At one time or another, small-group members will likely hear this statement: "I can't talk about that; I might cry."
If a group is functioning well and has reached a reasonable level of maturity, the tears of a member will be as acceptable in the group as the laughter or smiles of a shared joy. Unfortunately, reaching the point where tears are acceptable is difficult for most groups. In part, this is because it is not okay for many of us to cry at all—alone or with others.
Understanding Strong Emotions
I used to say that one group task or skill was to become comfortable with emotion. A member of the small group I am in challenged that statement and offered an alternative goal, which I have embraced: learn to deal openly and honestly with emotion, both your own and that of others.
At some point in the growing process, your group may want to devote a session or two to discussing questions such as "When do I cry?" or "What do I do when I am about to cry?" This is because talking about crying is easier than crying in front of others. In this discussion, you may also want to cover the question "What do I do when someone else cries?"
We learned lessons as children about crying (or any strong emotion). What does it show? What does it mean? What happens to us when we do cry? Those lessons will usually be found alive and well in our adulthood. Your small group will no doubt discover different triggers and meanings of tears for men and women, for example.
Responses to strong emotion will likely provide you with material for several discussions. The corollary discussions about how we respond when someone else cries (or yells or hits or walks away from trouble) will be equally productive.