What to Stream When You Need a Good Cry

Sometimes life just makes you feel like you’re constantly being dragged through the mud. Blame it on a mid-semester slump, financial trouble, love drama or a perennial job hunt, but every now and then we just need a good cry about our lives. I rarely have random meltdowns when I’m having a rough time, but if I switch on certain TV shows, it’s not long before the waterworks start.

There’s nothing better than curling up in bed and picking out a new show to watch, so here’s your solution to combining your TV time with your emotional needs. I apologize for any unusual amounts of money spent on tissues.

1. Call the Midwife

Available on: Netflix

It may take you a while to get into this BBC drama, but I promise that you’ll soon find childbirth and English nuns the most beautiful combination ever. Call the Midwife is a heartfelt, empowering show set in the 1950s and ‘60s that emphasizes the importance of female friendships and the natural strength that women have. You may cry happy tears at the birthing scenes, but the way the show covers difficult subjects such as Down syndrome, domestic abuse and alcoholism is absolutely heartbreaking.

2. The West Wing

Available on: Netflix

You could certainly cry over this show if you desperately miss the days of a normal presidency, but what always gets me on The West Wing is the genuine love and care the White House senior staff have for each other and President Bartlett. This political drama usually ends with very stirring monologues that, depending on the circumstances, can make you sob but will still leave you feeling hopeful. Watch out for Season 1’s Christmas episode about a homeless Korean War vet’s death if you’re feeling particularly vulnerable.

3. This Is Us

Available on: Hulu

If you’ve heard anything about this show, it’s its ability to make anybody weep like a baby. Exploring a family’s past and present and how the two timelines relate, This Is Us has the power to make you cry about your widowed grandpa one week and your struggles with anxiety the next week. I made the cathartic decision (mistake?) to binge the first season’s last few episodes in a row, and it was…a wet experience, to say the least.

4. Doctor Who

Available on: Amazon Prime

At first glance, a show about a time-traveling alien and his human companions likely wouldn’t be your cure for a teary mood. But the message behind these episodes is often about the importance of humanity, and the Doctor and his team’s valiant attempts to save galaxies on a regular basis will definitely get you misty-eyed. While some episodes are just fun romps through the universe, look to any of the season finales for intense storylines and a definite cry. This upcoming year, the show is introducing its first female Doctor, which is all the more reason to start watching now!

5. black-ish

Available on: Hulu

The ABC comedy has always bravely tackled issues of racism, but has recently covered fiercely relatable topics such as Donald Trump’s election, African-American representation in the media and the controversy of Columbus Day. Seeing as the actors are likely thinking of their own personal experiences in some of the show’s situations, black-ish definitely hits home when you need to cry over harsh reality.

6. Parenthood

Available on: Netflix

Before there was This Is Us, the standard, weepy family drama on TV was Parenthood. With a cast that includes Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard and Mae Whitman, Parenthood explores the relationships among a multigenerational family that faces Asperger syndrome, breast cancer and more. It may not have Milo Ventimiglia or flashbacks to the 1990s, but it definitely has what it takes to stir up a therapeutic cry.

7. Scrubs

Available on: Hulu

Okay, I get that Grey’s Anatomy is everyone’s go-to medical show and that it still has the power to make everyone cry. But can I just point out that doctors once counted Scrubs as the most realistic medical TV show? They recognized narrator J.D.’s self-doubt and reflective manner of dealing with patients and appreciated the way hospital life was portrayed. On top of its more grounded storylines, Scrubs combines ridiculous humor with tear-jerking reality. Forget dramatic deaths à la McDreamy if you watch Scrubs—you’re more likely to cry over J.D. losing his favorite patient to cancer, even though the death was totally expected. Episodes like “My Screw Up,” “My Old Lady” and “My Catalyst” make me particularly weepy.

8. The Fosters

Available on: Netflix

Like with black-ish, the Freeform drama covers true-to-life situations that members of its multi-ethnic, blended family encounter. The Fosters most recently addressed DACA, so although it may feel too close to reality sometimes, seeing an active response on TV to today's greatest issues is enough to stir up all the feels.  

9. How I Met Your Mother

Available on: Netflix and Hulu

What started out as a fun, retrospective story about Ted Mosby’s long path toward meeting his wife turned into one of the most emotional sitcoms ever by its last few years. Episodes such as “Bad News,” “How Your Mother Met Me” and “Time Travelers” include real, heartbreaking issues that everyone faces in some way throughout life. Given that HIMYM expertly combines heartache and joy, it’s the perfect cure for when you’re feeling blue. Although it’s leaving Netflix on Nov. 13, the show will still be available to stream on Hulu.

10. Law & Order: SVU

Available on: Netflix (Seasons 14-17) and Hulu (full series)

I personally can’t handle SVU, but there’s no doubt that its portrayal of New York City sex crimes and their victims is so brutally realistic that any episode would likely bring out tears you’re suppressing. Not only is Olivia Benson almost guaranteed to save the day, Law & Order often creates storylines from actual news, so watching the show can be a cathartic way of dealing with your stress over the world’s state.

11. Lost

Available on: Netflix

Lost definitely isn’t for everyone, but I recommend sticking through the first few episodes to see these characters fight for survival after their plane crashes on a mysterious island. Lost was one of the first major dramas to regularly use flashbacks as a storytelling device, and like This Is Us, it largely consists of characters’ relationships with their families and past selves. It’s not hard to grow attached to Flight 815’s survivors, which makes each season an emotional rollercoaster as their numbers diminish and they’re forced to see ugly truths about themselves and each other.

12. Friday Night Lights

This drama isn’t available on any major streaming outlets anymore, but it seems to appear on Netflix pretty frequently. If you’ve spent any time on the internet, you probably know that the saying “clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” traces back to this beloved series. Depicting the residents of a small southern town who live for their high school football team, Friday Night Lights has the perfect mix of relatable teen angst and heart-wrenching trauma.

13. Glee

Available on: Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime

I sometimes forget Glee was a thing because it just feels like it came from a much simpler time. Whether it’s the cast’s baby faces in the first season or the tribute episode following Cory Monteith’s death that gets you teary, Glee is equally heartbreaking and happy. Plus, what makes you feel better more than a singalong to the cast’s glee club performances?

14. Nashville

Available on: Hulu

Basically, any show starring Connie Britton has the potential to be a tearjerker. The show’s most recent traumatic twist aside, Nashville portrays women finding their own inner strength while chasing their dreams. Like with Glee, it also has musical moments that add extra emotional punch.

15. Downton Abbey

Available on: Amazon Prime

Aka the show that made period dramas cool again. If you somehow missed the original run of Downton Abbey or even if the show's last years just blended together for you, it's a perfect concoction of scandal, elegance and heartbreak. I was a sobbing mess for most of Season 3, but all of the six seasons have plenty of tragedy to help you express your emotions.