There are three different types of tears:
- Basal tears which perpetually lubricate your eyes, keeping them from drying out
- Reflect tears which act as a response to an irritant such as an onion or dust
- Emotional tears which are pretty much thought to be exclusive to humans
But those tears are very different in their chemical makeup. Emotional tears contain 24% higher protein concentrations than irritant tears. Among those proteins is the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). This protein is produced in high concentrations when the body is stressed, and it stimulates the body’s adrenal glands to produce a series of hormones that regulate the body’s response to stress.
Crying emotional tears releases ACTH from your body and reduces your body’s stress response. In other words, there is not just a psychological benefit to crying, there is a biochemical benefit to it as well.
There, don’t you feel better just knowing that?
In ancient times, widows collected their tears in lachrymatories, small, narrow-necked bottles that have been found in ancient tombs. They were first mentioned in the Bible in Psalm 56:8 when David speaks to God saying: “Thou tellest my wanderings, put thou my tears in Thy bottle.”
Modern archaeologists have found a number of these tear bottles in ancient tombs. They are made from a variety of materials that include glass, pottery, agate, sardonyx, and sometimes baked clay.
The grave of Cicero (A.D. 1544) contained two glass urns. One contained ashes and the other contained water which is presumed to be the tears of his friends, as this was a Roman custom.
Stories of soldiers leaving their wives or new brides with a tear bottle have been often recorded. Husbands hoped their bottles would be full upon their return as an indication of their wives’ devotion. If those husbands didn’t make it back from war, the widows would go to the grave on the anniversary of the first year of their loved one’s death and sprinkle the tears on the grave to signify the end of the first year of mourning.
Tear collecting is still done today. This from a devoted father at eyeteeth.com:
“Tears fall often in our house. Collecting them in the vial became a similar ritual to kissing a bump on the head. It became an act of love. This is a case where my art practice heightened the quality of our inter-family relationships and made physically manifest our maternal and paternal care giving … The title Lachrymatory comes from the ancient tear catching vials that were often filled by grieving widows. I collect a lot of tears as a father. The piece definitely memorializes mourning and weakness. The result of the collection is salt; an element of preservation.”
I can only imagine how loved his family members must feel.
Next time you’re feeling sad, go ahead and release those stress chemicals. After all, that’s the way you were designed to deal with the buildup of those chemicals.
It’s your party. Cry if you want to.