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Quotations about Grief

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...True to tell thee,
The grief hath craz'd my wits...
~William Shakespeare, King Lear  [III, 4, Earl of Gloucester]

Now leave, O leave me! I have stayed to hear
All the vain comfortings your lips have said,—
Well meant, but yet they fall upon my ear
As yellow leaves might whirl about my head,—
Now leave me with my dead.
~Elizabeth Chase Akers Allen (1832–1911), "Consolation," c. 1866

No mourning can heal the wound of neverness. ~Dr. Idel Dreimer,

This I know: there is nothing as lonely as grief. ~Abby Geni, The Lightkeepers, 2016

Let kings assemble; for my grief's so great
That no supporter but the huge firm earth
Can hold it up: here I and sorrows sit...
~William Shakespeare, King John  [III, 1, Constance]

It's so curious: one can resist tears and "behave" very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer... and everything collapses. ~Colette

How much pain is there not that you can bear if nobody speaks to you? Sorrow you can hold, however desolating, if nobody speaks to you. If they speak, you break down. You cannot speak. You dread their coming. Almost like a hurt dog you would creep under the bushes and die alone. ~Bede Jarrett, O.P. (1881–1934), "Three Hours' Agony," The House of Gold: Lenten Sermons, 1930

Honest plain words best pierce the ear of grief... ~William Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost  [V, 2, Biron]

There are some griefs so loud
They could bring down the sky,
And there are griefs so still
None knows how deep they lie,
Endured, never expended.
~May Sarton, "Of Grief," A Durable Fire, 1972

Mine eyes are full of tears, my heart of grief. ~William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part II  [II, 3, Duke of Gloucester]

While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates. You must wait till grief be digested, and then amusement will dissipate the remains of it. ~Samuel Johnson, 1776, quoted in James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.

Sometimes, even after someone dies, you want to send them a postcard. ~Dr. SunWolf, tweet, 2016,

Six years later my mother's absence remained in the air around us, a deafening silence that I had not yet learned to stifle with words. ~Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind, 2001, translated from Spanish by Lucia Graves, 2004

People think grief somehow fades with time. "Time heals," they say. What a crock. There's no cure for this. You can't accept it. You can't absorb it. Grief is a rabid animal you hold at bay. ~The InBetween, "Made of Stone," 2019, written by Richard Hatem  [S1, E2]

O, this is the poison of deep grief... ~William Shakespeare, Hamlet  [IV, 5, Claudius]

Grief cries and life shines on — and hope paints a rainbow. ~Terri Guillemets

The deep pain that is felt at the death of every friendly soul arises from the feeling that there is in every individual something which is inexpressible, peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost. Omne individuum ineffabile. ~Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860), translated from the German by E. F. J. Payne

His grief grew puissant, and the strings of life
Began to crack...
~William Shakespeare, King Lear  [V, 3, Edgar]

It was only a few months after their father's death. His loss had left a wound in Darlene's chest that felt physical, a perpetual ache. ~Abby Geni, The Wildlands, 2018

Even hundredfold grief is divisible by love. ~Terri Guillemets

I too, have been a mourner. Sorrow deep
Its lava-tide around my pathway roll'd...
All joy grew dim before my tearful eye,
Which but the shadow of the grave could see;
There was no brightness in the earth or sky,
There was no sunshine in the world for me.
~Mary Ann H. Dodd Shutts (1813–1878), "The Mourner"

Regret is the glue that makes grief stick around for a lifetime. ~Terri Guillemets

For the past three months, Darlene had waited for the fact of her father's death to reach every corner of her mind. She had been through this process when Mama died; she knew how it would unfold. Right now, each morning was its own little funeral. She would wake up and listen for Daddy's footsteps, sniff the air for his pipe smoke, open her eyes, and remember. Every morning she lost him... ~Abby Geni, The Wildlands, 2018

In the grief of losing someone,
Why do I feel like the lost one?
~Terri Guillemets, "Left behind," 2007

There's a bit of magic in everything
And then some loss to even things out...
~Lou Reed & Mike Rathke, "Magic and Loss – The Summation" 1991 ♫

If guilt or regret is an essential part of your grief, you will never stop grieving. ~Terri Guillemets

      Dr Owen Harding:  Well, it's this confounded living in the past and trying to conjure up ghosts, you know — this playing with the supernatural —it's not doing you any good.
      John Carteret:  I get a great deal of comfort out of what you call conjuring up ghosts. There's nothing supernatural about it — it's beautifully natural.
      Dr Owen Harding:  Well, if it gives you any happiness! But I don't think I realized how much these years have changed you. Your grief's become a habit.
      ~Jane Cowl & Jane Murfin, Smilin' Through, 1919 play, and Smilin' Through, 1932 movie  [This is a mash‑up quote I created by combining words from the play and movie. The play was originally published under the pseudonym Allan Langdon Martin. The movie was written by Vajda, West, Stewart, Fagan, Balderston, Marion, & Meehan, and was adapted from the play. –tg]

O, grief hath changed me since you saw me last... ~William Shakespeare, Comedy of Errors  [V, 1, Aegeon]

[W]ounds of the spirit... are most gently soothed and made whole by the passing years. Under the old scars flows again the calm, healthful tide of life.... Under a great loss the heart impetuously cries that it can never be happy again, and perhaps in its desperation says that it wishes never to be comforted. But though angels do not fly down to open the grave and restore the lost, the days and months come as angels with healing in their wings. Under their touch aching regret passes into tender memory; into hands that were empty new joys are softly pressed; and the heart that was like the trees stripped of its leaves and beaten by winter's tempests is clothed again with the green of spring. ~George S. Merriam

To men in joy; but grief makes one hour ten. ~William Shakespeare, Richard II  [I, 3, Henry IV]

Tearless grief bleeds inwardly. ~Christian Nestell Bovee, Thoughts, Feelings, and Fancies, 1857

...But, O grief,
Where hast thou led me?
~William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar  [I, 3, Cassius]

There is no timetable for grieving —
      Grief is a snail
      It's a shooting star
      A walk around the lake
      It's eternity
      Or frost 'til bloom —
Memories coursing through the heart
It lasts as many heartbeats as it takes;
      sometimes all of them.
~Terri Guillemets

I am sick of many griefs. ~William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar  [IV, 3, Brutus]

[S]he subsided into helpless sobs, and on the cold floor she sobbed herself to sleep... In the chill hours of the morning twilight... she awoke... with the clearest consciousness that she was looking into the eyes of sorrow. She rose, and wrapped warm things around her, and seated herself in a great chair... she had waked to a new condition: she felt as if her soul had been liberated from its terrible conflict; she was no longer wrestling with her grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts. ~George Eliot, "Sunset and Sunrise," Middlemarch, 1871

These griefs, these woes, these sorrows make me old. ~William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet  [III, 2, Nurse]

'T is hard to part with one so sudden call'd,
So young, so happy, and so dearly loved;
To see the arrow at our idol hurl'd,
And vainly pray the shaft may be removed.
~Mary Ann H. Dodd Shutts (1813–1878), "The Mourner"

Grief is love expressed in tears. ~Terri Guillemets, "Smoky," 1996

Each substance of a grief hath twenty shadows... ~William Shakespeare, Richard II  [II, 2, Bushy]

[W]hile men are able to reflect upon their lost companions as remembrances apart from themselves; women, on the other hand, are conscious that a portion of their being has gone with the departed withersoever he has gone. Soul clings to soul; the living dust has a sympathy with the dust of the grave... [A] shadow walks ever by her side, and the touch of a chill hand is on her bosom, yet life, and perchance its natural yearnings, may still be warm within her, and inspire her with new hopes of happiness. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Chippings With a Chisel," 1837

Grief — the great redefiner of life. ~Terri Guillemets

The heart bow'd down by weight of woe,
      To weakest hope will cling,
      To thought and impulse while they flow,
      That no comfort can bring;
      With those exciting scenes will blend,
      O'er pleasure's pathway thrown,
      But memory is the only friend
      That grief can call its own.
The mind will, in its worst despair,
      Still ponder o'er the past,
      On moments of delight that were
      Too beautiful to last;
      To long-departed years extend,
      Its visions, with them flown;
      For memory is the only friend
      That grief can call its own.
~Alfred Bunn (1796–1860), "The Heart Bowed Down," music by Michael William Balfe

Healing from grief is allowing the courage and purpose within you and the love someone else left you, to merge and create a new sense of being. ~Terri Guillemets

Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature's delight. ~Marcus Aurelius (121–180 CE)

Is there no pity sitting in the clouds,
That sees into the bottom of my grief?
~William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet  [III, 5, Juliet]

Grief is historian of the heart. ~Terri Guillemets

What does it comfort me, if still he walks
Beside me all the while, invisibly?
What does it help me, that a dear ghost mocks
Blind eyes with unseen smiles?...
      Find the graveward track
      And bring my darling back!
~Elizabeth Chase Akers Allen (1832–1911), "Consolation," c.1866

Grief twists the heart
and contorts the mind
carves the spirit hollow...
~Terri Guillemets, "Grieving to the marrow," 2019

By... this gleaming perpendicular milky way, his soul was slowly healed; but he was long imprisoned in the dark, cold, serpent's nest of envenomed pains; they entwined and crawled over him, even to his heart. ~Jean Paul Fr. Richter, "501st Station," The Campaner Thal: or, Discourses on the Immortality of the Soul, translated from German by Juliette Bauer

Grief bores holes
in our hearts & heads
like a woodpecker
— peck peck peck
— knock knock knock
You can't make it stop
Eventually it flies away
— but leaves pits
that never fully heal
~Terri Guillemets heart is drown'd with grief,
Whose flood begins to flow within mine eyes,
My body round engirt with misery,
For what's more miserable than discontent?
~William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part II  [III, 1, Henry VI]

Our hearts mourn when a loved-one departs, but with courage we learn to accept their absence in our lives. In gratitude, we appreciate the time that was given. And with love, the memories are not forsaken. We continue to create new ones so we can smile again. ~Dodinsky

All the smaller emotions had been crushed beneath the weight of his loss. ~Abby Geni, The Lightkeepers, 2016

Now is that noble vessel full of grief,
That it runs over even at his eyes.
~William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar  [V, 5, Clitus]

Why does cold weather refresh old griefs?
      More quiet for reflection?
      Longer nights to lay awake?
Like citrus, grief is a winter fruit.
~Terri Guillemets

But day doth daily draw my sorrows longer
And night doth nightly make grief's strength seem stronger.
~William Shakespeare

The shadow of my sorrow! ha! let's see:
'Tis very true, my grief lies all within;
And these external manners of laments
Are merely shadows to the unseen grief
That swells with silence in the tortured soul...
~William Shakespeare, Richard II  [IV, 1, King Richard II]

Each day seems a new beginning, — a new acquaintance with grief. ~George Eliot, 1879

Grief is a haunted lake that's all too easy to drown in. ~Terri Guillemets

I cannot weep; for all my body's moisture
Scarce serves to quench my furnace-burning heart:
Nor can my tongue unload my heart's great burthen;
For selfsame wind that I should speak withal
Is kindling coals that fires all my breast,
And burns me up with flames that tears would quench.
To weep is to make less the depth of grief...
~William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part III  [II, 1, Richard III – Duke of Gloucester]

Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form;
Then, have I reason to be fond of grief?
Fare you well: had you such a loss as I,
I could give better comfort than you do.
I will not keep this form upon my head,
When there is such disorder in my wit.
O Lord! my boy, my Arthur, my fair son!
My life, my joy, my food, my all the world!
My widow-comfort, and my sorrows' cure!
~William Shakespeare, King John  [III, 4, Constance]

Sorrow makes us all children again, — destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest knows nothing. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

...throw my heart
Against the flint and hardness of my fault:
Which, being dried with grief, will break to powder...
~William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra  [IV, 9, Domitius Enobarus]

Grief cries pain and sighs love. ~Terri Guillemets

But there is even in misfortune a pleasure to mortals while they weep and shed tears. This assuages grief, and is wont to relive the excessive pangs of the heart. ~Euripides

It is some relief to weep; grief is satisfied and carried off by tears. ~Ovid

Tears are the silent language of grief. ~Voltaire

Merciful heaven!
What, man! ne'er pull your hat upon your brows;
Give sorrow words: the grief that does not speak
Whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break.
~William Shakespeare, Macbeth  [IV, 3, Malcolm]

A heavier task could not have been imposed
Than I to speak my griefs unspeakable...
~William Shakespeare, Comedy of Errors  [I, 1, Aegeon]

...tell thy grief;
It shall be eased...
~William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part III  [III, 3, King Lewis XI]

When you're used to seeing someone day after day, for years on end, and then suddenly they're gone, you   ~Terri Guillemets, "Abrupt," 2019

Yet one word more: grief boundeth where it falls,
Not with the empty hollowness, but weight...
~William Shakespeare, Richard II  [I, 2, Duchess of Gloucester]

Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead,
excessive grief the enemy to the living.
~William Shakespeare, All's Well That Ends Well  [I, 1, Lafeu]

Man, when he does not grieve, hardly exists. ~Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin

I've seen yon weary winter-sun
Twice forty times return;
And ev'ry time has added proofs,
That man was made to mourn.
~Robert Burns, "Man Was Made To Mourn: A Dirge," 1784

Alas! man was made, 'tis a truth we well know,
      To feel the inflictions engendered below —
      The keen pang of Anguish, the chill hand of Want,
      The string which Remorse in the bosom can plant,
      And all the sad ills which, in Misery's train,
      Come to sicken the heart, and to madden the brain.
But is there no sunshine to burst through the gloom?
      Yes! yes! there are times when the spirits are gay,
      And heart-gnawing sorrows relinquish their sway;
      When a glance of the eye and a smile on the cheek
      Are the telltales of raptures no mortal can speak;
      When life's heavy cares have deserted the brain,
      And moments of bliss cancel ages of pain.
For man, the sun shines on his gold-burnished throne,
      And the Seasons strew gifts as they visit each zone;
      While every thing lovely on earth and in sky,
      Seems formed by enchantment to ravish his eye—
      Look, look on the sky—look, look on the earth,
      Spring-flower blooms and forest-oak green bursts forth,
      There is joy—there is joy—there is exquisite bliss,
      When we tranquilly muse on scenes such as this.
To the bright side of life let us ever then turn,
      Man was made to rejoice as well as to mourn!
~Henry Heavisides (1791–1870), "Man Was Made to Mourn"  [A little altered. Mr Heavisides credits and quotes Mr Burns at the start of the poem, for the inspiration and title. —tg]

There's no reason Grief and Hope can't be friends. ~Terri Guillemets

A little time, my lord, will kill that grief. ~William Shakespeare, Two Gentlemen of Verona  [III, 2, Proteus]

Whenever you lose a loved one,
even though your heart feels empty,
always remember that it is still full —
of love and thankfulness and memories.
~Terri Guillemets

His sorrow touches me, I share his grief.
Patience and time must bring his heart relief.
A woe too soon suppressed will but redouble...
~Molière, Lovers' Quarrels, 1656, translated into English verse by Richard Wilbur, 2007

Let grief and guilt stay not too long as houseguests. ~Terri Guillemets

No one can keep his griefs in their prime; they use themselves up. The same is true of homesickness, of any nostalgia. Regrets lose their luster, wear themselves out by their own momentum... ~E. M. Cioran, The Temptation to Exist, 1956, translated from the French by Richard Howard

Grieving makes us stronger
It gives us a spirit of grace
And the grace of spirit
Our hearts feel weaker
But living past loss is
      the ultimate courage
We honor our loved ones
      by living on despite,
      and all the more because.
~Terri Guillemets, "Memorial," 2019

There was nothing to do for that kind of loss — no solution to it, no medicine for it. You just coped as best you could. The ache was dull but profound, like the unanswered call of a lonely coyote. ~Abby Geni, The Wildlands, 2018

Love stabs at loss with pangs of past happiness. ~Terri Guillemets

Some griefs are med'cinable; that is one of them,
For it doth physic love...
~William Shakespeare, Cymbeline  [III, 2, Imogen]

Oh, most degrading of all ills that wait
On man, a mourner in his best estate!
All other sorrows virtue may endure,
And find submission more than half a cure;
Grief is itself a medicine, and bestow'd
T' improve the fortitude that bears the load,
To teach the wanderer, as his woes increase,
The path of wisdom, all whose paths are peace...
~William Cowper

Immediate grief is a falling to the knees, a bleeding of the heart, a blow to the soul. Ongoing grief is a getting up; a call to move on; a healing and a strengthening; a melding of soul with sorrow, with loss, with life; a transformation of self to a new being, rebuilt with the leavings of another. ~Terri Guillemets

I swear, 'tis better to be lowly born,
And range with humble livers in content,
Than to be perk'd up in a glistering grief,
And wear a golden sorrow...
~William Shakespeare, Henry VIII  [II, 3, Anne Bullen]

We have learned so many lessons,
Since our heads were bowed in grief,
That have kept our boat from crashing
On life's ragged, rocky reef.
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, "To One I Love," 1940s

Sometimes, grief is relief. ~Terri Guillemets, "Suffering begone," 2002

Grief moves at its own pace. ~Simon N. Whitney, M.D., J.D.

Weep, wretched man, I'll aid thee tear for tear;
And let our hearts and eyes, like civil war,
Be blind with tears, and break o'ercharged with grief.
~William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part III  [II, 5, Henry VI]

Grief is processing what's been taken from you, what's still within you, and all the blessings and memories left behind by the one you're grieving. ~Terri Guillemets

Grief is a species of idleness. ~Samuel Johnson

Fresh petals of grief will eventually wilt and fall away
And along with tears and love, memories and time
They will nourish the seeds of healing underneath —
Life will re-flower as acceptance, strength, and peace
~Terri Guillemets

Sorrow and grief have vanquish'd all my powers... ~William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part II  [II, 1, Duke of Gloucester]

The King is mad. How stiff is my vile sense,
That I stand up, and have ingenious feeling
Of my huge sorrows! Better I were distract.
So should my thoughts be sever'd from my griefs,
And woes by wrong imaginations lose
The knowledge of themselves.
~William Shakespeare, King Lear  [IV, 6, Earl of Gloucester]

When we our betters see bearing our woes,
We scarcely think our miseries our foes.
Who alone suffers suffers most i' th' mind,
Leaving free things and happy shows behind;
But then the mind much sufferance doth o'erskip
When grief hath mates, and bearing fellowship.
How light and portable my pain seems now,
When that which makes me bend makes the King bow...
~William Shakespeare, King Lear  [III, 6, Edgar]

Sad souls are slain in merry company;
Grief best is pleased with grief's society:
True sorrow then is feelingly sufficed
When with like semblance it is sympathized.
~William Shakespeare, Rape of Lucrece, 1594

'T is grief, but all its bitterness is past;
'T is sorrow, but its murmurings are o'er.
Within my soul, which to the storm was bow'd,
Now the white wing of Peace is folded deep;
And I have found, I trust, behind the cloud,
The blessing promised to the eyes that weep.
So thou wilt find relief. For deepest woe
A fount of healing in our pathway springs...
~Mary Ann H. Dodd Shutts (1813–1878), "The Mourner"

For then, 'tis like I should forget myself:
O, if I could, what grief should I forget!
~William Shakespeare, King John  [III, 4, Constance]

My grief is like a magician's endless scarf — the more I let out the more there is. ~Terri Guillemets

I pray thee, cease thy counsel,
Which falls into mine ears as profitless
As water in a sieve: give not me counsel;
Nor let no comforter delight mine ear
But such a one whose wrongs do suit with mine.
Bring me a father that so loved his child,
Whose joy of her is overwhelm'd like mine,
And bid him speak of patience;
Measure his woe the length and breadth of mine
And let it answer every strain for strain,
As thus for thus and such a grief for such,
In every lineament, branch, shape, and form:
If such a one will smile and stroke his beard,
Bid sorrow wag, cry 'hem!' when he should groan,
Patch grief with proverbs, make misfortune drunk
With candle-wasters; bring him yet to me,
And I of him will gather patience.
But there is no such man: for, brother, men
Can counsel and speak comfort to that grief
Which they themselves not feel; but, tasting it,
Their counsel turns to passion, which before
Would give preceptial medicine to rage,
Fetter strong madness in a silken thread,
Charm ache with air and agony with words:
No, no; 'tis all men's office to speak patience
To those that wring under the load of sorrow,
But no man's virtue nor sufficiency
To be so moral when he shall endure
The like himself. Therefore give me no counsel:
My griefs cry louder than advertisement.
~William Shakespeare, Much Ado about Nothing  [V, 1, Leonato]

Grief. — hardship, suffering, cause of pain or sorrow; grievance
Grief-shot. — sorrow-stricken
~C. T. Onions, A Shakespeare Glossary, 1911

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