The Legend of theTear Jar

Pleasant White, Ph.D.

In the dry climate of ancient Greece, water was prized above all. Giving up water from one's own body, when crying tears for the dead, was considered a sacrifice. They caught their precious tears in tiny pitchers or "tear jars" like the one shown here (lifesize). The tears became holy water and could be used to sprinkle on doorways to keep out evil, or to cool the brow of a sick child.  

The tear jars were kept unpainted until the owner had experienced the death of a parent, sibling, child, or spouse. After that, the grieving person decorated the tear jar with intricate designs, and examples of these can still be seen throughout modern Greece.  

This ancient custom symbolizes the transformation that takes place in people who have grieved deeply. They are not threatened by the grief of people in pain. They have been in the depths of pain themselves, and returned. Like the tear jar, they can now be with others who grieve and catch their tears.


About the Author

Pleasant Gill White, Ph.D

Educated in California and Missouri, Dr. White has lived and worked in many countries around the world, including England, Germany, Greece, Morocco, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico.  She is now settled in St. Louis, Missouri, with her British-born husband, Granville, where she is in private practice as a counselor. In clinical work, she uses the wisdom of other cultures to help clients dealing with grief or depression. Dr. White is the founder of the Sibling Connection, a resource for bereaved siblings.