On Grieving, Dying and Living – Quotes and Resources

A flower in bloom in La Jolla, CA, Aug 2020.

Two fathers of adult members of the dojo have passed away.  One, ten days ago in his sleep.  A kind, soft-spoken and gentle figure who would visit regularly to watch his two sons practice kendo.  It was a shock for me to learn this after seeing and talking with him several days earlier.  The second passed away early this morning at a hospital.  I have memories of him seated with his little grandson while watching his son practice kendo in a very large gymnasium at a local university.

It breaks my heart to hear the news and witness some of the grief that my friends are experiencing in losing a dearly loved one.  It is an experience that many can relate to I’m sure.  Indeed, Masahiro Imafuji sensei shares a moving story in remembrance of his father who had passed away [Kendo-Guide_Father].

These events touch the soul deeply.  And I believe that each of us or someone that we know will eventually experience the loss of a loved one if not already.  As a means to nourish and support the soul in such times, I have compiled a list of quotes and resources on grieving, dying and living as organized below.

  • Quotes
    • On Grieving the Loss of a Loved One
    • In Remembrance
    • About Death
    • About Dying
    • Fear of Death
    • About Living
    • From Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
    • From Stephen Levine
    • On Being with Those in Grief
  • Resources
  • Personal Reflections

Please note that the related topic of suffering is addressed in “Setbacks and the Pain of Suffering – Quotes and Resources.”

Post Comment

My father passed away unexpectedly after posting this article.  There was an initial shock of the news and crying.  It is comforting to meet with others who have lost a parent and who understand the experience of losing a parent.  Surprisingly many.  And it is strange for the mind to realize from time to time that he is no longer in this world.  Perhaps this is a period of readjustment for the mind’s model of the world.

If you are grieving, may these words below comfort your soul.

Update:  Added post comments in Sept. 2022.  Added a new sub-section “On Being with Those in Grief” in Aug. 2020.


On Grieving the Loss of a Loved One

  • Grief is the price we pay for love. – Queen Elizabeth II
  • Grief… is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love.  The only cure for grief is to grieve. – Earl A. Grollman
  • Tears are the silent language of grief. – Voltaire
  • Tears shed for another person are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of a pure heart. – José N. Harris
  • There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love. – Washington Irving
  • We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey. – Kenji Miyazawa
  • I walked a mile with Pleasure; She chattered all the way. But left me none the wiser For all she had to say.  I walked a mile with Sorrow And ne’er a word said she; But oh, the things I learned from her When Sorrow walked with me! – Robert Browning
  • When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. – Kahil Gibran
  • Mitch Albom
    • When someone is in your heart, they’re never truly gone.  They can come back to you, even at unlikely times.
    • Life has to end, love doesn’t.
  • What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose.  All that we love deeply becomes a part of us. – Helen Keller
  • I don’t think of all the misery, but of all the beauty that remains. – Anne Frank
  • The darkest nights produce the brightest stars. – John Green
  • Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. – Dr. Seuss
  • Rumi
    • I said: what about my eyes?  God said: Keep them on the road.
      I said: what about my passion? God said: Keep it burning.
      I said: what about my heart? God said: Tell me what you hold inside it?
      I said: pain and sorrow? He said: Stay with it. The wound is the place where the Light enters you.
    • Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.

In Remembrance

  • For some moments in life there are no words. – David Seltzer
  • There are no goodbyes for us.  Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart. – Mahatma Gandhi
  • Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation. – Rumi
  • What is there to do when people die – people so dear and rare – but bring them back by remembering. – May Sarton
  • The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude. – Thornton Wilder
  • I know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to death. They continue to participate in every act, thought, and decision we make. Their love leaves an indelible imprint in our memories. We find comfort in knowing that our lives have been enriched by having shared their love. – Leo Buscaglia
  • You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp. – Anne Lamott

About Death

  • After your death, you will be what you were before your birth. – Arthur Schopenhauer
  • (D)eath is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. – Steve Jobs
  • Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it. – Haruki Murakami
  • The secret of life is to die before you die and find that there is no death. – Eckhart Tolle
  • I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark. – Stephen Hawking
  • Today, approximately, 200,000 people died. … There are 3 billion of us on the earth and all 3 billion must be dead, on a schedule, within this lifetime.  The vast mortality, involving something over 50 million of us each year, takes place in relative secrecy. – Stephen Levine [Levine_WhoDies, p. 1]
  • Kahil Gibran [Gibran]
    • For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
    • For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun.

About Dying

  • Death never takes a wise man by surprise; he is always ready to go. – Jean de la Fontaine
  • A person has learned much who has learned how to die. – German proverb
  • When we finally know we are dying, and all other sentient beings are dying with us, we start to have a burning, almost heartbreaking sense of the fragility and preciousness of each moment and each being, and from this can grow a deep, clear, limitless compassion for all beings. – Sogyal Rinpoche
  • Who sees the many and not the one, wanders on from death to death.  Even by the mind this truth is to be learned: there are not many but only one.  Who sees variety and not the unity wanders on from death to death. – Upanishad
  • Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn. – Mahatma Gandhi

Fear of Death

  • Nisargadatta Maharaj [Levine_WhoDies, p. 179]
    • It is because you believe you are born that you fear death.  Who is it that was born?  Who is it that dies?  Look within.  What was your face before you were born? 
    • Who you are, in reality, was never born and never dies. 
    • Let go of who you think you are and become who you have always been.
  • Ramana Maharshi [Levine_WhoDies, p. 229]
    • Find out if you were born before you think of death.  Only he who is born can die.  You are as good as dead even in sleep.  What fear is there of death?
    • If a man considers he is born he cannot avoid the fear of death.  Let him find out if he has been born or if the Self has any birth.  He will discover that the Self always exists, that the body which is born resolves itself into thought and the emergence of thought is the root of all mischief.
    • Find wherefrom thoughts emerge.  Then you will abide in the ever-present inmost Self and be free from the idea of birth or the fear of death.
  • Stephen Levine [Levine_WhoDies, p. 9]
    • To the degree we identify with the body as “me,” or “mine,” we fear death. p. 179
    • If we examine our fear of death, we see in it a fear of the moment to follow, over which we have no control.  In it is a fear of impermanence itself, of the next unknown changing moment of life. p. 9
  • Rupert Spira
    • [Spira_Awareness, at the 3:43 min mark]
      • Give your loving attention to your Self, to this that you know you are, that knows itself in you as the experience ‘I am aware.’  That’s the cure for the fear of death! 
      • Because as you abide as this ‘being aware,’ this certainty begins to emerge from the background. 
      • It’s like a memory that comes from the depths of your being – this memory of your own immortality, of your own eternity.  I have never experienced myself disappearing.
    • An exchange with a lady, Rupert Spira, “The Peace for Which Everyone Longs” (at the 1:50 min mark)
      • this sense that there’s no reason to fear death because everything dies right into You
        but the You never dies never and it’s never born yes everything is born in You but the You isn’t born. 
        Everything exists in You but You don’t exist and everything dies in You but You don’t die
        yeah yeah just there as awareness …
  • He is terribly afraid of dying because he hasn’t yet lived. – Franz Kafka
  • I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it. – Mark Twain
  • Some people are so afraid do die that they never begin to live. – Henry Van Dyke
  • All men fear death. It’s a natural fear that consumes us all. We fear death because we feel that we haven’t loved well enough or loved at all, which ultimately are one and the same. – Woody Allen

About Living

  • It is not length of life, but depth of life. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Everyone dies. But not everyone really lives. – William Wallace
  • By becoming deeply aware of our mortality, we intensify our experience of every aspect of life. – Robert Greene
  • Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. – Steve Jobs

  • While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die. Leonardo da Vinci
  • I’m the one that’s got to die when it’s time for me to die, so let me live my life the way I want to. – Jimi Hendrix
  • No one here gets out alive. –  Jim Morrison
  • When it’s time to die, let us not discover that we have never lived. – Henry David Thoreau
  • Always play with the enthusiasm of a child, you will have plenty of time to grow up, after you die. – David Paquin from [Lagace]
  • Remember life is short and don’t let petty things piss you off. – JC, a friend
  • Mitch Albom:
    • What you have done to this point cannot be undone.  What you do next… It is still unwritten.
    • Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say.
    • It’s such a shame to waste time.  We always think we have so much of it.
    • The truth is, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.

From Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

A well-known psychiatrist who taught about death and dying [Kubler_Kessler].

  • There are dreams of love, life, and adventure in all of us. But we are also sadly filled with reasons why we shouldn’t try. These reasons seem to protect us, but in truth they imprison us. They hold life at a distance. Life will be over sooner than we think. If we have bikes to ride and people to love, now is the time.
  • It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth – and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, we will then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.
  • It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us. Rather, our concern must be to live while we’re alive – to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a facade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are.
  • We think sometimes we’re only drawn to the good, but we’re actually drawn to the authentic. We like people who are real more than those who hide their true selves under layers of artificial niceties
  • The ultimate lesson is learning how to love and be loved unconditionally.
  • When you spend your life doing what you love to do, you are nourishing your Soul. It matters not what you do, only that you love whatever you happen to do.
  • Live, so you do not have to look back and say: ‘God, how I have wasted my life.’
  • If, on the other hand, you listen to your own inner voice, to your own inner wisdom, which is far greater than anyone else’s as far as you are concerned, you will not go wrong, and you will know what to do with your life. Then time is no longer relevant.
  • (In the context of mourning) Just be you.  If you feel like screaming, you scream.  If you feel like crying, you cry.  Don’t try to follow a textbook or have somebody else tell you what to do.  Trust yourself, your own natural emotions. [Kubler_Oprah, 9:34 min]

From Stephen Levine

  • From [Levine_WhoDies]
    • (T)he acknowledgement of impermanence holds within it the key to life itself. p. 3
    • We imagine we will die only because we believe we were born.  We don’t trust that sense of endlessness, of edgelessness within. p. 3
    • I have watched many cling desperately to a rapidly degenerating body, hoping for some incredible miracle, anguished by a deep longing for fulfillment never found in life.  I have also met those whose death was an inspiration to all about them.  Who died with so much love and compassion that all were left filled with an unnamed joy for weeks afterward. p. 4
    • Few die in wholeness. … Most think they own the body.  Few recognize it as just a temporarily rented domicile from which they must eventually be evicted.  Those who see themselves as passengers in the body are more able to let go lightly. p. 4
      • In the American Indian wisdom, wholeness is not seen as the duration one has lived but rather the fullness with which one enters each complete moment. p. 5
      • There seems to be much less suffering for those who live life in the wholeness that includes death.  Not a morbid preoccupation with death but rather a staying in the loving present, a life that focuses on each precious moment. p. 5
    • Who is prepared to die?  Who has lived so fully that they are not threatened by their imaginings of nonexistence?  For it is only the idea of death that frightens us.  It is the unknown we pull back from. p. 5
      • When we have lived our lives so much in the mind’s precious idea of itself, how can we die with our hearts wide open to the mystery of it all? p. 8
      • To become wholly born, whole beings, we must stop postponing life.  To the degree we postpone life, we postpone death. p. 9
  • Whatever prepares you for death enhances life.  Gandhi’s closeness to God, the (American Indian) death chant, the Hasidic openness to the unknown all make life a richer, more joyous experience.  p. 28
    • I’ve been with many people as they have approached their death and seen how much clarity and openheartedness it takes to stay soft with the distraction in the mind and body. 
      • To stay with the fear that arises uninvited. 
      • To keep so open that when fear comes up, they can say, “Yes, that’s fear all right.”  But the spacious acknowledgment is unafraid, because the separate “I” is not the predominant experience, there’s little for that fear to stick to.  p. 29
  • Clearly, a practice that would be useful is to cultivate an openness to what is unpleasant, to acknowledge resistance and fear, to soften and open around it, to let it float free, to let it go.  If you wrote down a list of your resistances and holdings, it would nearly be a sketch of your personality.  If you identify with that personality as who you are, you amplify the fear of death:  the imagined loss of imagined individuality. p. 29
    • If you made a list of everything you own, everything you think of as you, everything you prefer, that list would be the distance between you and the living truth. 
      • Because these are the places where you’ll cling.  You’ll focus there instead of looking beyond.  Instead of seeing the context in which you are happening, you will grasp onto the happening as the only reality. 
      • It is the essence of shortsightedness.  It is the tendency that keeps us caught in our melodrama, the holding that makes it so difficult to let go of our suffering. p. 30
    • Many people say that they have never been so alive as at the time they are dying.
      • Perhaps this is because at least the investigation of what is real has given their life meaning.  And when life has meaning, it has vibrancy.  The investigation becomes “Who am I?” p. 59
      • Life’s energy is not used to confine reality to old models.  The preoccupations of a lifetime no longer obstruct, filter and dull the mystery.
  • From [Levine_Mishlove]
    • (M)ost people, particularly in the case of illness, equate surrender with defeat.  But surrender is letting go of resistance. 20:56min
    • This is the only moment there is and this is the moment to open.
    • (W)e really suggest you don’t wait until you get a terminal diagnosis to start to give yourself permission to be alive, to get on with your life.  Now is a good time. 23:54min

On Being with Those in Grief

  • Jeff Foster from [Foster_Quotes]
    • Just to sit, without expectation, with someone who is in pain or grief or fear, without trying to fix them in any way, or manipulate their experience to match your idea of how they should be; just to listen, without trying to make things better in the moment, without playing the role of ‘expert’ or ‘enlightened guru’ or ‘the one who knows best’; just to be totally available to the one in front of you – and then, on a practical level, to do what’s necessary and natural in the moment – this is the essence of true healing. It’s in this not-knowing, this deep presence, beyond our concepts, beyond our roles, unprotected, undefended, unresolved, that we truly meet.


I have found the books by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross [Kubler_Kessler] and Stephen Levine [Levine] most helpful.  Additional resources including articles and videos are listed in the References Section below.


[Foster_Quotes] Jeff Foster, “Signposts to the Truth of Who You Really Are”.

[Gibran] Kahil Gibran, The Chapter “On Death” in The Prophet, Random House, 1923.

[Kendo-Guide_Father] Masahiro Imafuji “Unknown Kendoist: Memory of My Father, Shigesaburo Imafuji,” Kendo-Guide.com.

[Kubler_Kessler] Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler, Life Lessons:  Two Experts on Death & Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life & Living, Scribner, 2000.

[Kubler_Oprah] Elisabeth Kubler Ross Foundation, “Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross on Oprah Winfrey Show – Last Appearance,” 19:29mins.

[Lagace] Maxime Lagace, “360 Death Quotes that will Bring You Instant Calm,” WisdomQuotes.com.

[Levine_Mishlove] “Stephen Levine (1937-2016): Conscious Living, Conscious Dying — Thinking Allowed (Part 1 complete),” ThinkingAllowedTV, (27:32mins).

[Levine_WhoDies] Stephen Levine, Who Dies? – An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying, Anchor Books, 1982.

[Spira_Awareness] Rupert Spira “How to Experience Yourself as Awareness – Nonduality Teacher Rupert Spira,” Aurelio Yuga, May 23, 2016, 5:54 mins.

2 thoughts on “On Grieving, Dying and Living – Quotes and Resources

  1. Patrick Schultheis September 6, 2019 / 7:48 pm

    Thank you for this post Sensei.


    • kiai September 6, 2019 / 10:30 pm

      Welcome Patrick. I felt moved to write and compile these given the recent events.


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