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10 non-clichéd quotes to comfort you through grief

Posted by AK Lander | On November 10, 2016 16:35

When you are going through a loss, whether it is unexpected or you’ve been anticipating it for some time, many people will repeat adages and mottos to try to provide comfort and relief. At times these may indeed be of great use, but sometimes, when looking for inspiration, be it for a funeral reading or a head stone inscription, many of the quotes provided can fall short. Many are overused or appear clichéd, or simply don’t capture the complexity of your feelings. Whilst it’s important to remember that even the most typical of words shared by a friend or family member are given with love and can hold different layers of meaning for your specific situation, it can also be inspiring to look for lesser known words to help you deal with your loss.

So, here are some of our favourite non-clichéd quotes about grief to help you through every stage of your emotional healing.


“...and somehow, each of us will help the other live,

and somewhere, each of us must help the other die.”

-   Adrienne Rich, Twenty One Love Poems


When a loved one passes away, your first thought may be to wonder how you will live without someone who formed such an important part of your life. This is a completely natural feeling, one which this poignant quote by the late feminist writer Adrienne Rich encapsulates. As the second line suggests, being a valuable part of someone’s life means that you have a role in their remembrance, whether that be speaking to them when the end is near or helping to plan the perfect funeral. Thinking of these otherwise daunting tasks as a process of helping the deceased pass comfortably can be a useful way to process this difficult period of transition.


“Everything takes time. Bees have to move very fast to stay still.”

-   David Foster Wallace, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men


American author David Foster Wallace said and wrote many things that have proved immensely comforting to readers on topics as diverse as popular culture and death. This quote is perhaps the most inspiring for those going through loss. In these simple words, Wallace takes the somewhat stale idiom of “time is a healer” and transforms it into something that captures the complexity of the grievance process.


At times, the process of planning a funeral can be overwhelming, with so many people to contact and errands to run. Among this, it can be difficult to take moments to reflect and heal, sometimes leaving people feeling unprepared once the funeral actually comes around. If this is the case for you, and you find yourself wondering how it’s been so long and you are still grieving, remember this quote. Bees may seem still, but they are in fact moving their wings at extreme speed in order to hover. Likewise, it may seem to yourself or others that the healing process is taking a long time, but there is always more going on beneath the surface, and it will soon materialise.


“What cannot be said will be wept.”

-   Sappho


Sappho was one of the first female writers in history, a Greek lyrics poet who for many symbolises enduring bravery, loving a woman partner and engaging in a profession during a time where both of these things were considered taboo. However, for all of her eloquence as a poet, even Sappho acknowledged that sometimes words cannot accurately communicate the suffering of grief. In these instances, the strongest recourse is to allow yourself to feel pain in whatever way you need, be that writing or, as Sappho suggests, by weeping.


“My God, if I had a heart, I would write my hate on ice, and wait for the sun to show.”

-   Gabriel García Márquez, “To Sleep Less and Dream More”


Columbian novelist Gabriel García Márquez was famous for his metaphysical books, and imparted great wisdom on a generation before his death in 2014. This quote is particularly apt for those going through sudden losses or grieving the loss of individuals with whom they had a complex relationship. While it is important to allow yourself to feel and process difficult emotions, Márquez’s quote is testament to the value of letting go of negative emotions. Follow the advice of this quote by allowing yourself to feel your anger and ‘write it on ice’, but then allow the warmth of the sun – or, more appropriately – your fond memories of your loved one – to ease this pain.


“Every exit is an entry somewhere else”

-         Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead


Once you have gone about dealing with the immediate shock of a grievance, you may begin to feel the ache that people usually associate with the term ‘loss’. Playwright Tom Stoppard’s quote serves to remind us that our loved ones are never truly lost. Instead, their exit is “an entry somewhere else” – a step into our memories.


“What happens after death is so unspeakably glorious that our imagination and our feelings do not suffice to form even an approximate conception of it.”

-         Carl Jung


There may be times when you are pondering the passing of your loved one that you wonder what they would do if they were still with you, and begin to imagine where their soul could be – whether or not you are spiritual. If you do believe that there is something beyond death, philosopher Carl Jung’s quote will provide real comfort throughout your wonderings. He believes that the experience of an individual’s soul after death is incomprehensible only because it is more glorious than the living can imagine – a soothing thought.


“I answer the heroic question ‘Death, where is thy sting? With ‘it is here in my heart and mind and memories.’”

-         Maya Angelou, “When I Think of Death”


Many people will remind you of the importance of cherishing memories when you are experiencing grief, but this is a truism that ought not to be overlooked. Writer Maya Angelou’s comment acknowledges that revisiting these memories can at times be painful, but shows immense strength and, eventually, provides true reconciliation for families. It can also be read as reminding those left behind that the deceased passed on peacefully, and will only hope that they are remembered fondly.


“We were together.

I forget the rest.”

-         Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass


For many, the time following a loss can be frustrating because, so overcome with emotion, it can be difficult to gain the clarity to remember the memories of your loved one that are most important to you. Walt Whitman, an American poet, reminds us that it’s okay not to remember every single moment you spent with your loved one, as it is their presence and personality which you will hold close, not the specifics.


“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.”

-         The Dalai Lama


After the funeral has been dealt with and your loved one is laid to rest, there will eventually come a time when life must continue. You will still miss your loved one incredibly, but it is important to remember to keep going and stay busy. Your own life, as the Dalai Lama points out in this quote, goes on. As we cannot change yesterday, nor can control tomorrow, it is important to seize the present moment and make the most of your life after grief.


“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

-         Winnie the Pooh


Finally, these simple but wise words from childhood favourite Winnie the Pooh are some of the most important to remember during the often confusing process of mourning. These are words that people of all ages can connect with and appreciate during a time of grief, and provide a simple reminder that, although losing a loved one is painful, having had them in our lives is a true blessing.