Help me keep the waterworks at bay
February 2, 2016 8:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm overly empathetic and cry VERY easily. I'm an ugly, splotchy, red-nosed crier (no noise, but it's apparent I've cried for at least an hour after I manage to stop). I need to go to a good friend's father's funeral tomorrow. I didn't know him, but I fear my empathy for my friend and her family and remembering the loss of my own mother several years ago will cause me to embarrass myself.

What can I do to stay dry-eyed and not draw inappropriate attention to myself at this man's funeral? I want to support my wonderful friend by being there because she asked me to, but I don't want to make a spectacle of myself by displaying grieving disproportionate to my relationship to the deceased.

What specific tips do you have to avoid crying?
posted by cecic to Human Relations (26 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think it's inappropriate spectacle to have visibly cried at a funeral. Funerals are sad, even if you didn't know the person who died. They bring up a lot of feelings. It's all right to cry.
posted by town of cats at 8:41 PM on February 2, 2016 [18 favorites]

posted by shew at 8:44 PM on February 2, 2016 [11 favorites]

Loud sobs that draw attention could be a problem. Quiet crying and nose blowing at a funeral are fine - you don't need to be immediate family - any one who has been to many funerals should understand that the ceremony can bring up sadness for all kinds of reasons beyond the loss at hand. Looking ugly afterwards may make you feel self-conscious but I don't think it would be seen as inappropriate by anyone else. (OK - there is always someone who can be misguided enough to have stupid opinions about other people's business but you really shouldn't worry about what they think. So, no one whose opinion you should care about should see anything in appropriate about you crying at a funeral)
posted by metahawk at 9:03 PM on February 2, 2016 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Grab the old hoku point and put the pressure on.
posted by zadcat at 9:12 PM on February 2, 2016

Best answer: I recite really boring facts in my head.

Keeps most of my mind focused and I can limit the water works to slight teariness and not full on sobbing (not that there's anything wrong with sobbing but it exhausts me and I'd rather do alone later)
posted by kitten magic at 9:42 PM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Sit in the back row, near the door.
Remember to breathe deeply.
Bring some strong cinnamon or mint candies (unwrapped), which helps with the whole breathing thing but will also distract you a little.
Read the service program to give yourself a brief respite.

I totally agree that crying, sniffling, and nose blowing is absolutely fine. If you find that you get to the point where you need to sob out loud, just quietly slip out the door. (That's why you sit near the back - for discretion in case you need to step away.)

Grieving is hard for everyone. It's natural to remember your mother or others you have lost while grieving for your friend.
posted by mochapickle at 10:13 PM on February 2, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: This amount of emotion doesn't sound at all inappropriate, but if the idea is really bothering you, then I've had success with wearing one (discreetly colored and inserted) earplug, in similar situations. Preferably in whichever ear is closer to whoever will be speaking. It prevents my mind from getting wrapped up in the words.
posted by unknowncommand at 10:27 PM on February 2, 2016

Best answer: I work in long term care and hospice so I have acutely honed my cry suppression superpower. Here's my one weird trick: I picture a large pile of rocks. I then focus in on one rock and contemplate the rocky details of it. How rough it feels, how dry it is, what the crevices look like between it and the other rocks. I will also repeat in my head "pile of rocks". If all I need to do is be present but not crying then I will really get in there with the rocks, but if I need to interact with patient or family I will keep the rocks in my brain and pull them out quickly whenever I feel myself slipping.

Yes, it's totally bizarre.

I think it works because the image is so completely blah and devoid of any emotional triggers.

That said, I think it is 100% appropriate for you to cry at this funeral.
posted by pintapicasso at 10:52 PM on February 2, 2016 [35 favorites]

Bring kleenex. I'm a silent crier too, but the only thing I can't control is the snot. You will be far from the only person crying and no one will think anything of it. No one will judge the amount of crying you do - funerals bring up sadness for many different reasons for everyone.
posted by bendy at 11:11 PM on February 2, 2016

Can you be escorted by a relatively neutral party not at risk of breaking down? I have had the good fortune to have been at few funerals, but at one I was a mess, a sobbing wreck. I didn't make much noise; that was good, and I had friends on each side prop me up and sit me back down as required -- that was a huge help.

Excuse yourself and leave the room if you get to the point where you are disrupting the proceedings, but, otherwise, this is pretty much a part of what funerals are for. (At various points and times people have paid people to cry at burials.)

Bring stuff to cry in to, and, in case you set others off -- which is fine -- a pocket stuffed with those little plastic-wrapped packs of a few tissues would be a nice thing to have on hand to offer around.
posted by kmennie at 11:31 PM on February 2, 2016

What can I do to stay dry-eyed and not draw inappropriate attention to myself at this man's funeral? I want to support my wonderful friend by being there because she asked me to, but I don't want to make a spectacle of myself by displaying grieving disproportionate to my relationship to the deceased.

It's not inappropriate or disproportionate. Funerals are for the living. Being emotional in the face of grief, being overcome with empathy, and flat-out crying over the loss of your own mother at someone else's funeral...none of this is inappropriate. I promise. Sip cold water, picture mundane things, all the above advice is good for helping you feel more in control of your reaction...but in the end, don't feel like you're doing it wrong, because you're totally not.

Some people have the opposite issue; there are probably a dozen AskMes from folks feeling terrible about feeling numb or dissociated or flat around mourning rituals. You would probably empathize and understand this immediately, so give yourself the same benefit of doubt that you would extend to others.
posted by desuetude at 11:40 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, good on you for going to the funeral!

It's not easy to go, and your show of support for your friend will outweigh and outlast any teariness.
posted by mochapickle at 11:46 PM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

True Story.

When I was about 10 a friend of my 8 yr old brother passed away. I'm still very emotional, so let me take a second to remember... Yep, I went to the funeral home, interacted with folks, and then went outside and collapsed in the parking lot crying hysterically because the vibes were so so strong. I remember clutching a car door handle as I sunk to the ground crying.

You will cry if you are a living breathing human. Take yourself outside if the atmosphere overwhelms you. Do not go back inside if that happens.

Thank you so much for being A Living Breathing Feeling Person.

It's OK. Don't worry. Thank you for attending and showing support.
posted by jbenben at 11:54 PM on February 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I once lay down outside the viewing room at a funeral, flat on my back, with tears just pouring down my cheeks onto the industrial carpet floor. What you are describing sounds, to me, sounds normal.

I do agree that the snot is a real issue. I've had good success simply monitoring my breathing as a means to mitigate tears & the subsequent snot. The trick is to do 5 seconds breathing in, then 10 seconds out, for four cycles (60 seconds). Ideally you do this for 4 cycles of 4 to get the maximum effect, but even just one cycle of 4 can short-circuit tears for me. Additionally, you can basically do this forever, as long as you are in the emotional situation. This type of breathing is very calming and counting the seconds is a nice, silent distraction from overwhelming emotions.
posted by samthemander at 12:20 AM on February 3, 2016

Bring a large hanky, probably more than one and just keep on dabbing and drying. I've never worked out a way to stop myself from crying and I'm pretty much like you. Just keep on mopping.
posted by h00py at 1:59 AM on February 3, 2016

Best answer: I am also the type of person who cries at everything. Greeting cards, Super Bowl commercials, performance montages. What helps for me is stone-faced meditation on something, ANYTHING other than the emotional trigger at hand. Like, just tun it allllllllll out. I get that lots of people are saying it's fine to cry at a funeral but for me it's more of a problem of not feeling in control of my emotional response than looking bad in front of other people.
posted by Brittanie at 3:42 AM on February 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

If it's a religious service and there are hymns, perhaps just lip sync the words? I notice that trying to sing when I'm feeling a little teary sets me right off - I think it's something to do with the particular muscles used.
posted by Cheese Monster at 4:57 AM on February 3, 2016

Best answer: As far as I could tell, I was one of the only people crying at a friend's father's very long-anticipated UU "celebration of life" funeral and it was totally fine. That said, when I don't want to cry, I deliberately spell things in my head. If this is a religious ceremony, it'll probably provide great fodder in the form of texts or song-books. If not, whatever else you can see will do.
posted by teremala at 5:17 AM on February 3, 2016

Io no piangeva, si dentro impietrai.

...repeat (silently) as necessary.
posted by aramaic at 5:56 AM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Speaking as a man who has been known to cry openly because the kitten is so small, crying is something very human, and very special. You should never feel bad or embarrassed because of it. You describe this friend as a good friend, which means they have a special place in your world, that you trust them, and that you feel for their loss and share their grief. That's not wrong, and you're allowed to feel that way.

As several commenters have said, funerals are sad. Death is sad. It's also far more significant, I would think, to your friend that you are there to share their grief than it is how you look while doing it. I really dislike this idea of 'ugly crying' - it's cruel and shaming, because you can control the way you look when you cry about as much as you can reverse the polarity of your legs. You are you when you cry, it's who you are.

Take a bag full of hankies and weep for your friend because you love them.
posted by prismatic7 at 5:57 AM on February 3, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Please do not be ashamed of being a person with emotions and empathy. Also, women are culturally encouraged to cry, for all sorts of reasons, and we are more likely to cry because we produce ocytocin and hormones. Over time, try to practice controlling crying, because it will make life a bit easier. The fleshy area between the thumb and the rest of the hand is supposed to be a pressure point that reduces crying. I find it helpful to massage it, if nothing else, it's a distraction.
posted by theora55 at 6:20 AM on February 3, 2016

Best answer: Meditating on something bland helps (counting numbers, picture them in your head, notice all the details). The other thing that helps me is to pretend I have a job - like I need to memorize all of the details of the church or take care to watch over those children that are over there or something where it I'm helping others by focusing on something else.
posted by ldthomps at 9:03 AM on February 3, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you all for your answers! I also agree some emotion is fine, but I'd like to not be the one who didn't know the man crying harder than the family. So I've marked the practical suggestions as best answers and I'll report back which ones helped the most.
posted by cecic at 9:45 AM on February 3, 2016

No one's going to care about you as much as you care about yourself. You're not going to be That Guy. Everyone is focused on their own grief and that of their family. That said, my protip for stopping tears is with your head faced forward, look up at the ceiling. That seems to block the tear ducts or something. If you can splash your face with cold water beforehand, that'll calm you down too.
posted by desjardins at 10:18 AM on February 3, 2016

Response by poster: Uodate: Well, I did cry a bit, but it didn't feel excessive. The thing that worked the best for me when my crying was threatening to go into overload was focusing on the flower arrangements and naming all the flowers I knew over and over... Eucalyptus, mums, chrysanthemums, snapdragons, hydrangeas, carnations, more mums. Thanks again!
posted by cecic at 3:20 PM on February 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Forgot to mention, I made sure to breathe deeply also. I realized when the crying was winning, I was holding my breath.
posted by cecic at 10:28 PM on February 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

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