Tearful Smile

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Someone smiles while crying—usually after the tears start.

May be an attempt to paper over the grief, especially to fool a child, but often indicates a -- complicated emotional state. As when No One Could Survive That is succeeded by Not Quite Dead so quickly that the characters suffer emotional whiplash. (Compare Anger Born of Worry.)

Compare Go Out with a Smile and Tears of Joy, a less ambiguous expression of happiness.

Examples of Tearful Smile include:

Anime and Manga

  • Casca from Berserk, several times throughout the series, but most notably during the Eclipse. While helping a mortally wounded Judeau walk, she is reminded by him that Guts loves her, and smiles. The tears in her eyes are barely noticeable, but prompt Judeau to say "You cry a lot when you're alone, don't you?" as his final words before falling to the ground.
  • Vash the Stampede in Trigun does a bit of this, being prone to complicated emotional states. (See chapter 32 of Maximum, 'Colourless Emotions.') Though mostly when he's really sad he goes right past tears to the Thousand-Yard Stare, and more often cries out of relief, frustration, sympathy, occasionally guilt, or as a gag.
  • At the end of the Saint Beast OVA, Maya wakes up Shin from a Happy Flashback turned Flashback Nightmare and asks why he's crying. Shin responds that he's crying over happy memories, and when pressed further, explains it's because he's sad that those times are now over.

Comic Books

  • Then there's this Elf Quest cover. Cutter was grievously wounded in the previous issue, and Leetah's expression here is deliberately ambiguous.

Fan Works

  • DC Nation : The mood whiplash hits hard at the end of the Olympics plot. Troia and Omen restored to life as per Arsenal's bargain with Hades. Unfortunately, Arsenal and Nightwing were killed in the process. As this is a limnal space between the living and the dead, the Titans and Arrows are saying farewell to their own. Athene wrests another condition from Hades; Troia will be allowed to choose which family she wants to bring back to life and stay with. Her choice is to restore her close friends Nightwing and Arsenal or her son and stepdaughter by Terry Long. After seeing her own children are terrified of her, she declares without hesitation to restore her teammates. Made all the more bittersweet because The Flash lost his kids before they were born, Arsenal has a young daughter, Tempest has a young son, and Nightwing had a yet-unborn daughter.

From grief. To shock. To euphoria. To realization. And back to grief. Connor races down to help Roy to his feet. "She...She chose you, Roy. You...you and Dick. I can't..."


  • At the end of Star Trek Generations, Data and Counselor Troi are searching the wrecked Enterprise for survivors, and discover Data's pet cat, Spot alive under some rubble. Data begins to cry and wonders if his emotion chip is malfunctioning, but Troi assures him it's working fine.
  • Charlie Chaplin cries tears of joy at the very end of City Lights.
  • The end of Kill Bill, where Beatrix is reunited with her daughter has the main character crying in the bathroom before it turns into tearful laughter.
  • Near the end of Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility, Elinor dissolves into tears when she hears that Edward is NOT married to Lucy. Since this is actually the release of tension and despair that she (and the audience) had been holding for nearly the entire film, she soon smiles.
  • Hermione does one of these at the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in the infamous "there's no Hogwarts without you, Hagrid" scene.
  • Joe and Ann during the press conference in Roman Holiday.


  • In Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals, when Nutt says they can leave to go back to the city, cutting off her chance to speak, Glenda bursts into tears. Then, minutes later, she manages to smile on top of it.
  • In Carole Nelson Douglas's Six of Swords when Irissa has lost her powers and gone blind, she starts to cry. Kendric is cruel to her and leaves, taking the horses, causing her to sob. Then Kendric returns and Irissa finds her vision returning, and she sees that the tears were solid and colored; she regains both her sight and her powers, and smiles even as she weeps the last of the problem away.
  • In T. H. White's The Once and Future King, after Lancelot and Guinevere quarrel and make up

The Queen dried her tears and then looked at him, smiling like a spring shower.

She almost ran out of the room, and as soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease.

  • Lyra at the end of His Dark Materials.
  • In John C. Wright's The Phoenix Exultant, Daphne both when she is recovering from her tears at remembering Phaethon's exile and seeing what a mess she made, and when she meets him again, and he remembers that she is Daphne Tercius, not Daphne Prime.

Video Games

Web Comics

Western Animation