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Loss

  • When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.

  • Loss came with the seasons, blew into the house when you opened the windows, piled up in the bottom desk and dresser drawers, accumulated in the back of closets, heaped in the basement starting by the furnace, and came creeping up the basement stairs. Loss grew as you did, without your consent; your losses mounted beside you like earthworm castings.

  • One knows what one has lost, but not what one may find.

  • We only keep what we lose.

    • May Sarton,
    • "O Saisons! O Châteaux!" The Lion and the Rose ()
  • 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.

  • I cannot say what loves have come and gone, / I only know that summer sang in me / A little while, that in me sings no more.

  • That chill is in the air / Which the wise know well, and even have learned to bear. / This joy, I know, / Will soon be under snow.

  • 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.

  • I still miss those I loved who are no longer with me but I find I am grateful for having loved them. The gratitude has finally conquered the loss.

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

  • It is always our treasure that the lightning strikes.

  • Love is the only game that is not called on account of darkness.

  • Nothing is so dear as what you're about to leave.

  • Youth, art, love, dreams, true-heartedness — why must they go out of the summer world into darkness?

    • Willa Cather,
    • "Double Birthday" (1929), in Edward J. O'Brien, ed., 50 Best American Short Stories 1915-1939 ()
  • One of us two must sometime face existence / Alone with memories that but sharpen pain. / ... / One of us two shall find all life, all beauty, / All joy on earth, a tale forever done; / Shall know henceforth that life means only duty. / O God! O God! have pity on that one!

  • Oh, dark, inevitable and awful day, / When one of us must go and one must stay!

  • Loss is the great unifier, the terrible club to which we all eventually belong.

  • To think of losing is to lose already.

  • Arent's cup was not only empty, it had a hole in it.

  • In this moment she felt that she had been robbed of an enormous number of valuable things, whether material or intangible: things lost or broken by her own fault, things she had forgotten and left in houses when she moved: books borrowed from her and not returned, journeys she had planned and had not made, words she had waited to hear spoken to her and had not heard, and the words she meant to answer with ...

  • ... all that she had had, and all that she had missed, were lost together, and were twice lost in this landslide of remembered losses.

  • 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 ()
  • 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 ()
  • And you never say / Leave me / since the dead do not like being alone.

  • I sleep so you will be alive, / it is that simple.

  • 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 ()
  • Loss as muse. Loss as character. Loss as life.

  • 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 all that I lost / and I go carrying my childhood / like a favorite flower / that perfumes my hand.

  • 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.

  • We have lost so many leaves / in loss, loss, loss / Out of the sky, / What shall we do for shelter to live by?

  • 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 ()
  • She could still taste the plump fine oysters from Zeeland that he had ordered for her last meal in the world, the dry sparkle of the vintage Rudesheimer which had cost him the fees of at least five visits to patients, and the ice cream richly sauced with crushed glazed chestnuts which she loved.

  • when you're away i feel like / i'm only wearing one shoe.

    • Alta,
    • i am not a practicing angel
    • ()
  • Thy peace is sealed, thy rest is sure, / My sorrows are to come ...

  • Every loss recapitulates earlier losses, but every affirmation of identity echoes earlier moments of clarity.

  • Curious, how each one of us secretly carries his private cemetery around with him and watches it filling up with ever new graves. The last one to be our own ...

  • Nothing on earth can make up for the loss of one who has loved you.

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

  • 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.

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

  • What we never have had, remains; / It is the things we have that go.

  • All we can do in this world is the thing that seems to us the best. We have no concern with the results, except as a guide for the future, and sometimes, years afterward, we see that what seemed like a bitter loss was, in reality, gain.

  • First I lost weight, then I lost my voice, and now I've lost Onassis.

    • Maria Callas,
    • in Barbara McDowell and Hana Umlauf, Woman's Almanac ()
  • We can't hold on to anyone or anything, you know. We lose everything except that which we carry within us.

  • For the first time, I was pierced by the little panic and tristesse occasioned by small things passing irrevocably from view.

  • There is no way to live up to your full potential in life without losing lots of things. Yet there are people who believe you can go through a lifetime without losing anything, if you would just be more careful and more thoughtful. They actually believe that a child can get through elementary school without losing a jacket, but that's impossible unless the child is very repressed.

  • The pain of loss, moreover, however agonizing, however haunting in memory, quiets imperceptibly into acceptance as the currents of active living and of fresh emotions flow over it.

  • People have never lost what they think they have.

  • It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape.

  • But Time is a great traitor who teaches us to accept loss.

  • I often think if mirrors could give up their dead how wonderful it would be.

  • When my self is not with you, it is nowhere.

    • Héloïse,
    • letter to Peter Abelard (12th cent.), in C.K. Scott Moncrief, trans., The Letters of Abelard and Heloise ()
  • Losing is the price we pay for living. It is also the source of much of our growth and gain.

  • We begin life with loss. We are cast from the womb without an apartment, a charge plate, a job or a car.

  • ... the people we are and the lives we lead are determined, for better and worse, by our loss experiences.

  • When we think of loss we think of the loss, through death, of people we love. But loss is a far more encompassing theme in our life. For we lose not only through death, but also by leaving and being left, by changing and letting go and moving on. And our losses include not only our separations and departures from those we love, but our conscious and unconscious losses of romantic dreams, impossible expectations, illusions of freedom and power, illusions of safety — and the loss of our own younger self, the self that thought it would always be unwrinkled and invulnerable and immortal.

  • I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesterdays are buried deep — leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead.

  • We never discover the value of things till we have lost them.

  • 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.

  • Her preference — gloomy and depressing — always was given to that which she had lost, and if there were crannies in this world which she lauded without respite, they were always those where she was certain never again to set foot.

  • It was on Good Friday that Miss Bendix lost her faith. She had really lost it before then, but, as is often the case with losses, she did not notice that anything was missing for some time after it had gone.

  • 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 ()
  • The worst losses come at night.

  • We make art out of our loss.

  • '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 ...

  • 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.

  • Distance is a good teacher. You only fully understand that which you have lost.

  • There is no hunger harder to bear than a hunger for what is gone.

  • Nothing is left me to love; but, also, nothing to fear.

  • They lose least who have least to lose.

  • I have learned, in the dark hours since, not to grieve because he is gone but to thank god and rejoice because I have had him — and still have him ... My love is dead. Long live my love.

  • It is harder to lose what you never had.

  • 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.

  • ... when people go away, or when we leave the places we love, or something we treasure goes out of our life — I have always noticed that before it happens — this leaving, this parting — when we think about it beforehand we are overwhelmed with sadness at the loss to come. ... the most unbearable sense of loss, the worst homesickness of all, so I have found, is this loss and sickness we feel beforehand, before we ever leave home.

  • But oh! I miss the voices, that / Were once so glad in spring; / Then ask me not for songs to-night, / I have no heart to sing.

  • You're never free from such a loss. It sits permanently in your middle, but it gets less weighty as time goes on and becomes endurable.

  • ... all that she had had, and all that she had missed, were lost together, and were twice lost in this landslide of remembered losses. This is a bond nothing can ever loosen. What I have lost: what I possess forever.

    • Rachel,
    • "My Dead," in Robert Mezey, ed., Poems From the Hebrew ()
  • Some of us are born with a sense of loss. It is not acquired as we grow. It is already there from the beginning, and it pervades us throughout our lives.

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

  • In loss itself / I find assuagement: / having lost the treasure, / I've nothing to fear.

  • 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 know that nothing is destructible; things merely change forms.

  • ... I wasn't homesick for anything I would find at home when I returned. The longing was for what I wouldn't find: the past and all the people and places and cats that were lost to me.