No Time For Tears

“I really don’t like to cry … “

It was her first time in counseling. The tears came unbidden — we had covered a lot in that first session. And then, a few days later, came the phone call.

“I just … I really don’t like to talk about things that make me cry … I don’t see how that’s going to fix anything … you’re really nice, and I like you, but – I think I’ll just see how things go for a while … if it gets really bad maybe I’ll call you again …”

I was a new counselor. I loved her honesty — and I floundered with my answer.

“Counseling isn’t about fixing you (and it isn’t); it’s about journeying together (and it is); it’s about finding what works and … “ Blah blah blah. Somehow my words seemed hollow. I felt like I didn’t have a way to answer what she was really asking — the unspoken question.

How do you answer someone who is in pain? She knew she didn’t like it, and she told me so! I thought about her many times over the next few weeks. Her strong face — her angular bones and kind eyes. She had hands that looked like they might have worked in clay, a potter’s hands. She was raw and open and her emotions were powerful. I hoped she would call me again. But she didn’t think counseling could help. Was she challenging me with her question? Making excuses? No, I don’t think so. I think she just… didn’t like to cry.

Now, years later, I know what I wish I had said:

“You don’t have to cry if you don’t want to. But if you do … you don’t have to cry alone…”


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The mind of the day draws no attention to it;
It dwells within the silence with elegance
To create a space for all our words
Drawing us to listen inward and outward

John O'Donohue, from The Inner History of a Day