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Cry Room

Cry Room

Do you have one? A cry room – a place and space deliberately carved out for you to freely mourn and express the grief inside you – do you have one of these?

As a church-goer, I’ve commonly seen cry rooms in worship buildings. (For ‘modern’ flair, such rooms may now go by different names; a shame, really, as cry room is picturesque and direct in meaning.) It tends to be a room very close, or attached, to the sanctuary yet separated (by glass wall, etc.) for sound-proofing. It’s an enclosed area for parents/adults to make use of during worship services when their child becomes upset, talkative or fidgety to a distracting degree. The purpose of a cry room is to enable folks to be with and tend to their crying, wailing infants or restless tykes without the looks and gazes from others in the sanctuary. Fundamentally, it is designed as a shelter where the sounds of cries are tolerated and expected. Would you like this kind of room for yourself, dear griever?

Grievers’ Cry Room

Knowing there is a specified physical space in this world where your cries and grief can be liberally let out can be a psychological salve in itself. This type of resource (cry room) can complement the help from a confidant, or serve as a substitute in the absence of a confidant, or be a private chamber where the collection of others’ feedback may be more prudently weighed in our minds. In that many of us reside in communities where mourning (grief expressions) can be stifled by cultural norms, subtle (and not so subtle) judgmental remarks, and unsolicited advice, a personal cry room may serve as a refuge and an oasis, as it were, in a consolation-parched social wilderness.

Upon entering a cry room there is immediate acceptance and credibility: no explanations or self-justification is needed. There is immediate acceptance of the entering griever as a cry room is meant for such. Grievers belong there and demonstrations of pining and desperate longings are natural furnishings in a cry room. Moreover, there is instantaneous acceptance of grievers in a cry room as those behaviors and sentiments typically categorized as socially-awkward are well-absorbed in this grief-friendly setting. Tears, pregnant silences, groaning, ground-pounding, screaming into pillows or cushions, lying flat face-down (or in fetal position), and blabbering and mumbling are all suitable in a cry room.
As for immediate credibility, grievers entering a cry room (for voluntary solitary confinement or commiserating with fellow grievers) are granted automatic benefit of the doubt. One’s grief is one’s own, and so one’s own story of privation is not questioned or compared to others’ journeys. In a sense, the notion of competition is moot in a genuine cry room. Although temptations to one-upmanship (top another’s grief story) may hover periodically, the general process dynamics may squash it soon enough.

So, how does a cry room sound to you so far? Where would you locate one for yourself?

Rooming Self-Care

A cry room is room to self-care. It is undoubtedly a healthy thing to tend to one’s grief reactions along the arduous path of making meaningful adjustments after an important death-loss. To self-care in grieving, environmental factors (rooming) may be often or easily neglected. But our physical surroundings matter, no? For example, some grievers who desire to attend grief support groups can hesitate, or decline altogether, to go because the local program is held in a nursing home, which is the very kind of venue where their person died. Even beyond grief circles the impact of immediate environment is hard to deny. Lighting, for instance, can sway people’s moods, performance, and course of conversation or actions. A dimly versus brightly lit room will have distinctly different ambience. In this way, a cry room can be an appointed physical space (whether an entire room or corner of a room) intentionally situated and accommodated in ways to facilitate grief manifestation and self-care. It is up to you on how to ‘room’ self-care in your cry room.

Now, how might you set up your cry room to explicitly foster self-care? Might you have photos of the person who died, or not? Would you want something soft to hold while there, or is that not vital to you? Do you want to drape the room with music, or might you want a window to look out of and/or have sunlight? Further, might you have reminder notes with things like – Have you eaten at least one healthy meal today? Have you had enough water today? Are you being patient with yourself and with others this week? What is your self-score on self-care this week? What are special days coming up you need to prepare for? Are you saying more meaningful goodbyes yet? What other self-care prompters might you want or need in your cry room?

To be sure, there is no magic or mystery about a cry room environment and how self-care is done in it. By a cry room, I am not advocating a shrine or ritualistic space. But what I am encouraging you to consider is identifying a real place in this world (that’s easily accessible) where you can be pretty sure it will be free of unsolicited and judgmental feedback from others as well as provide a semblance of stability (typically with it being quiet and low key) that is particularly reserved for you to be with your grief pain, memories of what was, struggles of what is, and preparatory planning of what is yet to be. And, of course, a place where you can cry (in your own way) unhindered. This is good self-care in grief.

Rest stop only

As comforting and soothing as a cry room can be, there is one thing I observed 100% of the time: its occupants do not make it their home but use it only temporarily. You see, a cry room is for visits (whether 5 minutes or 5 hours) and not a permanent settlement. Moreover, a cry room is not a one-stop shop: it does not replace more vibrant and social ways of self-care and reorienting to life postloss. Once you enter a cry room, and use it for what it is, you must then exit that room to venture again onto the highways and byways of days remaining. But how a cry room can help is as a ‘trusty tool in the shed’ that is accessed and employed when necessary but then returned to its place, to be kept in place, until a future time when it can be useful again.

Much courage to us all in locating, entering and exiting that cry room.


Paul Moon is husband to Esther, and their children are Samantha, Christopher and Andrew. Paul studied psychology and mental health counseling, and has a PhD in adult education. He is the author of Lost? When people we really like die, a book for children published by Centering Corporation. Paul tries to serve others through counseling, teaching, co-learning, and becoming an attentive audience to their stories.