The anatomy of tears

Pastoral Messages | November 2, 2022

Several years ago, photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher embarked on a new artistic project. She began taking pictures of human tears after they were placed under a standard light microscope. “In my abundant supply,” she said, “I became curious about the very nature of tears. What do they really look like up close? And what do these images tell us about ourselves?” 

So, over the course of the next several years, she took a series of photographs documenting a range of emotional tears—both her own and others. She didn’t just capture tears of sadness… but also when she (or others) experienced great joy or laughter; when a person was angry or frustrated; or even so-called “reflex tears” that come about when chopping onions or when they start to water from the cold weather outside, with no particular emotion attached at all.  

What she discovered during this project is that every single tear was distinct from another. Tears of grief looked entirely different from each other—even if they were shed by the same person or at the same time. There were melancholy tears and joy-filled ones and tears shed out of sheer frustration. And much like the apparent truth that no two single snowflakes are the same—it seems that the same could be said about our tears.  

Fisher said she came to no real conclusion in this endeavor. Though a microscope was involved, it was never meant to be a scientific study or to prove a particular hypothesis. Instead, these photos simply gave some insight into some of the basic things that connect all of us together. Namely, the human experience of emotion.  

The reality is, there is no one way to walk through grief. There’s no singular expression of joy or frustration or hurt. And, as it turns out, on a very scientific level, the tears that stem from those emotions will look equally as different for every person.  

The only guidance scripture gives us is that there is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. For a whole spectrum of feelings and experiences. And no matter how different those various tears may be, we have a dependable, unchanging, and consistent God who walks alongside us through it all.  

-Katy Warren, associate pastor

Tears of hope
Tears of compassion






Tears of grief
Tears from onions
Tears of overwhelm

One comment on “The anatomy of tears”

  • Marcia Willi

    November 3, 2022 at 8:30 pm

    Very fascinating and interesting about how tears can look different depending on the situation; especially the grief tears

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