At some point in our life, we experience loss and grief. Although this is a natural consequence in life, it’s still impossible to prepare when it happens. When it comes to consolation, it is often done for the people who have been left behind.
If you’re currently experiencing any grief and looking for words of thoughts for you to somewhat feel better, you’re in the right place.
Grief, according to evolutionary scientists, is a side consequence of having relationships rather than a benefit in and of itself.
Loved ones, family, and friends assist us in navigating the world and surviving. When we are apart, our bodies emit alarm calls in an attempt to reunite us. The two, however, cannot be reunited after death.
Many people attempt to manage and cope with grief in a variety of ways. Grief is a deeply personal experience, and no two individuals experience it in the same way. Just like ballads, poetry, and books, grief has been written in our history.
Reading about another person’s grief experience can often make the griever feel more connected and empathized with.
Here are 15 poems and quotes from books and authors that have experienced loss and grief. We hope that, by reading or delivering these words, you and your loved ones can find your way back.
1. “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.
2. “On the Death of the Beloved” by John O’Donohue
Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.
Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.
The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.
Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.
Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.
We look towards each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.
Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.
Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.
When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.
May you continue to inspire us:
To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.
3. “In Lieu of Flowers” by Shawna Lemay
A few years ago I read a friend’s father’s obituary on Facebook. His father had requested in lieu of flowers, please take a friend or loved one out for lunch.
Although I love flowers very much, I won’t see them when I’m gone. So in lieu of flowers: Buy a book of poetry written by someone still alive, sit outside with a cup of tea, a glass of wine, and read it out loud, by yourself or to someone, or silently.
Spend some time with a single flower. A rose maybe. Smell it, touch the petals.
Really look at it.
Drink a nice bottle of wine with someone you love.
Or, Champagne. And think of what John Maynard Keynes said, “My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne.” Or what Dom Perignon said when he first tasted the stuff: “Come quickly! I am tasting stars!”
Take out a paint set and lay down some colours.
Watch birds. Common sparrows are fine. Pigeons, too. Geese are nice. Robins.
In lieu of flowers, walk in the trees and watch the light fall into it. Eat an apple, a really nice big one. I hope it’s crisp.
Have a long soak in the bathtub with candles, maybe some rose petals.
Sit on the front stoop and watch the clouds. Have a dish of strawberry ice cream in my name.
If it’s winter, have a cup of hot chocolate outside for me. If it’s summer, a big glass of ice water.
If it’s autumn, collect some leaves and press them in a book you love. I’d like that.
Sit and look out a window and write down what you see. Write some other things down.
In lieu of flowers,
I would wish for you to flower.
I would wish for you to blossom, to open, to be beautiful.
4. “In Blackwater Woods” by Mary Oliver
Look, the trees
their own bodies
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
the long tapers
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
5. “For Grief” by John O’Donohue
When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you becomes fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence
Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.
Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.
There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.
Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.
It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.
Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.
6. “Token Loss” by Kay Ryan
To the dragon
any loss is
total. His rest
if a single
in the nest
of his gold
loss is token.
7. “Talking to Grief” by Denise Levertov
Ah, Grief, I should not treat you
like a homeless dog
who comes to the back door
for a crust, for a meatless bone.
I should trust you.
I should coax you
into the house and give you
your own corner,
a worn mat to lie on,
your own water dish.
You think I don’t know you’ve been living
under my porch.
You long for your real place to be readied
before winter comes. You need
your collar and tag. You need
the right to warn off intruders,
my house your own
and me your person
my own dog.
8. “Funeral Blues” by W.H. Auden
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
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.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
9. “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” by Mary Elizabeth Frye
Do not stand
By my grave, and weep.
I am not there,
I do not sleep—
I am the thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints in snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle, autumn rain.
As you awake with morning’s hush,
I am the swift, up-flinging rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight,
I am the day transcending night.
Do not stand
By my grave, and cry—
I am not there,
I did not die.
10. “3 Stages of Grief” by Bridgid Patrick
Sorrow swalowed me into the cruel black sea,
The icy cold water washed over me,
Memories spin around in my mind,
Causing dark lucid dreams of every kind.
Grief and misery played their part,
Leaving behind a broken heart
Slowly the water ebbed away,
The blackness mellowed to a shade of grey,
Time as the healer showed the way,
Helping me to cope day by day,
Fear subsiding, confidence riegns,
Ready to face the world again
The waters now are calm and clear,
My life again is full of cheer,
Smiles return and with them light,
The grey is replaced by colours so bright,
Though life was cruel, when it took you away,
I look to the future as a brand new day
11. “Seasons of Grief” by Belinda Stotler
Shall I wither and fall like an autumn leaf,
From this deep sorrow – from this painful grief?
How can I go on or find a way to be strong?
Will I ever again enjoy life’s sweet song?
Sometimes a warm memory sheds light in the dark
And eases the pain like the song of a Meadow Lark.
Then it flits away on silent wings and I’m alone;
Hungering for more of the light it had shone.
Shall grief’s bitter cold sadness consume me,
Like a winter storm on the vast angry sea?
How can I fill the void and deep desperate need
To replant my heart with hope’s lovely seed?
Then I look at a photo of your playful smiling face
And for a moment I escape to a serene happy place;
Remembering the laughter and all you would do,
Cherishing the honest, caring, loving spirit of you.
Shall spring’s cheerful flowers bring life anew
And allow me to forget the agony of missing you?
Will spring’s burst of new life bring fresh hope
And teach my grieving soul how to cope?
Sometimes I’ll read a treasured card you had given me
And each word’s special meaning makes me see,
The precious gift of love I was fortunate to receive,
And I realize you’d never want to see me grieve.
Shall summer’s warm brilliant sun bring new light,
And free my anguished mind of its terrible plight?
Will its gentle breezes chase grief’s dark clouds away,
And show me a clear path towards a better day?
When I visit the grave where you lie in eternal peace,
I know that death and heaven brought you release;
I try to envision your joy on that shore across the sea,
And, until I join you, that’ll have to be enough for me.
For all the remaining seasons of my life on earth,
There’ll be days I’ll miss your merriment and mirth,
And sometimes I’ll sadly long for all the yesterdays;
Missing our chats and your gentle understanding ways.
Yet, the lessons of kindness and love you taught me,
And the good things in life you’ve helped me to see;
Linger as lasting gifts that comfort and will sustain,
Until I journey to that peaceful shore and see you again.
12. “Heartache” by Ann D. Stevenson
I wasn’t there to say goodbye,
to reminisce of times gone by.
I wasn’t there to make you smile,
to tell old stories, laugh awhile.
I wasn’t there to talk of fun,
the happy times in life’s long run.
I wasn’t there to share the years,
those times of happiness and tears.
I wasn’t there to hear your fear
of leaving those you held so dear.
I wasn’t there to feel your pain,
you knew we’d never meet again.
I wasn’t there to hold your hand
when you parted from this land.
I wasn’t there to share our love,
before you joined the stars above.
I wasn’t there, I shed a tear.
In my heart you’re always there.
13. “This Basket of Burdens” by Debbie
My Basket of burdens
Is filled with the grief of my loss
It is so heavy to carry
Although this road I must cross.
This pathway through life
Feels unbearable at times
And I don’t have the strength
For this mountain I climb.
The Basket’s filled with sorrow
Oh, how I miss my love
At first, It’s impossible to carry,
Where is my help from above?
It’s draining my strength
I can’t do anymore
This pain goes so deep
Right down to my core.
As I carry this Basket
I’ll learn to manage the weight
Each step of the way
Will become easier they say.
But how do they know,
Have they been here before?
If so, where’s their Basket
They’re responsible for?
This Basket of burdens
You can’t see and can’t touch
I carry it inside me
This pain is too much.
Patience is needed to carry
This loss that I feel
A shoulder to lean on
So, someday I will heal.
God sent my family
My friends and spirits unknown
So, I won’t carry this Basket
Someday, I’ll lay down my Basket
With burdens’ no more
My pain will be gone
When, I cross through that door
Then I’ll know reason
For my Basket of Burdens
How God showed me His grace
When I couldn’t cope with the season
Love and support that He gave
When His presence felt unknown
He was with me each step
When I felt so alone
14. “A Call from Heaven” by Zeb Edington
I lie awake long into the night,
Hoping that maybe you just might
Give me a call to say you’re okay
And let me know you made it through the day.
I would give everything that I have
To make you feel not so sad.
I know the pain is sometimes too great,
But the love was something you can never mistake.
I long for the day when I see you again.
Then we can talk about where all we’ve been.
We can think about all the times we had,
How we’ve missed each other ever so bad.
I feel like I’ve been cheated and robbed so blind.
God took you away when I thought you were mine.
Now I’m stuck here and feel so alone
As I sit and wait right beside the phone.
You gave me a life and everything I have.
I couldn’t say no, even when I was mad.
You gave me my children that I hold so dear.
You took away everything that I ever feared.
As the hurt seems to fade but the memories are bright,
Maybe I’ll see you in a dream tonight.
That’s all I can hope for until the day
When were together in heaven for an eternity.
15. “I Measure Every Grief I Meet” by Emily Dickinson
I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, eyes –
I wonder if It weighs like Mine –
Or has an Easier size.
I wonder if They bore it long –
Or did it just begin –
I could not tell the Date of Mine –
It feels so old a pain –
I wonder if it hurts to live –
And if They have to try –
And whether – could They choose between –
It would not be – to die –
I note that Some – gone patient long –
At length, renew their smile –
An imitation of a Light
That has so little Oil –
I wonder if when Years have piled –
Some Thousands – on the Harm –
That hurt them early – such a lapse
Could give them any Balm –
Or would they go on aching still
Through Centuries of Nerve –
Enlightened to a larger Pain –
In Contrast with the Love –
The Grieved – are many – I am told –
There is the various Cause –
Death – is but one – and comes but once –
And only nails the eyes –
There’s Grief of Want – and grief of Cold –
A sort they call “Despair” –
There’s Banishment from native Eyes –
In sight of Native Air –
And though I may not guess the kind –
Correctly – yet to me
A piercing Comfort it affords
In passing Calvary –
To note the fashions – of the Cross –
And how they’re mostly worn –
Still fascinated to presume
That Some – are like my own –