It’s a question that many people ask, “Why can’t I cry when someone dies?” Grief is a natural response to loss, so why is it so hard for some people to cry? And why do some individuals cry buckets of tears while others don’t shed a single tear? There are many reasons why someone might not tear up when someone they love dies. Let’s explore why it can be difficult to open the floodgates when someone dies.

Crying (OR Not Crying) is Perfectly Normal

When we feel numb and can’t grieve with tears, we may worry that this is not a normal process for grief.

However, a normal reaction is often shock for many individuals going through a sudden or traumatic loss. When in shock, feeling numb and removed from your emotions is normal. You may even feel numb to anything happening around you. Many individuals find themselves just “going through the motions” when someone close dies.

Even if your loved one has suffered a long illness and you expected their death, the shock of their death occurring can still throw you into a numbness where you’re left feeling disconnected, and nothing seems “real” anymore.

While some individuals may undergo a pre-acceptance process or anticipatory grief before an expected death, others may feel shocked and experience emotional numbness at the actual death. (And a few experience a surprising amount of emotional tears immediately when they hear about the death.)

Grieving people often struggle to cry after a significant loss because they feel overwhelmed by so many emotions. It can be terrifying to imagine letting yourself feel the enormity of grief that you’re holding back. Others hold back tears because they think society might expect them to stay strong.

Grieving In Real Life

One woman losing her 47-year-old husband described her grief at his sudden and unexpected death:

“Intellectually, I knew he was gone. I had seen his death with my own eyes. However, my emotions needed time to catch up to that reality. Attending the funeral and greeting hundreds of guests was easy because I felt numb to my feelings and felt no need to cry.

It wasn’t until a month or so later that the heaving sobs and hyperventilation set in at the mere thought or mention of his death. At that point, I felt like the tears never ended, even in public. But eventually, after a year or so, the uncontrollable sobbing subsided, and I began to see light at the end of the tunnel.”

While your experience may differ tremendously, we all have unique ways of managing our emotions. We each have our own way of handling grief.

Whether you can or can’t cry, know that your process is yours alone, and there is no right or wrong way to feel intense grief. Your ways of expressing your emotions are a normal part of your journey.

Don’t let others push you into feeling guilty about whether they see you crying or not. Let others know that you prefer to cry in private or are experiencing a tough time and would appreciate their support.

How The Grieving Process Works

There are many ways to look at the stages of grief, but the most important thing to know is that we each grieve differently.

A grieving person may feel many emotions, including:

  • Worry that they can’t cry or that they cry too much
  • Fear of never regaining their well being
  • Needing alone time or a place to feel safe and accepted
  • Needing their own rituals for self-soothing
  • Anger at the person who is no longer with you or anger with others in your life or yourself
  • Guilt that you are alive or guilt that you caused problems for the person who passes away
  • Depression symptoms, including an inability to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Anxiety about parents, children, or other loved ones who are also grieving
  • Generalized anxiety or PTSD symptoms

With significant loss, most people feel pain and struggle to express their sadness. It’s important to give yourself permission to grieve in your own way, and find healthy ways to grieve.

Expressing your grief through activities like writing, art, music, or talking with a therapist can help you heal and move forward. Working through these feelings is integral to the healing process and will help you come to terms with your loss.

When You Don’t Allow the Grief Process to Begin

While the best way to grieve healthily encompasses many different paths, refusing to grieve at all is not one of them. Not grieving at all happens when we continually push aside thoughts or feelings related to our loss because we can’t face it.

If you stay in denial about a death for long enough, you may face new emotional struggles related to your loss. For example, let’s say time passes after a significant loss without tears or any acknowledgment on your part of what you’ve been through. Furthermore, you have lost your hope and sense of joy in life. Perhaps you’re experiencing some panic attacks.

If this is the case, it might be time to seek out a support group or professional help and find ways to express your feelings and emotions surrounding the loss.

When to Seek Out a Grief Counselor

While some people naturally get over a death sooner than others, if you struggle to get through each day a year or more after a death, you may suffer from what the Mayo Clinic calls “complicated grief” or persistent complex bereavement disorder.

“In complicated grief, painful emotions are so long-lasting and severe that you have trouble recovering from the loss and resuming your own life.” (1)

If you’re struggling to find joy again, it simply means you may benefit from some help. In Wake County and surrounding areas, you can talk with Transitions Grief Care and sign up for free support groups, grief counseling, and help to move forward after loss.

Why Most People Eventually Cry

The majority of individuals will eventually reach a place where they cry when a loved one dies.

“… If you do feel like crying, don’t hold back. Crying releases stress hormones including cortisol which can build up in our bodies and cause physical and emotional stress.” (2)

Crying can be a very healthy part of expressing grief. However, there are many psychological and physical reasons why many people can’t cry, even when a close family member or friend passes away.

So try not to worry about how your grieving process plays out. The grief process we each go through is almost always perfectly normal. Whether you cry or not, feel free to express your grief in whatever way feels right for you. 

Whether talking to friends and family members about the loss, keeping a journal, doing art projects, going on hikes through nature, or listening to music; do what makes you feel connected to memories of your loved one.

Ultimately, remembering life with honor and dignity can help you heal.

We Can Help

At Renaissance Funeral Home and Crematory, we help families create memorable and beautiful events to celebrate a life. We understand that each of us experiences our own grieving process and respect your path. We also respect your cultural and religious beliefs as you find the best and most dignified ways to meet together and remember a life with your loved ones.

Contact us today to start planning a service for a loved one. The togetherness you create can help you all begin the healing process.