updated 11/26/2013 AT 11:15 AM ET
•originally published 11/26/2013 AT 4:30 PM ET
Dancing with the Stars is a marathon. And for those dancers who make it to the final weeks, it’s an endurance test for the heart as much as the body.
Behind the smiles, often, there are tears – of exhaustion, frustration, relief and every other emotion you can experience.
“I had a cry in my car at one point. I had to pull over because I was just so worn out and tired,” Jack Osbourne told PEOPLE backstage after Monday’s show.
“It has been very emotional,” added his partner, Cheryl Burke. “The whole journey, and feeling what Jack’s going through it was overwhelming.”
“Today I cried three times,” said Karina Smirnoff, who’s been dancing with Corbin Bleu. “It’s such an emotional roller coaster that you don’t get to experience outside of this show. It gives you that opportunity to feel the highs and the lows, and they’re beautiful.”
Derek Hough said the experience can be transformative for the dancers as they challenge themselves to accomplish the improbable. “Growth is a spiritual thing. When you grow, it’s a really amazing feeling. It’s a human need,” he said.
Being eliminated, of course, is also an emotional moment – but sometimes with a silver lining. “It’s been an emotional 12 weeks,” said Bill Engvall, whose run with Emma Slater ended Monday. “We’ve gone through everything from injuries to success to frustration. And now we get to breathe.”