Seeing any person you love crying is distressing, but, at least for me, seeing your sister crying is on another level entirely. When I walk into a room and find any of my sisters upset to the point of tears, I have to fight every murder-rage instinct to find someone to hold accountable.
As distressing as it seems, crying is just a necessary part of life. When you see your sister crying, your only real responsibility is to fight the instinct to do what will make yourself feel better– likely something dramatic– and instead try to think about what might make her feel better.
No matter how much you want to fix the situation for her, instead, try a few of the following:
Tell her it’s OK to Cry
Being caught expressing that much vulnerability can be embarrassing, especially if your sister doesn’t identify as a “Cryer.” When you see your sister crying, start by letting her know it’s alright to be upset.
This saying isn’t just a platitude; it’s the truth. We all sometimes cry, whether it’s because something is actually, seriously wrong or because we are simply overwhelmed little humans.
Crying is an essential part of processing profound emotion, allowing us to experience a wave of feeling before we turn to the task of organizing those feelings into action.
When you walk in on your sister crying, don’t freak out or call more attention to the situation. Don’t act surprised or shocked.
Doing so will only make her feel more alone and isolated. Instead, let her know that she’s behaving perfectly normally and has no need to be embarrassed.
Listen Without Judgement
Some people just need to say their problems out loud to understand them; that’s perfectly fine! When your sister is crying, offer her that sounding board to her emotions.
While you’re at it, try to gauge what reaction she might most want out of you and deliver. Is she enraged about a work issue?
Time for you to be angry on her behalf. Does she think that this tiny molehill of a problem is the most challenging mountain she’s ever encountered? Commiserate with her deeply-felt, melodramatic sadness.
Once the tears are over and she’s calmed, you do have a sisterly responsibility to be honest about the actual reality of her problem, but that time is for after she’s gotten herself together. For now, while she’s in the grips of pure emotion, polish up your acting chops and allow her to wallow for minutes.
Let me clarify: you are not superman. You are never going to be superman. As much as you might want to fly into the scene, shoot lasers or whatever from your eyeballs and magically make everything better, unfortunately, you just can’t.
That being said, there’s nothing wrong with asking what you can do to help simply at this moment.
Your goal here is not to jump into fixer mode; your goal is to see what tiny actions you can complete that will alleviate her sadness at this moment alone. Things you can do include:
- Fix a warm of tea or coffee
- Bring her a tissue
- Make her a meal
- Let her cuddle your dog
- Show her a funny video
- Take a walk with her
Remember, it’s not your job to fix her problem. It’s just your job to be there!
As distressing as it can feel, accept that crying is something that your sister just needs to do as she processes her feelings. All you need to do is see what you can do to make her crying more comfortable.
Did you know that there are spas you can go to to be hugged? It’s true! This seemingly strange service is because, on a primal level, even the most standoffish of people crave physical touch sometimes.
Science has shown that physical contact can go a long way in improving mood, providing support, and even increasing long-term health.
When your sister (or anyone you love) is crying, a calming touch can be incredibly soothing, whether that means a gentle hand on the shoulder or a full bear hug.
I know some people would rather chew glass than be subjected to full-on physical contact when they’re upset. Others secretly love being hugged but don’t know how to express that without feeling lame. This is another moment where you’ll need to take action based on your knowledge of your sister.
Either way, when your sister is crying, sometimes even just being offered a hug can go a long way.
Be Quiet Company
In the wise words of the fictional Coach Ted Lasso, “There is something worse out there than being sad, and that’s being alone and being sad.”
Being sad sucks. There’s just no way around it. It hurts, and it’s inevitable, and it does.
Still…being sad around someone who loves you sucks a little less. When you see your sister crying, let her know that she doesn’t have to talk if she doesn’t want to.
She doesn’t have to explain herself. She doesn’t even have to stop. All she has to do is sit with you for a moment.
Sometimes, you just need a good cry, even if for no other reason than we are all destined to be a little sad sometimes. When your sister is crying, let her know you love her and offer to sit quietly in the room until she feels ready to move on with her day.
Because being sad around someone who loves you is just a little better.
Does seeing your sister cry make you want to fistfight someone to the death? Probably. Is that the best thing for her own mental and emotional well being? Not so much.
When your sister is crying, you need to stay calm, offer her comfort, and allow her to process her feelings at her own rate. You can’t save her from all the sadness of the world, but you an offer to stand by her side as she fights those necessary battles on her own.