Quotations about   grief

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Sorrow makes us all children again, destroys all difference of intellect. The wisest knows nothing.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (30 Jan 1842)
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Two days after he recorded the death of his son.
Added on 3-Apr-18 | Last updated 7-Jan-19
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My son, a perfect little boy of five years and three months, had ended his earthly life. You can never sympathize with me; you can never know how much of me such a young child can take away. A few weeks ago I accounted myself a very rich man, and now the poorest of all.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Letter to Thomas Carlyle (28 Feb 1842)
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Added on 20-Mar-18 | Last updated 20-Mar-18
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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.

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) American poet
Letter to Whitter “Hal” Bynner and Arthur Davidson Ficke (1920)
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Added on 10-Oct-17 | Last updated 10-Oct-17
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The cots, the palaces and valleys here,
Are nought to me, their charm, alas! is fled;
Floods, rocks, and forests, solitudes so dear
One soul is wanting, and all else seems dead

[Que me font ces vallons, ces palais, ces chaumières,
Vains objets dont pour moi le charme est envolé?
Fleuves, rochers, forêts solitudes si chères,
Un seul être vous manque et tout est dépeuplé!]

Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869) French poet and statesman
“Solitude [L’isolement],”Poetic Meditations [Méditations Poétiques] (1820) [tr. J. Churchill]
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Alt. trans. ["Isolation"]:
"What for me do these valleys, these palaces, these cottages,
Vain objects of which for me the charm has fled?
Streams, rocks, forests, solitudes so dear,
One single being from you is missing, and everything is depopulated."

Alt. trans.:
"Sometimes, when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated."
Added on 22-Aug-17 | Last updated 22-Aug-17
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I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
The Big Sleep, ch. 3 (1939)
    (Source)

In the 1943 movie adaptation by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and J. Furthman, the Phillip Marlowe line is delivered by Humphrey Bogart: "I don't mind if you don't like my manners. I don't like them myself. They're pretty bad. I grieve over them on long winter evenings."
Added on 18-Aug-17 | Last updated 18-Aug-17
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Don’t agonize, organize.

Florynce "Flo" Kennedy (1916-2000) American lawyer, feminist, civil rights activist
(Attributed)
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Quoted in Gloria Steinem, "The Verbal Karate of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq.," Ms. (Mar 1973).
Added on 10-Jul-17 | Last updated 10-Jul-17
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The five stages of bureaucratic grieving are: denial, anger, committee meetings, scapegoating, and cover-up.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Rhesus Chart (2014)

Satirizing the Kübler-Ross model of grief.
Added on 16-May-17 | Last updated 16-May-17
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There is a difference between tragedy and blind brutal calamity. Tragedy has meaning, and there is dignity in it. Tragedy stands with its shoulders stiff and proud. But there is no meaning, no dignity, no fulfillment, in the death of a child.

Walter M. Miller Jr. (1923-1996) American science fiction writer
“The Will” (1953)
Added on 6-Feb-17 | Last updated 6-Feb-17
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No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Grief Observed, ch. 1 (1961)
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Added on 15-Dec-16 | Last updated 15-Dec-16
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He who has so little knowledge of human nature, as to seek happiness by changing any thing but his own dispositions, will waste his life in fruitless efforts, and multiply the griefs which he purposes to remove.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler # 6 (7 Apr 1750)
Added on 29-Sep-16 | Last updated 29-Sep-16
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I will never laugh at anyone for grieving over a loved beast. I think God wants us to love Him more, not to love creatures (even animals) less. We love everything in one way too much (i.e., at the expense of our love for Him), but in another way we love everything too little. No person, animal, flower, or even pebble has ever been loved too much — i.e., more than every one of God’s works deserves.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Letter to Mary Willis Shelburne (18 Aug 1956)
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Added on 27-Sep-16 | Last updated 27-Sep-16
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The more you join with people in their joys and their sorrows, the more nearer and dearer they come to be to you.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Tom Sawyer Abroad, ch. 11 (1894)
Added on 21-Sep-16 | Last updated 21-Sep-16
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What sort of a lover am I to think so much about my affliction and so much less about hers? Even the insane call, ‘Come back,’ is all for my own sake. I never even raised the question whether such a return, if it were possible, would be good for her. I want her back as an ingredient in the restoration of my past. Could I have wished her anything worse? Having got once through death, to come back and then, at some later date, have all her dying to do over again? They call Stephen the first martyr. Hadn’t Lazarus the rawer deal?

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Grief Observed (1961)
Added on 13-Sep-16 | Last updated 13-Sep-16
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Are all men in disguise except those crying?

Abse - all men in disguise - wist_info quote

Daniel "Dannie" Abse (1923-2014) Welsh poet
“Encounter at a greyhound bus station” (1986)
Added on 19-Aug-16 | Last updated 19-Aug-16
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He who walks through a great city to find subjects for weeping, may, God knows, find plenty at every corner to wring his heart; but let such a man walk on his course, and enjoy his grief alone — we are not of those who would accompany him. The miseries of us poor earthdwellers gain no alleviation from the sympathy of those who merely hunt them out to be pathetic over them. The weeping philosopher too often impairs his eyesight by his woe, and becomes unable from his tears to see the remedies for the evils which he deplores. Thus it will often be found that the man of no tears is the truest philanthropist, as he is the best physician who wears a cheerful face, even in the worst of cases.

Charles Mackay (1814-1889) Scottish poet, journalist, song writer
Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds (1841)
Added on 19-Aug-16 | Last updated 19-Aug-16
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We call that person who has lost his father, an orphan; and a widower that man who has lost his wife. But that man who has known the immense unhappiness of losing a friend, by what name do we call him? Here every language is silent and holds its peace in impotence.

Joseph Roux (1834-1886) French Catholic priest
Meditations of a Parish Priest: Thoughts, Part 9, #54 (1886)
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Added on 18-Apr-16 | Last updated 18-Apr-16
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The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been hours before.

John Green (b. 1977) American author
The Fault in Our Stars (2012)
Added on 3-Mar-16 | Last updated 3-Mar-16
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Happiness is beneficial for the body but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.

Marcel Proust (1871-1922) French author
Remembrance of Things Past (1913-27)
Added on 8-Feb-16 | Last updated 8-Feb-16
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Cares are often more difficult to throw off than sorrows; the latter die with time, the former grow upon it.

Jean-Paul Richter (1763-1825) German novelist, art historian, aesthetician [pseud. Jean-Paul]
(Attributed)
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In Ballou, Treasury of Thought (1884).
Added on 17-Dec-15 | Last updated 17-Dec-15
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The busy have no time for tears.

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) English poet
The Two Foscari, Act 4, sc. 1 (1821)
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BOLINGBROKE: Grief makes one hour ten.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Richard II, Act 1, sc. 3, l. 261 (1595)
Added on 2-Nov-15 | Last updated 2-Nov-15
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LAFEU: Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead, excessive grief the enemy to the living.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
All’s Well that Ends Well, Act 1, sc. 1, l. 63 (1602)
Added on 26-Oct-15 | Last updated 20-May-16
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Grief is itself a med’cine.

William Cowper (1731-1800) English poet
“Charity,” l. 159 (1782)
Added on 19-Oct-15 | Last updated 19-Oct-15
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If you ask any police officer what the worst part of the job is, they will always say breaking bad news to relatives, but this is not the truth. The worst part is staying in the room after you’ve broken the news, so that you’re forced to be there when someone’s life disintegrates around them. Some people say it doesn’t bother them — such people are not to be trusted.

Ben Aaronovitch (b. 1964) British author
Rivers of London [Midnight Riot] (2011)
Added on 14-Oct-15 | Last updated 14-Oct-15
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Endow the Living — with the Tears —
You squander on the Dead.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) American poet
“Endow the Living — with the Tears –” (1862)
Added on 12-Oct-15 | Last updated 12-Oct-15
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Between grief and nothing I will take grief.

William Faulkner (1897-1962) American novelist
The Wild Palms (1939)
Added on 5-Oct-15 | Last updated 5-Oct-15
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Even at the movies, we laugh together, we weep alone.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays (2001)
Added on 25-Sep-15 | Last updated 25-Sep-15
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Bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love. It follows marriage as normally as marriage follows courtship or as autumn follows summer.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Grief Observed (1961)
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In short, we can judge by nothing but Appearances, and they are very apt to deceive us. Some put on a gay chearful Outside, and appear to the World perfectly at Ease, tho’ even then, some inward Sting, some secret Pain imbitters all their Joys, and makes the Balance even: Others appear continually dejected and full of Sorrow; but even Grief itself is sometimes pleasant, and Tears are not always without their Sweetness: Besides, Some take a Satisfaction in being thought unhappy, (as others take a Pride in being thought humble,) these will paint their Misfortunes to others in the strongest Colours, and leave no Means unus’d to make you think them thoroughly miserable; so great a Pleasure it is to them to be pitied; Others retain the Form and outside Shew of Sorrow, long after the Thing itself, with its Cause, is remov’d from the Mind; it is a Habit they have acquir’d and cannot leave.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
“A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity” (1725)
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Added on 11-Aug-15 | Last updated 11-Aug-15
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Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.

Unless, of course, you can literally believe all that stuff about family reunions “on the further shore,” pictured in entirely earthly terms. But that is all unscriptural, all out of bad hymns and lithographs. There’s not a word of it in the Bible. And it rings false. We know it couldn’t be like that. Reality never repeats. The exact same thing is never taken away and given back. How well the Spiritualists bait their hook! “Things on this side are not so different after all.” There are cigars in Heaven. For that is what we should all like. The happy past restored.

And that, just that, is what I cry out for, with mad, midnight endearments and entreaties spoken into the empty air.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Grief Observed (1961)
Added on 29-Jul-15 | Last updated 29-Jul-15
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Excess of grief for the deceased is madness; for it is an injury to the living, and the dead know it not.

Xenophon (c. 431-355 BC) Greek historian and essayist
(Attributed)
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In Anon. Mental Recreation Or, Select Maxims, Sayings And Observations Of Philosophers (1831).
Added on 19-Mar-15 | Last updated 19-Mar-15
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He first deceased; she for a little tried
To live without him: liked it not, and died.

Henry Wotton (1568-1639) English author, diplomat, politician
“Upon the Death of Sir Albertus Moreton’s Wife” (1651)
Added on 12-Mar-15 | Last updated 12-Mar-15
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I can’t think of a more wonderful thanksgiving for the life I have had than that everyone should be jolly at my funeral.

Lord Mountbatten (1900-1979) British statesman and naval officer (Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, b. Prince Louis of Battenberg)
(Attributed)
    (Source)

Quoted in Richard Hough, Mountbatten (1980).
Added on 5-Mar-15 | Last updated 5-Mar-15
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Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide.
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain.

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) American poet
“Time does not bring relief”
Added on 26-Feb-15 | Last updated 10-Nov-17
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A man’s dying is more the survivors’ affair than his own.

Thomas Mann (1875-1955) German writer, critic, philanthropist, Nobel laureate [Paul Thomas Mann]
The Magic Mountain (1924)
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Never does one feel oneself so utterly helpless as in trying to speak comfort for great bereavement. I will not try it. Time is the only comforter for the loss of a mother.

Jane Welsh Carlyle (1801-1866) Scottish letter-writer, wife of Thomas Carlyle [née Jane Baillie Welsh]
Letter to Thomas Carlyle (27 Dec 1853)
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Sorrow is a kind of rust of the soul, which every new idea contributes in its passage to scour away. It is the putrefaction of stagnant life, and is remedied by exercise and motion.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler, # 47 (28 Aug 1750)
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There is no wisdom in useless and hopeless sorrow, but there is something in it so like virtue, that he who is wholly without it cannot be loved.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Letter to Hester Thrale (12 Apr 1781)
Added on 16-May-14 | Last updated 16-May-14
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CLAUDIUS: When sorrows come, they come not single spies,
But in battalions.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Hamlet, Act 4, sc. 5, l. 78 (1600)
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Who never ate his bread in sorrow,
Who never spent the darksome hours
Weeping and watching for the morrow,
He knows ye not, ye gloomy Powers.

To earth, this weary earth, ye bring us,
To guilt ye let us heedless go,
Then leave repentance fierce to wring us:
A moment’s guilt, an age of woe!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, 2.13 (1796) [tr. Carlyle (1824)]
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Added on 1-Apr-14 | Last updated 1-Apr-14
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Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Following the Equator, ch. 48 (Epigraph) (1897)
Added on 14-Feb-12 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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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.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
We Bereaved (1929)

Also in The Open Door (1957).
Added on 28-Jul-11 | Last updated 16-Jun-14
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Croesus said to Cambyses: That peace was better than war; because in peace the sons did bury their fathers, but in wars the fathers did bury their sons.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Apophthegms, #149 (1625)

See Herodotus.
Added on 10-Sep-10 | Last updated 28-Jul-17
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He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
“Stop All the Clocks [Funeral Blues]” (1936)
Added on 20-Jan-10 | Last updated 2-Nov-17
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I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) English poet
“In Memoriam A. H. H.” , Part 27, st. 4 (1849)

Arthur Henry Hallam was the fiancé of Tennyson's sister Emily. Hallam died suddenly in September 1833.
Added on 18-Dec-07 | Last updated 24-Nov-15
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Starving the living will not profit the dead.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
The Black Mountain, ch. 2 [Fritz] (1954)
Added on 17-Oct-05 | Last updated 10-Apr-14
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Believe me, every heart has its secret sorrow which the world knows not, and oftentimes we call a man cold, when he is only sad.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
Hyperion: A Romance, 3.4 (1839)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 8-Apr-14
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When the Egyptians were drowning in the Red Sea, the angels in heaven began to break forth in songs of jubilation, but the Holy One, blessed be He, silenced them: “My creatures are perishing — and ye are ready to sing!”

The Talmud (AD 200-500) Collection of Jewish rabbinical writings
(Unreferenced)

In Louis I. Newman, comp. The Talmudic Anthology, 103 (1945): "When the Egyptians were drowning, the angels wished to sing. But God said, 'My children are dying, and you would sing?'"
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