We all grieve differently and most of us grieve more than once in a lifetime. Let’s ditch the clichés and broaden our understanding. If you’re a quote sharer, these might help.



“Death is the great exposer. It forces hidden fault lines and submerged secrets into the open”

Julia Samuel in Grief Works


“That was one of the worst things about losing your wife, I found: your wife is the very person you want to discuss it all with.”

Anne Tyler in The Beginner’s Goodbye


“I imagine myself on some kind of blacklist that is whizzing round: Widower. King of bleak. Nice guy but complete downer. Please don’t invite – we’ve had complaints.”

Carl Gorham in The Owl at the Window


“I want you to hold this truth in your heart: when it’s your time to go, you won’t wish you had spent more time grieving; you’ll wish you had spent more time living. That’s why I’m here. And why you are, too. Let’s live like our lives depend on it.”

Christina Rasmussen in Second Firsts. Live Laugh and Love Again


“The death of a loved one tends to peel back the curtain on those existential questions, at least temporarily, and begs us to take a larger view of the world and our place in it.”

George A. Bonanno in The Other Side of Sadness


“So why not take the ride? Why not say: Okay, right, I probably won’t die today? Though of course it could happen. I could die sitting at home and getting clocked in the head by a dislodged window A/C. Instead, I’ll climb onto this barf-inducing coaster of life. I’ll get nervous going up and howl going down, turning fear into laughter and death into a fine excuse for living. I don’t know what else to do with it.”

Amy Biancolli


“I suspect that I can only stay steady as I traverse this world that’s empty of my family when I admit the reality of them, an me.”

Sonali Deraniyagala


“She would learn how to spend these hours. In the peace of these winter evenings, she would work out how she was going to live.”

Colm Toibin in Nora Webster


“The widow may be dumped by the old crowd because she is a sexual threat or a grim reminder of awaiting reality, as legend has it. Most widows say the old coupled friends become a little – well – boring.”

Genevieve Davis Ginsburg. M.S. in Widow to Widow


“This is not to say that joy is a compensation for loss, but that each of them, joy and loss, exists in its own right and must be recognised for what it is… So joy can be joy and sorrow can be sorrow, with neither of them casting either light or shadow on the other.”

Marilynne Robinson in Lila


“I would suffer. I would want things to be different than they were. The wanting was a wilderness and I had to find my own way out of the woods. It took me four years, seven months and three days to do it. I didn’t know where I was going until I got there.”

Cheryl Strayed in Wild


“I lost a child,” she said, meeting Lusa’s eyes directly. “I thought I wouldn’t live through it. But you do. You learn to love the place somebody leaves behind for you.”

Barbara Kingsolver in Prodigal Summer


“At times of grief, good friends can be better than bad relations. Let in only people who will boost you, not sap you.”

Joan Rivers in Bouncing Back


“When I stood on the top of North Dome and looked in wonder over the Sierra Nevada range and at peaks going up to 13,000 feet, I realized that something greater than my grief was going on, and I was part of it. I felt a renewing power surging through nature.”

Mark Liebenow


“Tragedy breaks down your door and takes you prisoner. To escape takes effort and energy. Seeking joy after facing adversity is taking back what was stolen from you.”

Sheryl Sandberg in Option B. Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy


“My late husband, Ephraim Levi, believed in life, any place you could find it.”

Dolly Levi in the film, Hello Dolly. Screenplay by Ernest Lehman


“To recover from our tragic experiences we need to set our bones correctly and put the pieces of our lives back together in ways that lend meaning and significance to the events by weaving our experiences into the larger fabric of our life stories.”

Guy Winch in Emotional First Aid


“You may start each morning by having a conversation with yourself, convincing yourself to get out of bed. You tell yourself, “Today I will do three things on my list… Where’s my list? Wait, I don’t have a list. What should be on the list? I don’t even know.” All this is normal.”

Kristin Meekhof and James Windell in A Widow’s Guide to healing. Gentle Support and Advice for the First Five Years


“There is a sort of invisible blanket between me and the world.”

C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed


“I got kicked out of my widows’ support group. I would say that things have gone from bad to worse, except the worst, no question, had already happened. When your husband has died while you’re still in your forties, seriously, anything less and you have to laugh.”

Becky Aikman in Saturday Night Widows


“No one understands people who say they want to be alone. Desiring solitude is bound to be a morbid impulse. No matter how much Natalie tried to put everyone’s mind at rest, they wanted to come and see her. Which amounted to obliging her to speak. Although she didn’t know what to say. She was under the impression that she was going to have to go back and start again at zero, even relearn language.”

David Foenkinos in Delicacy


“The past is past, the future is limited. But, I am here now. Feeling good. I used to be fearful. There was a lot to lose. Now I’ve already lost a lot of it, I am less afraid. I survived, and I will again.”

Sheila Hancock in Just Me


“lovers understand each other better when they are silent, and a fervent, passionate speech delivered by the grave only touches outsiders, while to the widow and children of the dead man it seems cold and trivial”

Anton Chekhov in The Schoolmaster


“For two years I’ve tried to save him. We’ve both tried, but there are no more escape routes. After years of struggle, his gentle passage opens my heart and stills my mind. This quiet death is his last gift to me, even as I weep and whisper my goodbyes.”

Elaine Mansfield in Leaning Into Love. A spiritual journey through grief


“If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction, we lessen the importance of their deprivation.”

Jack Gilbert


“I’m going to keep going forward, looking stupid and clumsy and inexperienced at first, then eventually getting it, until the next jolt comes, and the next floor drops out from under me, until there are no more floors.”

Patton Oswalt


“One of the most useful things I learned at the grief support group I attended was to ask myself, “What do I get to keep?” This helped shift my focus from what I had lost to the gift hidden in the experience.”

Vicky Whipple in Lesbian Widows. Invisible Grief


“The friends we have lost do not repose under the ground… they are buried deep in our hearts. It has been thus ordained that they may always accompany us.”

Alexandre Dumas in The Count of Monte Cristo


“It ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”

Rocky in the film Rocky Balboa


“We as a society used to know all this. We used to wear different coloured clothes to signify where we’d got to in the grieving process. Victorian women veiled themselves in deepest unrelieved black for the first year, gradually adding touches of white, then moving into lilacs and greys as they approached the magic four years. But with improved health and longevity we’ve forgotten all this wisdom and have to go to counsellors to understand what’s going on or else we think we’re going mad.”

Lindsay Nicholson in Living on the Seabed. A memoir of Love, Life and Survival


“Being alive is really hard sometimes, and all we want is a little bit of credit. So here: As long as you never offer to take me to lunch and then try to recruit me for your pyramid scheme – I’m sorry – network marketing opportunity, trust me, you’re doing a good job.”

Nora McInerny Purmort in It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too)


“A little memory of the two of us walking hand-in-hand came to mind and, for once, it made me happy rather than sad. I had finally started to see things differently – I was grateful that we had really lived it up in London and that I was left with wonderful memories absolutely everywhere. I hadn’t talked myself into this; I wasn’t trying to make myself more positive, it just happened. And so I smiled and enjoyed the moment.”

Benjamin Brooks-Dutton in It’s Not Raining Daddy, It’s Happy. Surviving grief, a father and son start again


“I was just getting by on books and baseball and fried-egg sandwiches”

Marilynne Robinson in Gilead


“Since her husband’s death, five years before, she had lost her taste for New York society; she had felt no interest in the price of stocks, and very little in the men who dealt in them; she had become serious.”

Henry James in Democracy. An American Novel


“The concept of closure resonates with a desire to have things ordered and simple. But life is messy and our future unknown. Our hope comes in knowing we can carry complicated combinations of emotions as we journey through grief and loss. We can still grieve the loss of a loved one while learning how to once again engage in joyful events.”

Nancy Berns in Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What It Costs Us


“Her small means, and the care of the boy’s education, served the widow as a pretext for secluding herself in a socially remote suburb”

Edith Wharton in Sanctuary


“If I had one piece of good advice to offer the recently bereaved, it would be this: when somebody comes up to you and says, ‘Just let me know if there is anything I can do – anything at all’, say to them, ‘It’s not now that I need you; please come back in six months and ask me then.’”

Kate Boydell in Death… And How to Survive It


“The pain passes but the beauty remains”

Pierre Auguste Renoir


“They say that the shock of sudden death is worse than watching someone fail. They’re wrong. The long decline doesn’t give you time to prepare, because every moment you keep on hoping for a miracle.”

Denise Robertson in, Agony? Don’t Get Me Started


“I realized that the world did not exist for my benefit. It followed that the ratio of pleasant and unpleasant things around me would not change. It wasn’t up to me. It was clear that the best thing to do was to adopt a sort of muddled cheerfulness.”

Banana Yoshimoto in Kitchen


“People in grief think a great deal about self-pity. We worry it, dread it, scourge our thinking for signs of it. We fear that our actions will reveal the condition tellingly described as “dwelling on it.” We understand the aversion most of us have to “dwelling on it.” Visible mourning reminds us of death, which is construed as unnatural, a failure to manage the situation.”

Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking


“I possess a finite amount of fortitude at present, and I can’t allow myself to squander too much of it here.”

Sally Koslow in The Widow Waltz


“Even the most mundane household objects have been stripped of banality and invested with a significance that threatens to capsize me at any moment. Because of the building works, the whole house has been rearranged while we were away and now I can’t find anything. But what should be a series of mild inconveniences: a missing tin-opener, central heating I can’t operate – become crises symbolic of a loss of all control.”

Decca Aitkenhead in All At Sea


“We now know human beings live with grief and in fact are able to live with grief. They don’t have to get over it. They don’t obsess with it five years down the road but they occasionally remember and are sad or go to the grave and have some thoughts and this is normal.”

Pauline Boss


“later, I will retrieve this copy of the death certificate from the trash. For I am fearful of running out of copies – so many parties seem to want one, as if doubtful that Raymond Smith is deceased. That one of the copies exudes a sour cat-smell is unfortunate.”

Joyce Carol Oates in A Widow’s Story. A Memoir


“For these first few days, when she must make a pretence of sorrow because her husband had died; and had such real cause for sorrow in the miserable condition of the man she loved – she preferred to be alone. Who could sympathise with her now, or with whom could she speak of her grief?”

Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope


“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross


“The past influences everything and dictates nothing”

Adam Phillips in Darwin’s Worms: On Life Stories and Death Stories


“I expected to feel only empty and heartbroken after Paul died. It never occurred to me that you could love someone the same way after he was gone, that I would continue to feel such love and gratitude alongside the terrible sorrow, the grief so heavy that at times I shiver and moan under the weight of it.”

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi


“I am lucky I have these three juggernauts of love in my life who stop for nothing, who live here right now and have taught me to do the same.”

Natascha McElhone writing about her children in After You. Letters of Love, and Loss, to a Husband and Father


“Nature is so exact, it hurts exactly as much as it is worth, so in a way one relishes the pain, I think. If it didn’t matter, it wouldn’t matter.”

Julian Barnes in Levels of Life


“Once upon a time there were two boys

who purposefully misremembered things

about their father. It made them feel better

if ever they forgot things about their


Max Porter in Grief Is The Thing With Feathers


“The widows who are a little further out have moved on to subjects like wondering if we can stretch our cash to take that cruise next year that we’ve always wanted to go on, and the newer widows are still concerned with whether they remember to put deodorant on that morning.”

Catherine Tidd in Confessions of a Mediocre Widow


“The new information signs going up about the animals, though informative and capably drawn up by our education officer, were a mishmash by Katherine’s standards and a vivid illustration of her absence. But I didn’t know what to do to put it right and each time I contemplated tackling it, left me feeling like I was running across the Sahara in lead shoes with a plastic bag over my head.”

Benjamin Mee in We Bought A Zoo


“In the aftermath of death small talk feels too small, big talk too enormous.”

Anna Quindlen in Every Last One


“These days I must take the world in small and carefully measured doses, it is a sort of homeopathic cure I am undergoing, though I am not certain what this cure is meant to mend. Perhaps I am learning to live amongst the living again.”

John Banville in The Sea


“I am more vulnerable than I thought but much stronger than I ever imagined”

Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun on post-traumatic growth


“Animals have these advantages over man: they never hear the clock strike, they die without any idea of death, they have no theologians to instruct them, their last moments are not disturbed by unwelcome and unpleasant ceremonies, their funerals cost them nothing, and no one starts lawsuits over their wills.”



“At the front door

I leave grieving.

Coming in, I say your name.


Saying your name, I bring you home.”

Imtiaz Dharker in Over The Moon