I’ve always been a crier—the one who teared up at a sappy movie or tearjerker book ending, at sweet moments and frustrating disappointments.
But I never knew a body could cry so many tears until my husband died suddenly. There had been no notice, no sign that anything was wrong with him. On a normal Thursday night, I’d kissed him goodnight like a thousand other nights, and then awoke in the dark hours of Friday morning to his last breaths on the pillow next to mine.
In the excruciating grief that followed, my tears spilled freely throughout the day for months.
I cried in the car alone and at the sound of his voicemail. I cried at the grocery store passing the S. Pellegrino I’d splurged on for him and over coffee when friends asked how I was doing. I cried during my Bible time, cried while running, and cried in the lonely hours after my kids went to bed.
There were tears at having to tackle another new thing, tears as I talked my children through their grief, and tears each time I bumped into another way life had imploded with loss.
Sunday worship undid me. The song set seemed hand-selected for me, the words unleashing the angst and emotions of my shattered heart. I was glad for the dim lights that hid my tears because so often, I’d apologized for them.
“Sorry I’m crying,” I’d say wiping my tears with my hand. I didn’t so much mind them, but I felt they unsettled those around me. I should be in better control, I thought, and not let my tears bubble to the top so easily.
But one day I got curious. Maybe there was a reason for all these tears. The more I learned, the more stunned I was at how unique and beneficial our emotional tears are.
God gave us a huge gift when he gave us tears. Of all the creatures God made, he gave humans alone the ability to release emotional tears.1 These tears are more than expressions of deep feelings. They help us physically and emotionally process the pain behind them.
Tears are a kindness from a loving God who never expects us to get through difficulties too big to handle on our own.
Our emotional tears are a gift in three key ways.
Tears help us release stress. The chemical makeup of our emotional tears—the tears that come from sadness, disappointment, loss, and even anger—is completely different from tears that keep our eyes lubricated as we blink, or tears from irritants like dust or cutting an onion. Lubricating tears are 98 percent water while emotional tears are filled with stress hormones and toxins.2
Emotional tears carry those toxins and stress hormones out of our body—a literal outlet for stress.
Tears help calm us. Emotional crying lowers our heart rate and blood pressure. It helps to settle our physical stress responses and bring a sense of calm.3 You’ve probably experienced how having a good cry releases pent-up stress and emotion and brings cathartic relief afterward.
Tears help soften our pain. When we cry, our body releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones, which work for us in two ways.4 They reduce negative feelings of pain while increasing positive feelings of pleasure. Endorphins provide a physical buffer to pain.
If God in his kindness designed tears for us, we never need to apologize for them or wish them away. They’re a gift to help us process the suffering God knew we’d experience this side of heaven.
While we couldn’t begin to measure how much we cry, not one teardrop escapes God’s attention. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book,” Psalm 56:8 tells us.
God knows the tiniest details of our pain and grief. and while our tears may seem endless, they aren’t the end of the story. Our despair and brokenness, pain and loss are not cul-de-sacs we’ll keep circling forever.
We may cry more than we ever thought possible, but it won’t always feel like this.
Psalm 126:5–6 says, “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”
God has given us tears as part of his comfort. And God who collects every one of our tears in a bottle, will also redeem them.
This post is excerpted in part from Life Can Be Good Again: Putting Your World Back Together After It All Falls Apart,by Lisa Appelo (Bethany House: 2022)
- Mandy Oaklander, “The Science of Crying,” Time, March 16, 2016,
- Judith Orloff, MD, “The Health Benefits of Tears,” Psychology Today,
July 27, 2010, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-freedom/201007/the-health-benefits-tears.
- Ashley Marcin, “9 Ways Crying May Benefit Your Health,” Health-line, April 14, 2017, https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-crying.
- Orloff, “The Health Benefits of Tears.”