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Grief

  • That was the way with grief: it left you alone for months together until you thought that you were cured, and then without warning it blotted out the sunlight.

  • ... grief is an illness I can't recover from.

  • Grieving is like being ill. You think the entire world revolves around you and it doesn't.

  • To hide your own crying was the Griswold way of feeling grief. To ignore another's crying, the Griswold way of curing it.

  • What was so terrible about grief was not grief itself, but that one got over it.

  • Grief is, of all the passions, the one that is the most ingenious and indefatigable in finding food for its own subsistence.

  • ... it is not until we have lost those we loved that we feel all their value.

    • Countess of Blessington,
    • in R.R. Madden, The Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington, vol. 2 ()
  • ... how futile are words in the ears of those who mourn.

  • O the anguish of the thought that we can never atone to our dead for the stinted affection we gave them.

    • George Eliot,
    • "The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.

  • I find the weight of air / Almost too great to bear.

  • Grief can't be shared. Everyone carries it alone, his own burden, his own way.

  • Don't wish me happiness — I don't expect to be happy ... it's gotten beyond that, somehow. Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor — I will need them all.

  • ... there is no aristocracy of grief. Grief is a great leveler.

  • ... one must go through periods of numbness that are harder to bear than grief.

  • Grief is the price Love pays for being in the same world with Death.

  • How can he sleep now summer comes, / Lie cold when I am near!

  • The bereaved cannot communicate with the unbereaved.

  • Bereavement is a darkness impenetrable to the imagination of the unbereaved.

  • ... what she didn't know was the loss of self when a husband dies. What she didn't know was the cold side of the bed, the side that would never be warm again. What she didn't know was the hollowness of the halls of her home. Where was the deep voice, the heavy walk?

  • Grief could, if left unfettered, become the purpose of a life rather than a tribute to lost love.

  • [On the death of her nine-year-old:] Hundreds of times you start to put on their place at the table, or plan for clothes — she will have this; but the keenest of all is when it is stormy, and you think this one is safe here or there, for a moment it flashes in your mind — that she isn't in yet.

  • Mourning is not forgetting ... It is an undoing. Every minute tie has to be untied and something permanent and valuable recovered and assimilated from the knot.

  • Did someone say that there would be an end, / an end, Oh, an end to love and mourning? / What has been once so interwoven cannot be raveled, / not the gift ungiven. / Now the dead move through all of us still glowing. / Mother and child, lover and lover mated, / are wound and bound together and enflowing. / What has been plaited cannot be unplaited — / only the strands grow richer with each loss / and memory makes kings and queens of us. / Dark into light, light into darkness, spin. / When all the birds have flown to some real haven, / we who find shelter in the warmth within, / listen and feel new-cherished, new-forgiven, / as the lost human voices speak through us and blend / our complex love, our mourning without end.

  • There are some griefs so loud / They could bring down the sky, / And there are griefs so still / None knows how deep they lie ...

  • And one cold starry night / Whatever your belief / The phoenix will take flight / Over the seas of grief / To sing her thrilling song / To stars and waves and sky / For neither old nor young / The phoenix does not die.

  • Inside my mother's death / I lay and could not breathe ...

  • All your lovely words are spoken. / Once the ivory box is broken, / Beats the golden bird no more.

  • Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.

  • Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave / Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind; / Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave. / I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

  • Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the day-time, and falling into at night. I miss you like hell.

  • The wrong you have done is very quiet: just / Not being there.

  • Grief is the price we pay for love.

    • Elizabeth II,
    • message read at the service of remembrance in New York for British victims of 9/11 ()
  • ... in a novel, people's hearts break, and they die, and that is the end of it; and in a story this is very convenient. But in real life we do not die when all that makes life bright dies to us. There is a most busy and important round of eating, drinking, dressing, walking, visiting, buying, selling, talking, reading, and all that makes up what is commonly called living, yet to be gone through ...

  • There are griefs which grow with years ...

  • I say Come Back and you do / Not do what I want. / The train unrolls its track and sends its sound forward.

  • Why are you not where you belong? / A black hat on a hook says nothing. / Ashes mirror ashes / In a mirroring window.

  • The wheel begins its only if turning. / It had never stopped. / This is life's bargain that motion / Is hope.

  • A child, then a man, now a feather / Passing through a furious fire / Called time.

  • To say you loved a person. / To say that person no longer exists. / A tragic flawed fate going on and on and on.

  • It begins to sink in. Dead / Is dead, not just not / Here. The knife never dulls, / Does it, Dearie, / On the blade side.

  • You are reduced / To the after-sorrow / That will last my lifetime. The hair-tearing / Grief of the mother / Whose child has been swept away.

  • Great unhappiness is incompatible with the belief that it will ever end.

  • Grief does not end and love does not die and nothing fills its graven place. With grace, pain is transmuted into the gold of wisdom and compassion and the lesser coin of muted sadness and resignation; but something leaden of it remains, to become the kernel arond which more pain accretes (a black pearl): one pain becomes every other pain ... unless one strips away, one by one, the layers of pain to get to the heart of the pain — and this causes more pain, pain so intense as to feel like evisceration.

  • With time the unbearable becomes shocking, becomes sad, and finally becomes poignant.

  • Total grief is like a minefield. No knowing when one will touch the tripwire.

  • ... I am unable, mentally incapable, of relating the dead thing, the broken body refusing to divulge why or where the occupant has gone, to the thing that was alive.

  • ... there is no gaiety as gay as the gaiety of grief.

  • ... henceforth she must face her grief where the struggle is always hardest — in the place where each trivial object is attended by pleasant memories.

  • To mourn was distressing, but to endeavor to mourn and fail was worse than distress.

  • If broken hearts could kill, the earth would be as dead as the moon.

  • There is an indolence in grief / Which will not even seek relief ...

  • He shared their sorrow, and they became a part of his, and the sharing spread their grief a little, by thinning it.

  • [On grief:] It is like a siege in a tropical city. The skin dries and the throat parches ... thoughts prick one through sleep like mosquitoes.

  • Grief held back from the lips wears at the heart; the drop that refused to join the river dried up in the dust.

  • I tell you, hopeless grief is passionless ...

  • After great pain, a formal feeling comes — / ... / This is the Hour of Lead — / Remembered, if outlived, / As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow — / First — Chill — then Stupor — then the letting go — .

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • c. 1862, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • I measure every Grief I meet / With narrow, probing, Eyes — / I wonder if It weighs like Mine — / Or has an Easier size.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • c. 1862, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • The Bustle in a House / The Morning after Death / Is solemnest of industries / Enacted upon earth — / The Sweeping up the Heart / And putting Love away / We shall not want to use again / Until Eternity.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • c. 1866, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • The distance that the dead have gone / Does not at first appear — / Their coming back seems possible / For many an ardent year.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • 1896, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • I sleep so you will be alive, / it is that simple.

  • My dear mother, sisters and brothers comforted me, but their comfort only increased my sorrow and poured more oil on the fire, so that the flames grew ever higher.

  • These talkings and comfortings lasted two or three weeks; after that no one knew me. ... After the first thirty days of mourning, no brother, no sister, no relative came to ask: 'How are you? and how are things?'

  • [To her late husband, King Hussein:] I will not fail you, my love. I will continue on the path we shared, and I know you will be there to help me, as you always were. And when we meet again at the journey's end, and we laugh together once more, I will have a thousand things to tell you.

  • Grief remains one of the few things that has the power to silence us. It is a whisper in the world and a clamor within. More than sex, more than faith, even more than its usher death, grief is unspoken, publicly ignored except for those moments at the funeral that are over too quickly, or the conversation among the cognoscenti, those of us who recognize in one another a kindred chasm deep in the center of who we are.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • "The Living Are Defined by Whom They Have Lost," in Times Union ()
  • Whatever you do to recover from a loss, people will be critical because they believe that the only way to recover is their way. And you will even run into some people who should be run into by rhinos because they actually don't want to see you get over your tragedy at all; grief is a spectator sport for them.

  • I have noticed that after a time of deep sorrow the greatest comfort may come from a person you do not know well.

    • Alice Adams,
    • "Legends," The Stories of Alice Adams ()
  • There is no shortcut to grieving.

  • In death the friend, the kind companion lies, / And in one death what various comfort dies!

    • Phillis Wheatley,
    • "To a Lady and Her Children" (1773), Memoir and Poems of Phillis Wheatley ()
  • And then came a time when I could no longer say 'We,' and I found myself in a lonesome land where no one remembered that I had ever been young, or called me by my given name.

  • Like all children I had taken my father for granted. Now that I had lost him, I felt an emptiness that could never be filled. But I did not let myself cry, believing as a Muslim that tears pull a spirit earthward and won't let it be free.

  • Better by far you should forget and smile / Than that you should remember and be sad.

  • When I am dead, my dearest, / Sing no sad songs for me; / Plant thou no roses at my head, / Nor shady cypress tree: / Be the green grass above me / With showers and dewdrops wet; / And if thou wilt, remember, / And if thou wilt, forget.

  • Mourning has become unfashionable in the United States. The bereaved are supposed to pull themselves together as quickly as possible and to reweave the torn fabric of life. ... we do not allow ... for the weeks and months during which a loss is realized — a beautiful word that suggests the transmutation of the strange into something that is one's own.

    • Margaret Mead,
    • in Margaret Mead and Rhoda Metraux, A Way of Seeing ()
  • ... ever afterward she did as she had heard her mother say that women do — though her child was dead, still she carried it about in her heart, a dead weight.

  • How cold to the living hour grief could make you!

  • The inviolable grief she had felt for a great thing only widened her capacity to take little things hard.

  • But the guilt of outliving those you love is justly to be borne, she thought. Outliving is something we do to them. The fantasies of dying could be no stranger than the fantasies of living. Surviving is perhaps the strangest fantasy of them all.

  • This morning / As I watch people pick flowers in the garden / ... My heart of a sudden beats strong / Fiercely thrashing my tumultuous chest / Withered are my flowers, grown / Under the watering flow of sweat. / ... Oh my flowers / By His side you are blooms / Be at peace in the embrace of His love / Open hearted we release you / Farewell my flowers / At heaven's gate we will meet.

    • Rosni Idham,
    • "Garden Flowers: To My Children, Victims of Tsunami," in Tsunami Notebook: Poems Washed Up From the Sea of Tears ()
  • Everyone can master a grief but he that has it.

  • Grief will make a new person out of you, if it doesn't kill you in the making.

  • Grief means not being able to read more than two sentences at a time. It is walking into rooms with intention that suddenly vanishes.

  • ... all griefs, when there is no bitterness in them, are soothed down by time.

    • Jane Welsh Carlyle,
    • letter to Thomas Carlyle (1853), in James Anthony Froude, ed., Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle, vol. 2 ()
  • Nothing on earth can make up for the loss of one who has loved you.

  • ... she felt somehow that her poor heart was like a ravaged garden, in which all the flowers had been uprooted, and now Grief, as a gardener, moved about in there, planting thistles and poisonous herbs.

  • What is left that shall replace her? What friend, what tie, shall make up for her eternal absence?

  • ... only grieving can heal grief; the passage of time will lessen the acuteness, but time alone, without the direct experience of grief, will not heal it.

  • A miscarriage is a natural and common event. All told, probably more women have lost a child from this world than haven't. Most don't mention it, and they go on from day to day as if it hadn't happened, and so people imagine that a woman in this situation never really knew or loved what she had. But ask her sometime: how old would your child be now? And she'll know.

  • The substance of grief is not imaginary. It's as real as rope or the absence of air, and like both those things, it can kill.

  • As long as I kept moving, my grief streamed out behind me like a swimmer's long hair in water. I knew the weight was there but it didn't touch me. Only when I stopped did the slick, dark stuff of it come floating around my face, catching my arms and throat till I began to drown. So I just didn't stop.

  • ... when someone you love dies, he becomes your enemy; he fights you tooth and nail from a hidden position; he successfully raids what small provisions you have gathered to keep yourself going.

  • When someone you love dies you pay for the sin of outliving her with a thousand piercing regrets.

  • Memory is the only friend of grief.

  • ... I will not sit in sackcloth / will not dry my palms with ashes / will not eat the dust / for that does not celebrate you / and that does not celebrate me ...

  • If you loved, sooner or later you always lost; that was the penalty you had to pay for loving. Grief can be endured — somehow. But how poor and bare would be a life which had nothing to grieve over!

  • Weave grasses for their childhood : who will never see / love or disaster or take sides against decay ...

  • Grief is illness. You cannot breathe; you cannot walk or eat or sleep. The sickness is entire, the body and the spirit.

  • Bereavement is waiting, waiting for / a known death to be undone ...

    • Janet Frame,
    • "Some Thoughts on Bereavement," The Pocket Mirror ()
  • If you've ever had any grief it always comes back on a Sunday.

  • Do not stand at my grave and weep / I am not there; I do not sleep. / I am a thousand winds that blow, / I am the diamond glints on snow, / I am the sun on ripened grain, / I am the gentle autumn rain. / When you awaken in the morning's hush / I am the swift uplifting rush / Of quiet birds in circled flight. / I am the soft stars that shine at night. / Do not stand at my grave and cry, / I am not there; I did not die.

    • Mary Frye,
    • "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep, " unpublished poem ()
  • Only poetry can address grief.

  • Have you ever thought, when something dreadful happens, 'a moment ago things were not like this; let it be then, not now, anything but now'? And you try and try to remake then, but you know you can't. So you try to hold the moment quite still and not let it move on and show itself.

  • The grass is waking in the ground, / Soon it will rise and blow in waves — / How can it have the heart to sway / Over the graves, / New graves?

  • All in an April wood, / Dark Grief I met. / Dark Grief, now I am old, / Bides with me yet.

  • Grief is a mute sense of panic.

  • ... a woman of the world should always be the mistress of sorrow and not its servant. She may have a grief but never a grievance.

  • ... I have lost the one who makes me own / the memory of pain with which I am obsessed. / Gone are the days of joy I once possessed. / With poison herbs my hard terrain is sewn. / I am a widow, robed in black, alone.

    • Christine de Pisan,
    • 1390, in Aliki Barnstone and Willis Barnstone, eds., A Book of Women Poets From Antiquity to Now ()
  • All my life's bliss is in the grave with thee.

    • Emily Brontë,
    • "Remembrance," Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell ()
  • Summer skies will come again, / But thou wilt not be there.

    • Emily Brontë,
    • 1837, in Clement Shorter, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Brontë ()
  • Sleep brings no joy to me, / Remembrance never dies ...

    • Emily Brontë,
    • 1837, in Clement Shorter, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Brontë ()
  • Cemeteries make you face the truth. The one you love is gone forever. He may live on in your head, and in your heart, but he'll never be able to hold you, or hug you, again. Even the funeral doesn't bring that reality home the way the cemetery does.

  • I swear to keep the dead upon my mind, / Disdain for all time to be overglad.

  • ... beware the easy griefs / that fool and fuel nothing.

  • I suppose grief is the most jealous and the most selfish of all emotions ...

  • However long the horror continued, one must not get to the stage of refusing to think about it. To shrink from direct pain was bad enough, but to shrink from vicarious pain was the ultimate cowardice. And whereas to conceal direct pain was a virtue, to conceal vicarious pain was a sin. Only by feeling it to the utmost, and by expressing it, could the rest of the world help to heal the injury which had caused it. Money, food, clothing, shelter — people could give all these and still it would not be enough; it would not absolve them from paying also, in full, the imponderable tribute of grief.

    • Jan Struther,
    • "United Jewish Appeal," A Pocketful of Pebbles ()
  • You don't get over it because 'it' is the person you loved.

  • Grief was not meant to be an address but a process.

  • Wherever my son is, I do not know. / This is the womb that carried him, / like a stone cave / lived in by a tiger and now abandoned. / It is on the battlefield that you will find him.

    • Auvaiyar,
    • c. 3rd cent., in Joanna Bankier and Deirdre Lashri, eds., Women Poets of the World ()
  • If you don't kill yourself right away when something terrible happens ... if you go on living, you become a different person.

  • Desiree was her old self. No, not her old self. You were never your old self after someone died. You were a new, sort of scarred-over self.

  • To mourn, perhaps, is simply to prolong a posture of astonishment ...

  • The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.

  • The time at length arrives, when grief is rather an indulgence than a necessity and the smile that plays upon the lips, although it may be deemed a sacrilege, is not banished.

  • Have you ever heard the sound of a mother screaming for her son? / The torrential rains of a mother's weeping will never be done / They call him a hero, you should be glad that he's one, but / Have you ever heard the sound of a mother screaming for her son?

    • Carly Sheehan,
    • "A Nation Rocked to Sleep," in Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans, Stop the Next War Now ()
  • What stupidity or lack of feeling made people say that time healed all? The empty place was never filled, the heartache, the need to see and touch, never grew less.

  • ... the sentiment of immediate loss in some sort decayed, while that of utter, irremediable loneliness grew on me with time.

  • How dreadful it is, to emerge from the oblivion of slumber, and to receive as a good morrow the mute wailing of one's own hapless heart — to return from the land of deceptive dreams to the heavy knowledge of unchanged disaster!

  • Oh! grief is fantastic; it weaves a web on which to trace the history of its woe from every form and change around; it incorporates itself with all living nature; it finds sustenance in every object; as light, it fills all things, and, like light, it gives its own colors to all.

  • Even the eternal skies weep, I thought; is there any shame then, that mortal man should spend himself in tears?

  • Precious attribute of woe-worn humanity! that can snatch ecstatic emotion, even from under the very share and harrow, that ruthlessly ploughs up and lays waste every hope.

  • The difference between being grief-stricken and grieving is the difference between remaining a passive victim and actively making use of a situation.

  • Emotional pain, unlike physical pain, is not acceptable in our culture. ... Grief is taboo.

  • Were my smile not submerged in my countenance, / I should suspend it over her grave.

  • ... the grief that can be turned into words soon heals.

  • You take a handful of rocks and put them in a jar. Then once a week, you take one tiny pebble out of the jar and throw it away. When the jar is empty, why, you'll just about be over your grief. ... Time alone will do if you're short on rocks.

  • Not until grief has become subdued and softened by time, can we stand by the grave where hope and faith lie buried, and talk calmly of our loss. Before then, sobs or silence must speak for us.

  • Grief, when it comes, is nothing like we expect it to be.

  • Grief is not graceful.

  • What's grief but the after-blindness / of the spirit's dazzle of love?

  • The hardest grief is often that which leaves no trace.

  • No one can tell you about grief, about its limitless boundaries, its unfathomable depths. No one can tell you about the crater that is created in the center of your body, the one that nothing can fill.

  • After a death, people often get stuck because they think they need to hold on to the pain in order to retain the memories. Feeling gulity for moving on, they say, 'How can I even think of going ahead with my life when the person I loved is gone?'

  • The heart overwhelmed by grief knows no rest ...

    • Héloïse,
    • letter to Peter Abelard (12th cent.), in C.K. Scott Moncrief, trans., The Letters of Abelard and Heloise ()
  • She is moving slowly, grief so heavy around her that it settles, like smoke, into her hair and clothes and stings her eyes.

  • My bowl is full of grief / and the wind is up.

  • ... she was schooled in suffering now. It did not scare her the way it did those whose lives were still untouched. Some people treated the grief of others like a disease that you could catch if you got too close. She knew better. She knew that it was a club that no one ever joined by choice. A club whose members had shared the most brutal of initiations.

  • You don't heal from the loss of a loved one because time has passed. You heal because of what you do with the time.

  • The light died out and left the sky, / We sighed and rose and said good-bye, / We had forgotten — He and I, / That he was dead, that I must die.

    • Agnes Robinson,
    • "A Pastoral," Lyrics: Selected From the Works of Agnes Robinson ()
  • My own grief was a boulder that I carried everywhere. ... Introductions stated our names, perhaps where we came from, but never, 'and we are grieving for our child.' The stranger would look and smile, and not see the most important thing, would offer a hand to shake thinking I could spare one of mine and still hold the invisible burden.

  • 'People imagine that missing a loved one works kind of like missing cigarettes,' he said. 'The first day is really hard but the next day is less hard and so forth, easier and easier the longer you go on. But instead, it's like missing water. Every day, you notice the person's absence more.'

  • The unmarried woman seldom escapes a widowhood of the spirit. There is sure to be some one, parent, brother, sister, friend, more comfortable to her than the day, with whom her life is so entwined that the wrench of parting leaves a torn void never entirely healed or filled ...

  • At Laguna, when someone dies, you don't 'get over it' by forgetting; you 'get over it' by remembering, and by remembering you are aware that no person is ever truly lost or gone once they have been in our lives and loved us, as we have loved them.

  • ... in coming to terms with the newly dead, I seem to have agitated the spirits of the long dead. They were stirring uneasily in their graves, demanding to be mourned as I had not mourned them when they were buried. I was plunged into retroactive grief for my father, and could no longer deny, though I still tried, the loss I'd suffered at the death of my mother. ... Was it possible ... that one could mourn over losses that had occurred more than half a century earlier?

  • Grief is the price we pay for Love.

  • Whoever mourns the dead mourns himself.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "Envy; Or, Yiddish in America," The Pagan Rabbi and Other Stories ()
  • The sun has set in your life; it is getting cold. The hundreds of people around you cannot console you for the loss of the one.

  • Seventeen years have now passed since Lionel's death, and hour by hour, minute by minute I still listen for a clock which no longer ticks.

  • The cycle of grief has its own timetable. Until that cycle is honored and completed we are moving along life's path with an anchor down.

  • Grief-stricken. Stricken is right; it is as though you had been felled. Knocked to the ground; pitched out of life and into something else.

  • [At Marc Antony's tomb:] ... life, since thou hast left it, has been misery to me.

    • Cleopatra VII,
    • 30 BCE, in Mrs. Jameson, Memoirs of Celebrated Female Sovereigns ()
  • Grief, I have cursed thee often — now at last / To hate thy name I am no longer free; / Caught in thy bony arms and prisoned fast, / I love no love but thee.

    • Mary E. Coleridge,
    • "My True Love Hath My Heart and I Have His" (1887), in Theresa Whistler, ed., The Collected Poems of Mary Coleridge ()
  • To mourn is to be extraordinarily vulnerable. It is to be at the mercy of inside feelings and outside events in a way most of us have not been since early childhood.

    • Christian McEwen,
    • "The Color of the Water, the Yellow of the Field," in Christian McEwen and Sue O'Sullivan, eds., Out the Other Side ()
  • Mourning has a pace and rhythm of its own. It cannot be rushed.

    • Christian McEwen,
    • "The Color of the Water, the Yellow of the Field," in Christian McEwen and Sue O'Sullivan, eds., Out the Other Side ()
  • There is a graveyard in my poor heart — dark, heaped-up graves, from which no flowers spring.

  • ... she fingered the edge of his mother's sorrow like a tailor feeling the quality of a rival's well-made suit. Was it anything like the pain she had felt ... ?

  • Time applied to grief is a worldly common place — time has its due influence over visible grief, that which is expressed by visible emotions — it softens sighs and dries tears ... but the loss of that which is, or was, part of yourself, remains for ever.

  • [After her husband's death:] The winter fire kindles alone for me now.

  • This is the way of grief: / spinning in the rhythm of memories / that will not let you up / or down, / but keeps you grinding through / a granite air.

    • Gloria C. Oden,
    • "The Carousel," in Arnold Adoff, ed., The Poetry of Black America ()
  • It's easy for grief to go from a temporary condition to a lifestyle choice.

  • Although we have become more open about everything from incest to sex addiction, grief remains strangely taboo. In our culture of display, the sadness of death is largely silent.

  • Part of getting over it is knowing that you will never get over it.

  • Grief moves us like love. Grief is love, I suppose. Love as a backwards glance.

  • The outrage was on the scale of God. My younger brother was immortal and they hadn't noticed. Immortality had been concealed in my brother's body while he was alive, and we hadn't noticed that it dwelt there. Now my brother's body was dead, and immortality with it. ... And the error, the outrage, filled the whole universe.

  • I think losing a loved one must be a little like losing a leg. First there is the shock, then the anesthetic, and the painkillers; the attention of doctors and nurses, flowers and cards and visits from friends. But sooner or later you have to learn to walk without it.

    • Ruth Bell Graham,
    • in Patricia Cornwell, Ruth, A Portrait: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham ()
  • Americans are inclined to think we can always start over. We treat grief as a condition, something to be fixed quietly, offstage, in somebody's office for 50 minutes a week, with medication. It's as though our model for grief is a root canal. First it's terrible; then it gets better; then it's over. The requisite stages achieved, everyone can breathe a sigh of relief.

  • At one precise moment, chronicled on a death certificate, I lost my world. I was not prepared, as no one can be. Grief is not a trip you can pack for.

  • O glorious tide, O hospitable tide / On whose moon-heaving breast my head hath lain ...

  • Beyond the cheat of Time, here where you died, you live; / You pace the garden walk, secure and sensitive; / You linger on the stair: Love's lonely pulses leap! / The harpsichord is shaken, the dogs look up from sleep.

  • When a daughter loses a mother, the intervals between grief responses lengthen over time, but her longing never disappears. It always hovers at the edge of her awareness, prepared to surface at any time, in any place, in the least expected ways.

  • See how Time makes all grief decay ...

  • ... mine enemy is Grief! ... And one of us must die!

  • Do not cheat thy Heart and tell her / 'Grief will pass away, / Hope for fairer times in future, / And forget to-day.' — / ... / Rather nurse her cagèd sorrow / 'Till the captive sings. / ... / Bid her with a strong clasp hold her / By her dusky wings — / Listening for the murmured blessing / Sorrow always brings.

  • And sometimes we cling because the memory is so painful that we can't stop visiting it and hoping to make it come out differently. The risk of letting go is that we have to confront our own selves and our own possibilities.

    • Amy Bloom,
    • in Joan Rivers, Bouncing Back ()
  • Since every death diminishes us a little, we grieve — not so much for the death as for ourselves.

  • Grief doesn't necessarily make you noble. Sometimes it just makes you crazy, or primitive with fear ...

  • ... memory is both the curse of grief and the eventual talisman against it; what at first seems unbearable becomes the succor that can outlast pain.

  • ... the territory of grief ... is both cruel and commonplace.

  • I'm not particularly keen on pity. Pity takes something away from grief. People think they're sharing it, but really they're just taking some. I prefer to keep my grief intact.

  • A lady asked me why, on most occasions, I wore black. 'Are you in mourning?' / 'Yes.' / 'For whom are you in mourning?' / 'For the world.'

  • Grass grows at last above all graves ...

  • ... griefs, when divided become less poignant.

  • In the evening / my griefs come to me / one by one.

  • Grief is a circular staircase.

  • ... grief can sometimes only be expressed in platitudes. We are original in our happy moments. Sorrow has only one voice, one cry.

  • There are few sensations more painful, than, in the midst of deep grief, to know that the season which we have always associated with mirth and rejoicing is at hand.

  • To everyone else, the death of that being you love for his own sake, for her own sake, is an event that occurs on a certain day. For you, the death only begins that day. It is not an event: it is only the first moment in a process that lives in you, springing up into the present, engulfing you years, decades, later, as though it were the first moment again.

  • What is it to mourn? It is to be hurled into pain so vast that you cannot imagine it in advance of being incorporated by it, a pain that usurps all other thinking, all other feeling, a pain that occupies you as you occupy the house you live in.

  • Mourning is one of the prices of loving, the sorrow a permeating heaviness that constricts your doings to one single doing: trying to match the present absence with the past presence, and failing, remembering.

  • I did but see him and he disappeared, / I did but pluck the rosebud and it fell ...

  • The most courageous people in the world are the people who go on after their children have died.

  • Whatever is past / and has come to an end / cannot be brought back by sorrow.

  • When my husband Frank and I were living in Pakistan many years ago, our six-month-old baby died. An old Punjabi who heard of our grief came to comfort us. 'A tragedy like this is similar to being plunged into boiling water,' he explained. 'If you are an egg, your affliction will make you hard-boiled and unresponsive. If you are a potato, you will emerge soft and pliable, resilient and adaptable.' It may sound funny to God, but there have been many times when I have prayed, 'O Lord, let me be a potato.'

    • Billie Wilcox,
    • in Karen J. Kauffman, With Faith All Things Are Possible ()
  • [Letter found in 1998, lying on the mummified body of Eung-Tae Lee, a 30-year-old Korean man who died in 1586:] To Won's Father: You always said, 'Dear, let's live together until our hair turns gray and die on the same day.' How could you pass away without me? Who should I and our little boy listen to and how should we live? How could you go ahead of me? How did you bring your heart to me and how did I bring my heart to you? Whenever we lay down together you always told me, 'Dear, do other people cherish and love each other like we do? Are they really like us?' How could you leave all that behind and go ahead of me? I just cannot live without you. I just want to go to you. Please take me to where you are. My feelings toward you I cannot forget in this world and my sorrow knows no limit. ... When I give birth to the child in me, who should it call father? Can anyone fathom how I feel? There is no tragedy like this under the sky. You are just in another place, and not in such a deep grief as I am. ... Come to me secretly and show yourself. There is no limit to what I want to say and I stop here.

  • It was a time when only the dead / smiled ...

  • Today I have much work to do: / I must finally kill my memory, / I must, so my soul can turn to stone, / I must learn to live again.

    • Anna Akhmatova,
    • "Requiem" (1935), in Aliki Barnstone and Willis Barnstone, eds., A Book of Women Poets From Antiquity to Now ()
  • These days I'm suspecting grief over you is / a metaphor for grief in me. I used to think I / made a metaphor out of every fact to screen / you. Then I suspected there actually were facts, or / it was advantageous to imagine there were, but / now I draw from actual longing a longing locus / where any dry leaf clatters against the windowpane / in a web.

  • For the first time she knew what it meant to be bereft: You had something to tell, and the only one in the world to tell it to, was gone.

  • I was not ready for your form to be cold / Ever. Even in life / You did not inhabit, necessarily, a form, / But a mind of / Rarer liquid element.

    • Lucy Brock-Broido,
    • "Periodic Table of Ethereal Elements," in Claudia Rankine and Juliana Spahr, eds., American Women Poets in the 21st Century ()
  • It feels like you can’t breathe, but you actually are breathing. It feels like you’ll never stop crying, but you actually will.

  • Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain. But instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.

  • It has been said that time heals all wounds. I don't agree. The wounds remain. Time — the mind, protecting its sanity — covers them with some scar tissue and the pain lessens, but it is never gone.

  • The only education in grief that any of us ever gets is a crash course.

  • Bereavement is like a serious illness. One dies or one survives, and the medicine is time ...

    • P.D. James,
    • title story, The Mistletoe Murder ()
  • Grief, I’ve learned, is really love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot give. The more you loved someone, the more you grieve. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes and in that part of your chest that gets empty and hollow feeling. The happiness of love turns to sadness when unspent. Grief is just love with no place to go.

  • Nothing ever truly faded. Time only dulled the edges.

  • Those who love us never leave us alone with our grief.

    • Alice Walker,
    • foreword, Zora Neale Hurston, Barracoon ()
  • There is no good language when it comes to the unspeakable. ... There is no precision, no originality, no perfection.