“Don’t Cry Because It’s Over; Smile Because It Happened” - Meaning of the Quote

Updated February 28, 2024

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened”?

There’s a good chance someone has uttered this quote at a graduation or retirement ceremony you’ve attended. Most people you ask will say that this is a Dr. Seuss quote, but the truth is there are more questions than answers when it comes to the precise origin of the phrase.

Regardless, this is a simple yet powerful quote that instructs us to appreciate things while they happen and accept the impermanence of all things.

In this article, we’re going to dive super deep into the Stoic themes behind the quote, an exploration of whether Dr. Seuss's attribution is correct, and much, much more.

“Don’t Cry Because It’s Over; Smile Because It Happened” - Who Said It?

Pretty much anyone you ask will tell you that “don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened,” is a quote from the beloved children’s book author Dr. Seuss. These words are frequently used at retirement parties, graduation ceremonies, or other events that mark the end of a particular life stage, as they help to capture the bitter-sweet reality of change in our lives while also proposing a healthy mindset through which to process this change.

Though most people think this is a Dr. Seuss quote, the truth is there isn’t any evidence that he is the origin point of the phrase. In fact, there isn’t any proof that he ever wrote or spoke these words at all.

So, where does the quote come from?

In short, no one knows for sure. There are a few other primary contenders for the title beyond Dr. Seuss:

  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Ludwig Jacobowski
  • Anonymous

When Did This Quote First Emerge?

One of the questions asked about the common phrase “don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened” has to do with when it was first attributed to Dr. Seuss. The first attribution emerged in 2002, while Seuss died more than a decade earlier in 1991.

As we will explore in the next few sections, however, there are instances of similar quotes from more than a century before this phrase was first attributed to Seuss.

The Case For Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Some claim that this quote wasn’t said by Dr. Seuss but, instead, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Born in 1927 and passing away only a decade ago in 2014, Marquez was a Colombian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter, and journalist.

  • Widely regarded as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, he is best known for popularizing the literary style known as magical realism. In this genre, realistic narrative is blended with surreal elements.

Marquez is responsible for helping to bring Latin American literature to the forefront of the global literary community. He had a knack for blending the mythical and the mundane, all while employing richly poetic language and a profound grasp of the human condition.

The quote that some point to as being evidence of Marquez’s invention of the phrase in question goes as follows:

“No llores porque ya se terminó, sonríe porque sucedió.”

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

As you can see, the translation is precisely the quote we’re focusing on. However, some argue that Marquez wasn’t the first to say these words, as there was a German poet who wrote a notably similar line decades earlier.

In the next section, we’ll take a look at whether or not the notion that Ludwig Jacobowski is the true originator of the quote holds any salt.

The Case For Ludwig Jacobowski

Perhaps the most compelling contender in the question surrounding the origin of this quote is Ludwig Jacobowski.

Ludwig Jacobowski was a German writer, poet, and playwright who lived between 1868 and 1900. He is not as widely known as some of his contemporaries, but he was part of the literary and cultural movements in Germany towards the end of the 19th century and made notable contributions to the literary scene of the time. Jacobowski's works often dealt with themes of love, pain, and the human condition, reflecting the sentiments and struggles of his era.

In his work “Leuchtende Tage” from 1899, the title of which can be translated to “Radiant Days” or “Bright Days,” we find the following line:

Nicht weinen, weil sie vorüber!
Lächeln, weil sie gewesen!

Do not cry because they are past!
Smile, because they once were!

The first person to dig up this passage and note the similarity between it and the popular quote, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened,” was a man named Barry Popik.

The Meaning of the "Don't Cry Because It's Over" and Its Stoic Themes

Ok, ok. So, there’s some confusion over where the quote comes from and who said it first. Furthermore, many claim that there’s no evidence Dr. Seuss ever said or wrote these words, even if he wasn’t the first person to utter them.

Regardless of who first said, “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened,” there is a powerful message in this simple phrase that is worth taking a closer look at. Though it may seem straightforward and practically childish, this phrase really does point to important stoic ideas that we can incorporate into our lives.

Amor Fati

We talk about the Latin phrase amor fati a lot here, which translates to “love of one’s fate.”

The idea here is that we can embrace our experiences and the things we go through, even when we see them as negative. Though it might sound a bit odd to love the worst things that happen to you, there is a perspective you can take where even the roughest spots in life were learning experiences that led to our personal growth and fulfillment of our potential.

In short, Stoicism teaches the acceptance of things we cannot control, including the impermanent nature of life and experiences. The quote in question embodies this principle by suggesting that instead of lamenting the end of a situation or relationship, one should appreciate that it occurred in the first place.

Focus on the Present

Another important aspect of being a Stoic is working toward living in the present and appreciating the moment. Of course, this is often easier said than done in our complicated lives and our world of constant distractions. However, the more we focus on the present, the more we’re able to appreciate what we have while we have it and accept change and loss when it occurs.

“Don't stumble over something behind you.”  

– Seneca the Younger

The quote presents a perspective that could be described as retrospective gratitude. Remembering that everything is temporary helps individuals actually cherish their experiences while they have them, and when they're gone, reflect on them with gratitude rather than despair.

Control of Emotions

One of the things that is most known about Stoicism in popular consciousness is the idea that Stoics don’t ever show their emotions. This is actually a gross simplification and not representative of the depth with which the Stoics would discuss the concept of emotions.

We don’t want to repress our emotions or try and force ourselves to feel other than we do. We do have to be self-aware when it comes to our emotions. At the same time, we can “tame” them over time and gain greater control over our thoughts, actions, and reactions.

seneca image and quote “Don’t Cry Because It’s Over; Smile Because It Happened” - Meaning of the Quote

“Life is divided into three periods: that which has been, that which is, that which will be. Of these the present is short, the future is doubtful, the past is certain.”

– Seneca the Younger

The quote reflects the idea that while we cannot control what happens to us, we can control how we respond. Instead of responding to the end of something with sorrow, we can choose to respond with a positive reflection on the joy it brought into our lives.


Another thing this quote encourages is gratitude, a key component of happiness in Stoic philosophy. By focusing on the positive aspects of past experiences, one practices this type of gratitude, acknowledging the value and lessons of past experiences rather than solely focusing on the outcome.

If you aren’t convinced by the Stoics telling you that it’s a good idea to practice gratitude, you might change your mind once you realize how much research stands behind the idea that gratitude has been shown to have multiple mental health benefits.

Some of the things studies have found result from practicing gratitude include:

  • Improved well-being: Studies have found that people who practice gratitude tend to experience fewer negative emotions and can feel more positive emotions.
  • Reduced symptoms of depression: By focusing on positive aspects of life and acknowledging the good, research shows that individuals can shift their mindset away from negative thought patterns that contribute to depression.
  • Enhanced resilience: Practicing gratitude can even help you bounce back more quickly from stressful events and adversity. By appreciating what you have, you can maintain a sunnier outlook even in difficult times.
  • Better sleep: Lying awake at night struggling to sleep? Practicing gratitude during the day might actually help out. Focusing on positive thoughts can reduce the time spent ruminating on negative thoughts that can interfere with sleep.
  • Improved relationships: Expressing gratitude can also make your relationships with your family, friends, and significant other better. When people feel appreciated, they are more likely to respond positively, enhancing your connection to each other.
  • Reduced stress and anxiety: Lord knows everyone is stressed out these days. By shifting focus away from stressors and toward what is positive in their lives, individuals can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety while helping put situations into perspective.
  • Increased self-esteem: If you’re struggling with low self-esteem, you might consider transitioning to a “gratitude mindset.” Appreciating one's life and the kindness of others can reduce social comparisons that can all too easily negatively affect self-esteem.

Perception and Judgment

Stoicism also teaches that our judgments and perceptions shape our emotions and experiences.

epictetus image and quote “Don’t Cry Because It’s Over; Smile Because It Happened” - Meaning of the Quote

“People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them.”

– Epictetus

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” reflects the idea that viewing an ending positively—as a completed chapter full of experiences rather than just a loss—can transform our emotional response to it.

Resilience and Emotional Fortitude

The ability to find joy or value in past experiences, even when they have ended, is a sign of emotional strength and resilience. If you’ve been digging into Stoic philosophy for any length of time, you’re likely aware that cultivating emotional strength and resilience are highly valued experiences in the eyes of figures like Marcus Aurelius, Seneca the Younger, and Epictetus.

The more resilient you are, the better you can deal with what life throws at you. You learn, over time, that all things have their seasons. Nothing lasts forever, and rather than getting worked up about this, we can learn to appreciate our experiences in the present and accept the inevitable fate that “this too shall pass.”

Stoic Quotes With Similar Themes

The ideas of Stoicism are, in some ways, ingrained in the history of Western philosophy and society. While most people you run into on the street might not know the great Stoics by name or perhaps have never even heard of the philosophy, many of the ideas in Stoicism can be found in phrases as common as “don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.”

Let’s take a look at some Stoic quotes by the great ancient philosophers as well as some more recent figures.

Quotes By Marcus Aurelius

First, let's look at some quotes by the great Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.

marcus aurelius quote “Don’t Cry Because It’s Over; Smile Because It Happened” - Meaning of the Quote

“Every man's life lies within the present; for the past is spent and done with, and the future is uncertain.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”

– Marcus Aurelius

marcus aurelius image and quote similar to “Don’t Cry Because It’s Over; Smile Because It Happened” - Meaning of the Quote

“Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature's delight.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Reflect often upon the rapidity with which all existing things, or things coming into existence, sweep past us and are carried away.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“How very near us stand the two vast gulfs of time, the past and the future, in which all things disappear.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“No one can lose either the past or the future - how could anyone be deprived of what he does not possess? ... It is only the present moment of which either stands to be deprived: and if this is all he has, he cannot lose what he does not have.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Do not disturb yourself by picturing your life as a whole; do not assemble in your mind the many and varied troubles which have come to you in the past and will come again in the future, but ask yourself with regard to every present difficulty: 'What is there in this that is unbearable and beyond endurance?'”

– Marcus Aurelius

“How powerful is man! He is able to do all that God wishes him to do. He is able to accept all that God sends upon him.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”

– Marcus Aurelius

Quotes By Seneca the Younger

“To lose a friend is the greatest of all evils, but endeavour rather to rejoice that you possessed him than to mourn his loss.”

– Seneca the Younger

“The greatest loss of time is delay and expectation, which depend upon the future. We let go the present, which we have in our power, and look forward to that which depends upon chance, and so relinquish a certainty for an uncertainty.”

– Seneca the Younger

“That loss is most discreditable which is caused by negligence.”

– Seneca the Younger

“The things which we hold in our hands, which we see with our eyes, and which our avarice hugs, are transitory, they may be taken from us by ill luck or by violence; but a kindness lasts even after the loss of that by means of which it was bestowed; for it is a good deed, which no violence can undo.”

– Seneca the Younger

“Fate rules the affairs of men, with no recognizable order.”

– Seneca the Younger

“I know that nothing comes to pass but what God appoints; our fate is decreed, and things do not happen by chance, but every man's portion of joy and sorrow is predetermined.”

– Seneca the Younger

“It's the great soul that surrenders itself to fate, but a puny degenerate thing that struggles.”

– Seneca the Younger

“While the fates permit, live happily; life speeds on with hurried step, and with winged days the wheel of the headlong year is turned.”

– Seneca the Younger

Quotes By Other Great Thinkers

In this section, we’re going to look at a smorgasbord of profound quotes from great minds that touch upon themes of loss, acceptance, gratitude, perseverance, and living in the moment.

Quotes About Loss

“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 those depths.”

– Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

“Nothing that grieves us can be called little: by the eternal laws of proportion a child's loss of a doll and a king's loss of a crown are events of the same size.”

– Mark Twain

“It's so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”

– John Steinbeck

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

– Winston Churchill

“As a well spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.”

– Leonardo da Vinci

Quotes About Gratitude

“A grateful mind is a great mind which eventually attracts to itself great things.”

– Plato

“It is through gratitude for the present moment that the spiritual dimension of life opens up.”

– Eckhart Tolle

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”

– John Milton

“Think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flames within us.”

– Albert Schweitzer

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

– Mark Twain

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

– Marcel Proust

“Be grateful for your difficulties and challenges, for they hold blessings. In fact... Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health personal growth, individuation and self-actualisation.”

Carl Jung

“There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet joy.”

– Ralph Blum

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”

– Meister Eckhart

“A basic law: the more you practice the art of thankfulness, the more you have to be thankful for.”

– Norman Vincent Peale

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”

– John F. Kennedy

Quotes About Acceptance

“Serenity comes when you trade expectations for acceptance.”

– Gautama Buddha

“We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.”

– Carl Jung

“Take the place and attitude to which you see your unquestionable right, and all men acquiesce.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Happiness can exist only in acceptance.”

– George Orwell

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”

– Dolly Parton

Quotes About Perseverance

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

– Thomas A. Edison

“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.”

– Zig Ziglar

“Endure and persist; this pain will turn to good by and by.”

– Ovid

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

– Maya Angelou

Quotes About Living in the Moment

“Be happy in the moment, that's enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”

– Mother Teresa

“Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.”

– Wayne Dyer

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.”

– Eckhart Tolle

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

“Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today.”

– James Dean

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”

– Henry David Thoreau

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”

– Dale Carnegie

Famous Dr. Seuss Quotes

Even if Dr. Seuss wasn’t the one who first (or ever) said, “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened,” he has written a lot of gems that are at once profound and simple. That being said, it’s always worth it to be discerning when considering the origin of quotes. Many well-known Dr. Seuss quotes are also thought to not really have been spoken by him.

“When something bad happens you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.”

– Dr. Seuss

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”

– Dr. Seuss

“You're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So... get on your way!”

– Dr. Seuss

“Sometimes you will never know the value of something,until it becomes a memory.”

– Dr. Seuss

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”

– Dr. Seuss

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

– Dr. Seuss

“You have to be odd to be number one.”

– Dr. Seuss

“If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it'd be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.”

– Dr. Seuss

“A life with love will have some thorns, but a life without love will have no roses. To the world, you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

– Dr. Seuss

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who'll decide where to go.”

– Dr. Seuss

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

– Dr. Seuss

“It's not about what it is, it's about what it can become.”

– Dr. Seuss

“Step with care and great tact. And remember life's a great balancing act.”

– Dr. Seuss

“Nonsense wakes up the brain cells. And it helps develop a sense of humor, which is awfully important in this day and age. Humor has a tremendous place in this sordid world. It's more than just a matter of laughing. If you can see things out of whack, then you can see how things can be in whack.”

– Dr. Seuss

Famous Gabriel Garcia Marquez Quotes

Was Gabriel Garcia Marquez really the first to say, “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened” in any language? It’s hard to say, as some would claim that the similar phrase by the German poet discussed above is arguably the same, which was published some decades before.

At the same time, Marquez has a lot of zingers that get us thinking and can serve as powerful inspiration. Let’s take a look at some of his best.

“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.”

– Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“Even when the winds of misfortune blow, amazing things can still happen.”

– Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“Nobody deserves your tears, but whoever deserves them will not make you cry.”

– Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”

– Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“Curiosity is one of the many masks of love.“

– Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“Never stop smiling not even when you're sad, someone might fall in love with your smile.”

– Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret.”

– Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“No matter what, nobody can take away the dances you've already had.”

– Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“A true friend is the one who holds your hand and touches your heart.”

– Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“Life is but a continual succession of opportunities for surviving.”

– Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“Don't struggle so much, the best things happen when not expected.”

– Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“Age isn't how old you are but how old you feel.”

– Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“I have learned that a man has the right and obligation to look down at another man, only when that man needs help to get up from the ground.”

– Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“A lie is more comfortable than doubt, more useful than love, more lasting than truth.”

– Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“It's enough for me to be sure that you and I exist at this moment.”

– Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“Always tell what you feel. Do what you think.”

– Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Embracing Fate Through Stoicism

If you’re interested in improving your life both in the short and long term, Stoic philosophy has a lot to offer. Quotes like “don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened” and their call to accept one’s fate only point to some of the profound ideas in the philosophy that can help you transform your experience.

Are you searching for more articles, quotes, and inspiration to help you as you incorporate Stoicism into your daily life? If so, make sure to check out our Stoic Quotes blog!

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Written by: Sophia Merton
Sophia received her BA from Vassar College and has always maintained a deep interest in the question of how best to live one’s life. She hopes to help others understand how they can apply Stoicism in their day-to-day lives in order to become the person they want to be, embrace the present moment, pursue their purposes, and rid themselves of unnecessary anxiety.

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