93 Stoic Quotes on Grief and Heartbreak

Updated November 2, 2022

There is a ton of saccharine, cliched advice out there for when your heart is aching, but what advice would the ancient Stoics give if they were to sit with you after a breakup or the loss of a loved one?

These Stoic quotes on grief and heartbreak can help you put your loss in perspective, remember to be grateful for the person you once loved that is now gone, and at once recognize your own pain and the tremendous opportunity provided to you in this adversity.

Marcus Aurelius Quotes on Grief, Loss, and Perception

When you suffer grief or heartbreak, it means that you are dealing with a major change in your life. We all struggle with change, but the words of Marcus Aurelius can help us remember that change is a necessary ingredient in life. If nothing ever changed, we would never grow, overcome adversity, develop, form friendships, create relationships, and so much more.

When dealing with a breakup, Marcus Aurelius has some pretty important advice: our grief and extreme emotions around the situation will likely lead to consequences that are far worse than the situation that created them. In plain English: when you are feeling the desperate pain of a breakup, do what you can to avoid making things worse by acting irrationally as a result of your emotions.

marcus aurelius stoic quote about grief

“How much more harmful are the consequences of anger and grief than the circumstances that aroused them in us!”

– Marcus Aurelius

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

– Marcus Aurelius

“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what’s left and live it properly.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“It’s unfortunate that this has happened. No. It’s fortunate that this has happened and I’ve remained unharmed.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“It’s all in how you perceive it. You’re in control. You can dispense with misperception at will, like rounding the point.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is colored by such impressions.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Dig deep within yourself, for there is a fountain of goodness ever ready to flow if you will keep digging.”

—Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius on Love and Heartbreak

Though a relationship might be ending in your life right now, it’s important to be able to realize that it is truly a blessing to be able to love– even if it hurts sometimes.

“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

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Though you break your heart, men will go on as before.”

– Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius on Loving Your Fate

The Stoics often talk about learning to love the things that happen in life, even the no-good, rotten, and bad things. When you are in the depths of heartbreak, it can feel pretty insulting for someone to tell you that your suffering and loss are a necessary thing– perhaps even a good thing.

The reality is that every time we go through something difficult, we are presented with an opportunity to learn about ourselves, learn about the world, and grow. If you felt certain that you were going to spend the rest of your life with someone, a breakup can feel like the end of the world. Though it isn’t easy, it is possible to zoom out and see that there are things that you will be able to learn from the difficulty you are currently going through that will contribute to your efforts to become the best person you can be.

marcus aurelius image and quote about love and fate

“Love only what befalls you and is spun for you by fate.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Be not disgusted, nor discouraged, nor dissatisfied, if thou dost not succeed in doing everything according to right principles; but when thou bast failed, return back again, and be content if the greater part of what thou doest is consistent with man's nature, and love this to which thou returnest.”

– Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius on Impermanence

All things must end in this life, and Marcus Aurelius is one of the people that seem to explain this most poetically. Whether our hearts are broken because a loved one died or because we’ve been ghosted once again, it’s essential to remember that the only constant in this life is change.

“Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the Universe loves nothing so much as to change the things which are, and to make new things like them.”

– Marcus Aurelius

"Everything’s destiny is to change, to be transformed, to perish. So that new things can be born.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Some things are rushing into existence, others out of it. Some of what now exists is already gone. Change and flux constantly remake the world, just as the incessant progression of time remakes eternity.

We find ourselves in a river. Which of the things around us should we value when none of them can offer a firm foothold?

Like an attachment to a sparrow: we glimpse it and it’s gone.

And life itself: like the decoction of blood, the drawing in of air. We expel the power of breathing we drew in at birth (just yesterday or the day before), breathing it out like the air we exhale at each moment.”

– Marcus Aurelius

"Alexander the Great and his mule driver both died and the same thing happened to both. They were absorbed alike into the life force of the world, or dissolved alike into atoms."

– Marcus Aurelius

"Frightened of change? But what can exist without it? What's closer to nature's heart? Can you take a hot bath and leave the firewood as it was? Eat food without transforming it? Can any vital process take place without something being changed? Can't you see? It's just the same with you - and just as vital to nature."

– Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius on Needing Help

Perhaps one of the biggest dangers of the recent popularity of modern Stoicism is the idea that being Stoic means being emotionless. This clearly isn’t the case if you spend some time with the writings of Seneca the Younger, Marcus Aurelius, and other great ancient minds of the time.

The idea isn’t that you shouldn’t have emotions at all. We can’t abolish our emotions, no matter how much time we spend with our noses in philosophical texts. The idea is to not be overtaken by our emotions and ruled by them and to reduce the experience of destructive emotions.

If you are dealing with deep pain in your heart, don’t try to convince yourself it isn’t there– that will only make things worse.

If you need help, Marcus Aurelius says, don’t be ashamed.

“Don’t be ashamed of needing help. You have a duty to fulfill just like a soldier on the wall of battle. So what if you are injured and can’t climb up without another soldier’s help?”

– Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius on Adversity

Though it can be hard to accept it at the time, whenever we go through something difficult, we are actually given a gift. When you find yourself in a situation of grief and heartbreak, you are being the gift of time to focus and work on yourself.

Even though we want to avoid difficulties in our lives at all costs, the truth is that this is where we are given the material we need to learn, grow, and develop into the virtuous people we strive to be.

“While it’s true that someone can impede our actions, they can’t impede our intentions and our attitudes, which have the power of being conditional and adaptable. For the mind adapts and converts any obstacle to its action into a means of achieving it. That which is an impediment to action is turned to advance action. The obstacle on the path becomes the way.

– Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius on the Present

Sometimes a heartbreak can make us make sweeping generalizations about our entire life. If you’re feeling inclined in this way, step back and take a deep breath. Here, Marcus Aurelius reminds us to focus on the moment at hand.

“Don’t let your reflection on the whole sweep of life crush you. Don’t fill your mind with all the bad things that might still happen. Stay focused on the present situation and ask yourself why it’s so unbearable and can’t be survived.” 

– Marcus Aurelius

Seneca on Love and Heartbreak

Seneca the Younger understood deeply the importance of love in life– both giving and receiving it. Let’s see what he has to say about love when it is in our possession and when it has slipped through our hands.

“Hecato says, ‘I can teach you a love potion made without any drugs, herbs, or special spell—if you would be loved, love.’”

– Seneca

“Friendship always benefits; love sometimes injures.”

– Seneca

“Those whom true love has held, it will go on holding.”

– Seneca

“Those alone are wise who know how to love.”

– Seneca

"Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart."

– Seneca

"Eyes will not see when the heart wishes them to be blind."

– Seneca

"The heart is great which shows moderation in the midst of prosperity."

– Seneca

"Loyalty is the holiest good in the human heart."

– Seneca

Seneca Quotes on Grief and Loss

Seneca had a remarkably profound understanding of human emotions, and it’s no surprise that he offers some sound advice on dealing with grief and loss. He both recognizes the deep pain of grief while also advising that we recognize we only have that grief because we had something wonderful in our lives that we can be grateful for.

seneca image and quote about grief

“What need is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears.”

– Seneca

“…There are certain feelings which claim their own rights. Tears fall, even when we try to suppress them, and shedding them is a relief to the mind. What is it, then? Let’s allow them to fall, but not summon them up. Let what flows be what emotion forces from us, not what is required to imitate others. Let’s not add anything to our genuine mourning, increasing it to follow someone else’s example.”

– Seneca

“How does it help…to make troubles heavier by bemoaning them?”

– Seneca

“Small sorrows speak great ones are silent."

– Seneca

“Nothing becomes so offensive so quickly as grief. When fresh it finds someone to console it, but when it becomes chronic, it is ridiculed and rightly.”

– Seneca

“The display of grief makes more demands than grief itself. How few men are sad in their own company.”

– Seneca

“That grief is light which can take counsel.”

– Seneca

“Unfamiliarity lends weight to misfortune, and there was never a man whose grief was not heightened by surprise.”

– Seneca

“It is sweet to mingle tears with tears; Griefs, where they wound in solitude, Wound more deeply.”

– Seneca

“The man who has learned to triumph over sorrow wears his miseries as though they were sacred fillets upon his brow; and nothing is so entirely admirable as a man bravely wretched.”

– Seneca

“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

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

– Seneca

seneca image and quote about loss

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

– Seneca

Epictetus Quotes on Grief

If you are looking for someone to give you a little bit of tough love, Epictetus might just be the guy for the job. A huge proponent of the fact that you are only in control of a few things in life, and you should focus your attention on those things rather than the mass of external events that are out of your control, he offers some no-nonsense words about taking responsibility for the conditions of your life.

“We cry to God Almighty, how can we escape this agony? Fool, don’t you have hands? Or could it be God forgot to give you a pair? Sit and pray your nose doesn’t run! Or, rather just wipe your nose and stop seeking a scapegoat.”

– Epictetus

Epictetus on Accepting Fate

If we are always sitting around wishing for things to be other than they are, we will likely spend our lives unhappy. If we do as Epictetus says, though, and learn to love what happens, we can achieve the ultimate goal of Stoicism– a good flow of life.

epictetus image and quote about loving fate

“Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will—then your life will flow well.”

– Epictetus

“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.”

– Epictetus

“At the times when you are delighted with a thing, place before yourself the contrary appearances. What harm is it while you are kissing your child to say with a lisping voice, “To-morrow you will die”; and to a friend also, “To-morrow you will go away or I shall, and never shall we see one another again”?”

– Epictetus

Epictetus on Impermanence

When you are suffering from heartbreak, you might find it useful to seek advice on the reality of impermanence from the great Stoic sage Epictetus. He reminds us that “we ought not to be moved by a desire of those things which are not in our power” and that all things that exist will inevitably perish.

One of the most refreshing things about the writing of Epictetus is that he proposes that we both be highly critical of ourselves but also kind to ourselves. This is a difficult balance to strike, of course, but through his words that are both no-nonsense and forgiving, we can work to overcome heartbreak in a way that helps us avoid unnecessary pain and learn to love that which fate gives us.

“Who is good if he knows not who he is? and who knows what he is, if he forgets that things which have been made are perishable, and that it is not possible for one human being to be with another always?”

– Epictetus

“When you are delighted with anything, be delighted as with a thing which is not one of those which cannot be taken away, but as something of such a kind, as an earthen pot is, or a glass cup, that, when it has been broken, you may remember what it was and may not be troubled…"

– Epictetus

Epictetus on Love and Heartbreak

Here, Epictetus reminds us that nothing is forever, that good things take time, and that there is a season for all things. If this most recent relationship didn’t work out and you are obsessing over the idea of getting back something that is gone, you are, in the words of Epictetus, “wishing for a fig in winter.”

"It takes more than just a good looking body. You've got to have the heart and soul to go with it."

– Epictetus

“What you love … has been given to you for the present, not that it should not be taken from you, nor has it been given to you for all time, but as a fig is given to you or a bunch of grapes at the appointed season of the year. But if you wish for these things in winter, you are a fool. So if you wish for your son or friend when it is not allowed to you, you must know that you are wishing for a fig in winter.”

– Epictetus

"Your master is he who controls that on which you have set your heart or wish to avoid."

– Epictetus

"If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it be a lie, laugh at it."

– Epictetus

Stoic Quotes on Being Alone

One of the hardest things about dealing with a breakup is the stark reality of what it means to be alone after having had a partner to navigate life with. Here, Seneca has some sage advice about the fact that there is some benefit to having seasons of solitude and seasons of company in life. If you’ve just had a relationship end, you are simply entering a season of solitude where there are many fruits to be enjoyed.

"Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul."

– Marcus Aurelius

“Solitude and company may be allowed to take their turns: the one creates in us the love of mankind, the other that of ourselves; solitude relieves us when we are sick of company, and conversation when we are weary of being alone so that the one cures the other. There is no man so miserable as he that is at a loss how to use his time.”

– Seneca

"One whose chief regard is for his own mind, and for the divinity within him and the service of its goodness, will strike no poses, utter no complaints, and crave neither for solitude nor yet for a crowd. Best of all, his life will be free from continual pursuing and avoiding."

– Marcus Aurelius

"The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone.”

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"It is far better to be alone, than to be in bad company.”

– George Washington

“You only grow when you are alone.”

– Paul Newman

“It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“As a body everyone is single, as a soul never.”

– Herman Hesse

Stoic Quotes About Grief

Countless brilliant minds have been influenced by Stoicism since it was first founded in ancient Greece. Let’s check in with some other Stoic-minded individuals to hear what they have to say about dealing with grief and loss in life.

"Those things that hurt, instruct."

– Benjamin Franklin

"Sorrow makes us all children again."

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

"What torments of grief you endured, from evils that never arrived."

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."

– Dr. Suess

"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."

– Khalil Gibran

"Man sheds grief as his skin sheds rain."

– Ralph Waldo Emerson             

“Grief. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal.”

– C.S. Lewis

"Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and is forced to multiply its strength.”

– Ovid                  

"Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief."

– Marcus Tullius Cicero

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

– Reinhold Niebuhr

"It is in the darkness that one finds the light.”

– Meister Eckhart         

"But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer."

– Viktor E. Frankl

"It is foolish to tear one's hair in grief, as though sorrow would be made less by baldness.”

– Marcus Tullius Cicero             

"There is no grief which time does not lessen and soften.”

– Marcus Tullius Cicero

“Grief, like a tree, has tears for its fruit.”

– Philemon

Stoic Quotes About Love and Heartbreak

One of the realities of life is that love and heartbreak go hand in hand. We cannot experience grief without having loved someone deeply, and this is a tradeoff that is inherent to the full experience of life.

"A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue but the parent of all the other virtues."

– Marcus Tullius Cicero

"We must be ever on the search for some persons whom we shall love and who will love us in return. If good will and affection are taken away, every joy is taken from life."

– Marcus Tullius Cicero

“Love is the attempt to form a friendship inspired by beauty.”

– Marcus Tullius Cicero

"Thus nature has no love for solitude, and always leans, as it were, on some support; and the sweetest support is found in the most intimate friendship.

– Marcus Tullius Cicero

"Pain is never unbearable or unending, so you can remember these limits and not add to them in your imagination.”

– Epicurus

“The higher we are placed, the more humbly we should walk.”

– Marcus Tullius Cicero

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”

– Robert Frost

"If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. And if they don't, they never were.

– Khalil Gibran

"So it's true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.”

– E. A. Bucchianeri

"There is no remedy for love but to love more.”

– Henry David Thoreau

"Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.

– C.S. Lewis

"Love begins with a smile, grows with a kiss, and ends with a teardrop.”

– Saint Augustine

“The great tragedy of life is not that men perish, but that they cease to love.”

– W. Somerset Maughham

“This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something.”

– Elizabeth Gilbert

"In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

– Albert Camus              

"What right have I to grieve, who have not ceased to wonder?”

– Henry David Thoreau

"For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation."

– Rainer Maria Rilke

"To cheat oneself out of love is the most terrible deception; it is an eternal loss for which there is no reparation, either in time or in eternity.”

– Soren Kierkegaard

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

– Winston Churchill

Are you looking for more advice from the greatest minds in history? Head over to our library of Stoic quotes to find thousands of quotes about every topic, from life and death to anxiety and gratitude.

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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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