Tear-Water Tea



crying emoticone

My friend Jan lost her mother this month.  Jan is doing her best to keep the proverbial stiff upper lip.  In the words of her mother:  “Crying never solved anything.  Get out there and do something.”

Although I understand her mother’s sentiment.  My Dad had a similar adage: if you’re feeling low, look around and find someone who needs a helping hand.  We can get bogged down and sometimes we need a change of pace to kick-start us into a better frame of mind.  Still, for the most part, I beg to differ.  Crying is doing something.

Tears provide us great relief.

There are three kinds of tears:

  • Tears that lubricate eyes and make it possible for eyelids to slip effortlessly over our eyes with each blink;
  • Tears that respond to irritants and flood the eyes in an effort to rid them of pollen, dust, or onion odor;
  • Emotional tears brought on by extreme joy, frustration, or sadness.

I’m a crier.  I cry when I’m happy, I cry when I’m sad, I cry when I’m angry.  That last one can really get me going.  Because crying when I’m angry sends the wrong message, which makes me angrier, which makes me cry all the more.  Drat.  I hate that.  Scientists postulate that all my crying is due to stresses, even the joyful crying is a response to extreme emotions, which is a type of stress.

I’m not sure why crying gets such a bad rap.  Crying is a natural way of handling stress.

Okay.  So what good does emotional crying do?  Emotional tears are unique to humans. Although other animals shed tears and often cry-out in pain or discomfort, they do not shed the same type of protein-rich emotional tears as humans.  Dr. William H. Frey discovered a unique chemistry found in emotional tears.  The tears shed during grieving contain prolactin a stress reliever and leucine-enkephaline an opiate.  It is no wonder that 85% of women and 75% of men who were asked to keep “cry journals” reported they felt better after a good cry.

Sure, breaking down in tearful sobs, is less socially acceptable than some other emotional outburst like a robust laugh, or even justified anger.   So how can we reap the benefits of a good cry, and still maintain our poise?  It is, indeed possible.  Just schedule a good cry.

I first learned about this technique from an early reader chapter book,
“Tear Water Tea.” Owl thinks of sad things:






  • Songs that cannot be sung,
  • Spoons that have fallen behind the stove,
  • Books that cannot be read,
  • Mornings that nobody saw…

Tears roll down his face until his teapot is full.  He makes himself some Tear Water Tea.

Tear Water Tea served me well when I went through my divorce.  After I got the kids to bed, I had myself some Tear-water Tea as soaked in a hot tub.  Yes, sometimes the kids heard crying, but became soothed by the familiar word from their book, “[Tear-water Tea] is a bit salty, but it is always very, very good.”

Tear-water Tea worked so well for me during times of stress, I encouraged Jan to give it a try.  It is natural and right to cry during times of stress.  Some doctors believe that a failure to weep may underlie some forms of depression.  Holding back tears may be why men suffer more than women from stress-related diseases.

When my father died, Mom, like Jan, often became overwhelmed with grief at the most inopportune times, in the ice-cream aisle at the grocery store, running into one of Dad’s old Bell Telephone colleagues.   Mom became embarrassed by her outbursts.  I suggested she schedule time everyday to cry.  It worked for me.

Let’s say you schedule your cry-time for 8:30 PM, like I did.  Find a comfortable place and set yourself down and brew some Tear Water Tea; let the memories sweep over you, allow yourself to acknowledge your grief.  Give yourself permission to cry and let your tears wash away all the bad proteins your body stored up.

Scheduling a Tea Time will create a special time and space for grieving.    When a wave of emotions threatens to overwhelm, I tell myself, I’m saving that for Tea Time.  Although not completely fail-safe, most of the time it works.

The rest of the time?  Well, what’s the problem with a thousand tears spilled here and there?  They won’t hurt anyone, and they just might give someone else a change to lend a helping hand.


For more read:

The Mystery of Tears by William H. Frey

Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel

Crying:  The Natural and Cultural History of Tears by Tom Lutz





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