Finding comfort after a loss
Grief, simply put, is adjustment to a loss. It can be the loss of a loved one, a dream, a job, or a faith. It can be big or small, last hours or years, feel as sharp as a knife cut or dull like a deep bruise. Regardless of the specific circumstances, grief is always normal.
“Grief is not an illness. It’s not a sign that something went wrong. It’s actually a sign that something is going well,” says licensed social worker and psychotherapist Abigail Nathanson, professor of grief and trauma at New York University. “Grief is just part of having relationships. We are programmed to seek relationships and we are programmed to grieve when they end.”
Knowing that grief is both expected and understandable is the first step in managing the pain. “The goal of grief is not ‘How do I stop being sad?’ but ‘How do I wear this and still live my life meaningfully?’ says Nathanson.
There is no one “right” way to mourn, nor is there a recipe for how to deal with it. However, there are some things that many people find helpful during the process, she says. One of the most useful things for people grieving a loss is to find a community of others who can understand and empathize. One way to do this is to read grief quotes from people who have loved and lost and lived to talk about it.
Grief quotes to help you cope
Find a way to commemorate your loved ones
“What is lovely never dies, but passes into other loveliness – stardust or sea foam, flower or winged air.” —Thomas Bailey Aldrich, writer and poet
The reason headstones exist is to help people remember their loved ones who have died, but headstones are not the only way to honor a person’s memory. Plant her favorite flower, scatter her ashes in her favorite spot, or just go somewhere that reminds you of her.
“The time of death, like the end of a story, gives a different meaning to what has gone before.” – Mary Catherine Bateson, author
Some people find it helpful in their grieving process to search for greater meaning in the life or loss of their loved one. What have they contributed to the world? To you? Cultural or religious traditions can help with this, such as what you can learn about grieving from Day of the Dead.
talk to someone
“The irony of grief is that the person you most want to talk to about it is gone.” -Anonymous
Grieving is normal, but when you get stuck in the process and your daily life suffers, it’s time to talk to someone about it. A close friend or family member can help or seek a therapist trained in grief. (The pandemic has hit everyone hard; check out these therapist tips for coping with grief related to Covid-19.)
Be patient with yourself
“Sorrow is like the sea. It comes in waves, sometimes calm and sometimes overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” — Vicki Harrison, author
Grief doesn’t flow in a logical progression from harder to lighter. It can wax and wane for years, and then suddenly feel intense again as you pass a milestone without your loved one — like getting married years after your father died. Grief quotes like this one from Harrison are a reminder that grieving again doesn’t mean moving backwards.
Love and loss are intertwined
“Regardless of age, we mourn the loved ones and lost ones. Grief is one of the deepest expressions of pure love.” —Russell M. Nelson, religious leader
It’s the most poignant kind of pain: If you didn’t love someone so much, losing them wouldn’t hurt so much. There is no love without sorrow and no sorrow without love. (Here’s how to deal with anger and sadness.)
Grief can be very complicated
“Mourning in two parts: the loss of one life, the remaking of another.” -Anonymous
Grief is often not an easy process. People are complicated, and so is their grief. Regardless of how you feel about the person and their death (and it’s fair to have many conflicting feelings), their life changed your life in some ways. It can help you identify those good and bad paths.
Accept the transaction
“The only cure for grief is to grieve.” – Earl Grollman, writer
It’s true that there is no wrong way to grieve, and for many people, anger and denial are part of it. The key is to keep moving forward instead of ignoring or pushing away your grief. Grief finds a way out. (You shouldn’t say that to someone after a miscarriage.)
Look for signs
“Perhaps they are not stars in the sky, but openings upon which our loved ones shine to show us that they are happy.” —Traditional Inuit proverb
Whether or not you believe in heaven or an afterlife, many people find solace in looking for signs to remind them of their loved ones. You may think of her when you find a lucky penny or spot a twinkling star, for example.
Learn from your suffering
“If suffering were taught alone, the whole world would be wise, since everyone suffers. With suffering must be added sadness, understanding, patience, love, openness, and a willingness to remain vulnerable.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh, author
It is often the biggest storms in our lives that teach us the most important lessons. Think about what your loved one might have wanted to teach you or what positive opportunities you have for growing and changing from the experience. (If you find comfort in these grief quotes, you may also find inspiration in these quotes about mountains that can help you overcome personal hurdles.)
Feel it in your body
“Mourning is really just love. It’s all the love you want and can’t give. All that unspent love gathers in the corner of your eye, the lump in your throat, and the hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love without a place to go.” – Jamie Anderson, professional snowboarder
It’s not uncommon to feel grief physically, in your body, like a bruised heart or a blocked throat. We grieve with our whole selves, so find ways to comfort yourself both physically and emotionally. Find a warm hug or go for a long walk. (Check out these quotes about pain and how to deal with it.)
talk to them
“Sometimes I just look up, smile and say, ‘I know it was you!'” – Anonymous
Many people find comfort in speaking out loud or writing a letter to a loved one who has passed away. It helps you articulate and process your feelings. (Check out these tips for improving communication in relationships.)
“Depression is an emotion without a cause. Grief has a cause.” – Edward Hirsch, poet
Grief and grief are so much more than just sadness. In fact, you can feel sadness and joy and humor and anger—and countless other feelings at the same time. If you feel bad about your negative feelings, it will only make you feel worse. Identifying your feelings and the cause can help you process them.
Don’t put an end date on it
“You will not overcome a loss; you will learn to live with it. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Neither should you. You wouldn’t want to either.” —Elizabeth Kubler Ross, author of About sadness and sadness
People who tell you to “get over it” or “move on” may think they’re helping, but that’s not how grief works. Continuing to feel pain or sadness does not mean you are broken. (Learn more about ways to deal with disenfranchised grief.)
We all mourn
“Death is not the opposite of life, it is a part of it.” —Haruki Murakami, author
Every society has birth and death rituals, and that’s because everyone on Earth has to go in and out at some point. Accepting death as a fact of life can help make it feel less scary. (That’s what “dying of old age” really means.)
Find your tribe
“We bereaved are not alone. We belong to the greatest corporation in the world – to those who have known suffering.” – Helen Keller, author and attorney
There are few things as healing as speaking to someone else who has been through what you are going through – and those people may not be your closest loved ones. Find a support group in person or online with people who understand your specific type of loss. (Here’s what one person learned from a social anxiety support group.)
“Death challenges us never to waste our time. It reminds us to share our love with one another as much as possible.” – Leo Buscaglia, author
Suffering makes us grateful for our blessings, big and small, in a unique way. (Here’s what to say—and what not to say—to someone who’s suffering.)
What happens after death?
“Death is nothing but going from one room to another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in this other room I’ll be able to see.” – Helen Keller, author and attorney
You may find comfort in thinking about what your loved one is doing or how they are feeling right now. Even if you don’t believe in life after death, it can be comforting to believe that you are no longer in pain. For some insider insight, read this person’s near-death experience.
Mourning can be a kind of honor
“It is an honor to be in mourning. It’s an honor to feel so much, to have loved so much.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, author
To mourn the loss of someone is a testament to how loved and valued they were in your life. It’s an honor to have been a part of her life, if only for a short time.
After reading these grief quotes, here is how happy memories of loved ones make you healthier.