Great Proverbs About Death and Mourning

Though words can never fully express how much someone means to us, language can still provide comfort, solace, hope, and even inspiration following the death of a loved one.

Proverbs and folk sayings about death, grief, and mourning from a variety of cultural traditions can sometimes speak the words you are unable to express yourself.

Holding hands
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Proverbs and sayings may be especially helpful after the loss of a loved one. They can comfort those who are mourning alone or help you as you write a eulogy or pen a condolence letter. They can be particularly useful when you are simply trying to find the right words and need a little inspiration.

There are a variety of cultural traditions surrounding death as well as different emotions and perspectives on what death means. From honoring the person who died to supporting surviving family or friends, these time-honored proverbs reflect these vast differences in how people view and approach the loss of a loved one.

Honoring the Lost Loved One

Everyone dies, but it can be particularly painful when a loved one who was particularly good to us passes. These proverbs may help:

  • "Say not in grief he is no more, but live in thankfulness that he was."
  • "Good men must die, but death cannot kill their names."
  • "As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us, as We remember them."
  • "Only love gives us the taste of eternity."
  • "The only truly dead are those who have been forgotten."
  • The death of an elderly man is like a burning library."

Another way to honor a lost loved one is by making a donation to a cause they supported. When the time is right, ask the surviving family member what that cause might be.

Acknowledging and Supporting Survivors

Grief is painful, and at times you may feel as if your heart is literally breaking in two. Viewing tears as cleansing, and receiving the sympathy of others, can be healing during times like this. Proverbs offering support include:

  • "What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul."
  • "God is closest to those with broken hearts."
  • "Sympathy is a little medicine to soothe the ache in another's heart."

Death as a Part of Life

Some cultures view death as a very part of life on a larger continuum. In other societies, death is regarded as a specter no one talks about. Whatever your culture or religion, these words help address death as a part of life:

  • "Life is not separate from death. It only looks that way."
  • "Everything revolves around bread and death."
  • "One is certain only of death."
  • "There is no one who can jump so high as to escape death."
  • "Who is old and doesn't believe it, will trip into his grave without seeing it."
  • "All who have died are equal."
  • "Death doesn't knock on the door."
  • "The whole world is a dream, and death the interpreter."
  • "There is a cure for everything except death."

Moving On

It's important to honor those who have gone before us. Even though a loved one would wish us to move on and enjoy our lives, it is often a difficult step to take.

It is sometimes helpful to remind a surviving spouse or family member that they will always grieve the loss of a loved one but that the grief will gradually become less acute. In time, remembering a loved one may bring more comfort than pain. These words echo those feelings:

  • "All things grow with time, except grief"
  • "Who dies, dies, and who lives, lives."
  • "Live your own life, for you will die your own death."

To those who are grieving, the words "moving on" can seem hurtful if you are not careful, implying that it's time to stop grieving and "let go" of their loved one. Choose your words wisely, allowing the person to grieve in their own time.

Living Life Each Day

Death is a reminder that our lives are finite. Sometimes seeing death is a reminder to live today as fully as possible. These proverbs and sayings reflect those thoughts:

  • "If you start thinking of death, you are no longer sure of life."
  • "Everybody will undergo the sentence of the grave."
  • "There is no rich person in a grave."
  • "As long as a man lives, the entire world is too small for him; After death, the grave is big enough."
  • "Live that people may speak well of thee at thy grave. The just needs no memorial, for his deeds are his monument."
  • "Death doesn't just look through the book of the old."

When Humor Is Needed

There is a time for everything, including humor. Sometimes a bit of humor can be a blessing during deep grief. At other times, it may help those who are coping with a strained relationship with the loved one. Here are some humorous words that may help:

  • "Old age is not as honorable as death, but most people want it."
  • "He who comes for the inheritance is often made to pay for the funeral."
  • "If the rich could hire someone else to die for them, the poor would make a wonderful living."
  • "To pay and to die as late as possible."
  • "An advantage of poverty, your relatives gain nothing by your death."
  • "Make sure to send a lazy man for the Angel of Death."
  • "What you give for the cause of charity in health is gold; what you give in sickness is silver; what you give after death is lead."
  • "The ugliest life is better than the nicest death."

Knowing when not to speak following a death is as important as knowing when to speak. Sometimes a touch or simply looking the grieving spouse or family member in the eye is all that is needed to provide comfort.

A Word From Verywell

Proverbs can often describe feelings you're unable to express. Poems about death and loss can add another dimension, bringing to life emotions that prose or sayings cannot express. Death and grief quotations may also capture what you are trying to say or help you come to terms with the loss yourself.

If you are grieving, give yourself time. Everyone grieves differently and for different periods of time. There isn't a right or wrong way to grieve—only the way that is right for you. 

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Chris Raymond
Chris Raymond is an expert on funerals, grief, and end-of-life issues, as well as the former editor of the world’s most widely read magazine for funeral directors.