described above. I have learned that the longer I put off having the ugly cry, the uglier life gets for everyone around me. Repressing emotions generally just pushes them out somewhere else, and I get cranky and moody and snarky. As much as I don’t want to be a weepy mess, it’s really necessary if I’m going to accept the pain and frustration and move past it. I have also learned that for me the fewer witnesses, the better, including the dogs and usually even my husband. I like to have my ugly cries alone where I can pour my heart out to God (he’s the only one who can understand what I’m saying at that point anyway) without anyone trying to plug up the fountain that was once my face.
I have also learned that my ugly cries tend to be self-pity parties. If I blurt out all of my complaints to God at once in a nobody-likes-me-everybody-hates-me-guess-I’ll-go-eat-worms fashion, I will at some point in the tirade realize that I’m being ridiculous, I look ridiculous, and now my head hurts from all the ugly crying. The world is not really going to end. Realistically, the worst that I could imagine has happened, and I’ve survived to tell the tale. I realize that this is just a single page in my life’s book, and the rest of the story is up to me. I can wallow in the grief (which I did for a long, long time), or I can pick up the pieces and act on what I profess to believe. The art of the ugly cry is the catharsis waiting at the end of the release of all that pent-up emotion, and, while the ugly cry is truly ugly, it’s a step forward in the healing process.