Highly Sensitive Refuge
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The Secret Benefits of Crying, Grieving, and Falling Apart, According to a Therapist

For sensitive people, feeling grief isn’t just healthy, it’s a source of vitality, inspiration, and beauty.

As a highly sensitive person (HSP), you probably know a lot about crying and grieving. Maybe even about falling apart. 

That said, you may have been told many times to pull it together, to toughen up, to not be so sensitive. You may have been told your feelings are not valid or to just get over it or to stop wallowing, what’s done is done. 

Perhaps you even say this to yourself. 

But your empathy, introspective nature, sensitivity, and intelligence, all make you prone to a deep emotional capacity and an openness to growth, expansion, and transformation. Which often requires crying, grieving, and, yes, falling apart. 

And that is good news. 

Because crying, grieving, and falling apart can lead you to your path, your next steps, your creativity, and your spiritual self. 

Let me tell you how.

Why We Cry, Grieve, and Sometimes Fall Apart

I am a psychotherapist, so I have seen a lot of crying (and done a lot of it myself). I encourage it. There is so much to cry about these days. You may have many personal reasons to cry. Perhaps someone you love has died from COVID-19. You may have lost your job. You could be going through a divorce. Conflict in your family or community may be overwhelming you.

If you were raised with abuse or neglect, you might have unhealed trauma and may be feeling lonely or fearful or constantly on guard. Stressful events may trigger your anxiety so that it is hard for you to manage your emotions and your life. 

Or, on a larger scale, you might be in despair over the climate crisis, racism, corruption in politics, and the inability for many humans to be kind or generous or to live in peace.

In all of these cases, and more, you have every right to be sad and to process your grief. To find safe people and places where you can express yourself and receive support. You are particularly sensitive and empathetic, which means you will feel these things more deeply than many people. Instead of bottling them up or pretending you are fine, your body-mind-spirit needs you to acknowledge your feelings and release them. 

As an HSP, you not only feel your own intense emotions, but you also absorb the tensions of those around you. You care about others and want to help. Without having ways to let go of the stress and anxiety — and to examine and understand it — you can develop unwanted body symptoms, anxiety, and/or depression. 

Which leads us to the falling apart. What do I mean? Sometimes, allowing your emotions to flow, you can feel worried that you will lose control and never stop crying once you start. I am not suggesting you become so overwhelmed that you cannot function. A total meltdown is not usually helpful. But falling apart may look like moments of surrender, emotional release, and processing — and these moments of letting go are necessary. They will set the scene for the powerful rebuilding, reconstruction, and rebirth that will happen on the other side. 

How to Cry, Grieve, and Fall Apart Safely 

First, let me say that if you are experiencing severe bouts of anxiety or depression, please look for a good therapist. There is still a stigma against therapy in many families and communities, but don’t let that stop you. Finding a professionally trained individual, who can walk with you through your healing journey, is a courageous choice. And, of course, you do not need to be in an extreme situation to choose psychotherapy. In my humble and biased opinion, the world would be a better place if everyone had a therapist guide.

Whether you choose therapy or not, there are ways to work through your grief. As an HSP, you are likely to already have a trusty journal. But if you don’t, now is the time to get one. I have kept journals for years and they are the best listeners I know. Writing freely (without censoring) can be a great release and also a way to learn more about the reasons for your sadness. You can write letters you do not send. Speak to your wounded inner child. Express your anger and despair. Sort out what emotions belong to you and which ones are not yours: Imagine that you are giving the tensions and anxieties back to the people who are the real owners. Write about it. Your journal will not judge you.

If writing is not for you, perhaps find a sketchbook where you draw your thoughts and feelings. There are also journals and sketchbooks with watercolor paper where you can paint, if that appeals to you. Both writing and drawing are ways to not only let go of unwanted fears and anxieties, but they are also ways to gain greater self-understanding and self-compassion.

For another creative process, try Seena Frost’s method called Soul Collage. She uses collage and intuition as a way to gain self-awareness and insight. It is a powerful tool — you not only combine images, but you also read the cards, as you might read from your very own tarot deck. As an HSP, tapping your creativity can lead you to finding your strengths and a direction for your life’s work.

If you are looking for inner work that also addresses your larger concerns about humanity and the planet, read Untamed by Glennon Doyle. She combines her personal story with meaningful suggestions for self-acceptance and ways to contribute to create a better world. It will help to know that you are not alone and there are others working for a more peaceful society and world, too.

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Grief Nourishes Creativity and Spiritual Growth

You might still be unsure how crying, grieving, and falling apart would have any positive benefits, but I see the benefits over and over again with my clients — and myself. In fact, it opens the door to greater self-acceptance, and even creative and spiritual expansion

It makes sense that if you are anxious, depressed, or worried about the future — and you try and repress or ignore those feelings — your path to growth and expansion is likely to be blocked or stuck. It takes quite a bit of energy to deny those emotions or to pretend you are not as sensitive as you are. However, instead, that energy could be used to find your authentic path and your true voice.

If you allow yourself to open to what is troubling you and you explore it, there are jewels to discover under the pain. And that is where your creativity is hiding. Where your connection to Spirit is strong. I have always loved Adrienne Rich’s poem Diving into the Wreck because it explains this beautifully. If you dive into yourself and swim around in the “wreck,” you will find the treasure chest that went down with the ship. I also like an analogy of a well. You go down deep into the well of your grief, but if you go far enough, you swim out into the underground stream that is pure, fresh, and free.  

Joanna Macy, an environmentalist activist, has led groups for years with this concept related to climate and the well-being of the planet. She says that when her participants feel into their despair and are supported through it, creative ideas and spiritual guidance is the result. 

Similarly, my counseling clients have allowed me to join them as they courageously grieve for the young parts of themselves that were abandoned or abused; they cry over their losses and fears. It takes time, but on the other side, they find their strength, take back their power, and find creative and spiritual paths that lead to creating a better world — for themselves and at large. 

In my journey, I, too, have cried a million tears, grieved, and fallen apart… many times. I have worked with psychotherapists, my journal, and other healers. Through it all, I have found my creative voice and a connection to a spiritual support team, a kind of invisible, loving, guidance system. And it has brought me here. To my sweet, satisfying, and rewarding path as a psychotherapist and writer. 

So, together, dear sensitive ones, let us cry, grieve, and fall apart. Into our vital, creative, and spirit-filled lives.

For more suggestions and resources, read Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth.

Want to get one-on-one help from an HSP-knowledgeable therapist? We have personally used and recommend BetterHelp for therapy with real benefits for HSPs. Click here to learn more.

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