Thursday, September 1, 2016

Grief Quotes I Keep Handy

I went to lunch with a good friend the other day, and we got to talking about grief. She lost her mother in June, and that loss just bubbles up all the time, triggered by things tiny and obvious alike. She kept saying, "as you know," which made me uncomfortable until I said, "Well, but my losses were for people that didn't get to be, not people who existed tangibly in my life." (Of course with the exception of my grandmother.) And then she told me that she thought I absolutely was an expert in grief. Maybe not the same kind of loss, but I have some authority in the grief department.

Which was interesting to me, because I felt like I was doing that comparative thing again where we say one love is more than another or one kind of loss is more than another, and it was me feeling like I can't begin to comprehend a loss so great as my friend had sustained, and yet here she was, raw from the loss of her mother, telling me that I am sort of a grief guru.

I guess I have had lots of opportunities to cycle through the messiness of grief, and I am in a constant state of underlying grief, so that's true in a way. It's not an expertise I really wanted, but I guess I have to make the most of it. I don't think we deal well with grief as a whole in this country, it's always pushed down and expected to be over instead of something that lurks beneath the surface, ready to bubble up and take over like sad boiling lava at any given time.

I thought about how I collect quotes that stand out to me from books I read and keep them in a readily-accessible list on my phone, and how most of them deal guessed it...grief.

Here are a few of my favorites. If I'm a so-called expert, I feel I can share some of this collected wisdom with you:

"And endings are always the beginnings of something else."  - Holly Goldberg Sloan, Counting by Sevens

"All reality, I decide, is a blender where hopes and dreams are mixed with grief and despair. Only in cartoons and fairy tales and greeting cards do endings have glitter."    - Holly Goldberg Sloan, Counting by Sevens

"Maybe that happens when you've been through a lot. All your edges are worn off, like sea glass. Either that, or you shatter." - Holly Goldberg Sloan, Counting by Sevens (Seriously, if you haven't read Counting by Sevens, go get a copy. It's amazing.)

"Happy was my adopted country, not my native land. I was still bracing to be expelled without warning." - Kimberly McCreigh, Where They Found Her

"Sorrow and loss are constant, but if we had to go through our whole lives carrying them the whole time, we wouldn't be able to stand it. The sadness would paralyze us. So in the end we just pack it into bags and find somewhere to leave it." - Fredrik Backman, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry (This is another book to get your hands on if you can. Just so special.)

"Hope is a horrible thing, you know. I don't know who decided to package hope as a virtue because it's not. It's a plague. Hope is like walking around with a fishhook in your mouth and someone just keeps pulling it and pulling it." -- Ann Patchett, State of Wonder

You may disagree with me on that last one, but I have very complicated feelings about hope. So it goes in this category, because when you deal with grief on a regular basis it seems (to me) that hope is more of a plague than a virtue.

I swear I don't only read books about tragedies or loss or sadness, but those are the quotes that stand out to me. There were a scant handful of others not similarly themed, but mostly I seek things that validate my feelings on the hand I've been dealt. Maybe these quotes could be helpful to others, too, going through any other kind of grieving process.


  1. To me, loss is loss. Immeasurable or comparable except to the person who had experienced the losses. And even then, each is different.

    These quotes are filled with much to ponder. Particularly the one about hope. I agree with you about hope being a double-edged blade. I'm also wary of hope.

    I have one to add:
    "Once the storm is over, you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't in fact be sure, in fact, that the storm is even over. But one thing is certain: when you come out of the storm, you emit be the same person who walked in" ~ Hakuri Murakami

  2. Good quotes stay with you. They linger for a reason when they touch your heart. I think it is that human connection that on some level, somebody else really gets it. It makes you not feel so alone with sad or angry thoughts. It makes your heart sing when it is something happy. I Pintrest the crap out of quotes.

    Thank you for sharing your quotes. You are a grief expert, and more so because you recognize that it is impossible to compare pain. It is all relative to the person experiencing it. Glad that you can be of help to your friend.

  3. Books with loss related themes exist in all genres, mostly because loss and grief is both exquisitely and horribly intertwined with our lives as human beings. Right now, I've been in a terrible place of grief over letting my youngest stepson go because he's grown up. No one can dictate how your grief is choreographed. Sometimes, mine feels like ballet. Sometimes it feels like modern dance--all disjointed and almost interpretive. Cristy is absolutely right--loss is loss. My friend and former roommate Jeremy Keillor used to say, "Beware of defining things by comparison." Our lives and losses should lose no meaning when compared to others because the comparison is not apples to apples. We are unique.

  4. I like the Kimberly McCreigh quote, I can relate to that. As for the last one, I loved State of Wonder: one of the best books I've read in the last five years, I couldn't put it down. And I agree about hope, it can be a plague on your life. I totally admit that I'm attracted to quite dark and tragic books - I honestly think that if you've been through some dark stuff yourself, you tend to be.

  5. When I was younger grief used to consume me. I would get physically sick and I could stay under it like a heavy blanket for an undetermined amount of time. I believe that those who have suffered the loss of a life they never know find a way to grasp grief that just can't be found otherwise. Losing my sister-in-law was the first major loss I had been through since my miscarriages and I have even impressed myself with some of the things I've been able to pull out of my back pocket when others are totall

  6. The specifics may be different, but the emotion and the heartbreak and the way it feels in your stomach is the same. You are a grief expert, lady. I had 3 beloved family members die within 2 years of each other, and it was the same emotion as my baby-losses. If anything, this is tougher when it comes to interacting with others. No one tells me, "don't be sad! You're other grandma is still alive!" But I am 100% expected to be back to normal the second I get a positive pregnancy test.

  7. I bought Counting by 7s after reading your blog post and I love it! I am 170 pages into it now. Thanks for writing this post! If you have more suggestions, please send them my way!