Grief is a very individual experience, even as it is a universal reality. At some point in our lives, we will all lose something or someone that we hold dear to us, and it will make a significant impact on who we are and how we understand the world. But the thing to know about grief is that, while painful, it can ultimately lead to a deeper appreciation for life and living. In the end, this can only strengthen our resolve to lead meaningful, full lives.
A big part of getting back into the swing of things involves alchemy: understanding grief as the flip side of love. After all, we only grieve those things that we loved deeply, whether it be a beloved family member, a relationship, a significant time in our lives, or even a family pet. So to feel deep grief, then, is to also have experienced deep love.
When we are grieving, it can be hard to put into words the wide array of emotions that we feel: regret, outrage, sadness, guilt, and helplessness among them. In times like this it’s often helpful to turn to the wise words of others who have also experienced grief — both as a means of support and a reminder that things will get easier over time. As renowned painter Henri Matisse once said, “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.” Here, we’ve compiled 15 quotes that speak to dealing with and moving past grief.
What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes part of us.
— Helen Keller
Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.
— Leo Tolstoy
Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope.
— Elizabeth Gilbert
To spare oneself from grief at all cost can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness.
— Erich Fromm, psychoanalyst
People speak to me about my son — “I’m so sorry for you” — but no one says, “I loved him so much.”
— Toni Morrison
Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.
— Vicki Harrison, author
Every one of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive.
— Haruki Murakami
Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.
— Anne Roiphe, writer
There is a point at which even grief feels absurd. And at this point, laughter gushes up to retrieve sanity.
— Alice Walker
You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.
— Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
— Khalil Gibran
Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.
— William Shakespeare
Until now I had been able only to grieve, not mourn. Grief was passive. Grief happened. Mourning, the act of dealing with grief, required attention.
— Joan Didion
Grief starts to become indulgent, and it doesn’t serve anyone, and it’s painful. But if you transform it into remembrance, then you’re magnifying the person you lost and also giving something of that person to other people, so they can experience something of that person.
— Patti Smith
If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.
— Thich Nhat Hanh