25+ Inspirational Quotes on Overcoming Tragedy

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When tragedy strikes, it might not be on the level of Shakespeare, but still can feel like a setback. Shock, pain, sadness register as potentially intense emotions when sudden death, terminal diagnosis or injury happens to you or a loved one. In some cases, there might not be words to describe the searing sensation of tragedy. 

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You might need to spend some time alone, spend time with your community of faith, or read books on grief. Life may not offer those long stretches of time to deal with a tragedy, but a zap of encouragement or solace may be a way to get you going when it gets rough.

Likewise, you could be looking to help zap someone with some encouragement or support. There are always some appropriate “rest in peace” quotes for a condolence card or when you are trying to help a friend. However, if none of these seem to strike the right tone, consider some of the quotes below to offer during times of tragedy.

Quotes About Family Tragedies

Coping with family tragedy can take a lot of strength. Whether you’re consoling someone or looking for strength yourself, these quotes might help. 

1. “The mindset of loss of a loved one is to understand that the loss will never be undone. You must live with it, like it or not. But, to live well, you must turn that loss into something positive. That way, you can become the best version of yourself; scarred, flawed and unstoppable.” - Val Uchendu, Actor

Many people offer the sentiment of developing strength as a result of an overwhelming loss.

When starting with a loss, sometimes looking for words like these or others in places like grief blogs to find advice and empathy might be just what you need.

2. “Memories is all that you have, which help you survive the storms and struggles of your daily life after you lose someone.” - Nikita Dudani, Author

It feels sad to have nothing but memories. But Dudani also notes that memories can be like a precious life raft, something to cling to during hard times. 

3. “It is worth remembering that the time of greatest gain in terms of wisdom and inner strength is often that of greatest difficulty.” - Dalai Lama, Monk

No one wants to hear about how tragedy builds character, but the Dalai Lama gently advises that you’ll hopefully become a better person.

Tragedy upends many lives, but even with change, there comes a certain knowledge of living a life with suffering.

4. “God’s dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion.” - Desmond Tutu, Cleric and Activist

When you lose someone, that can be the most important time to draw closer to other people you love for support.

5. “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” - Dalai Lama, Monk

It’s tempting to emotionally shut down during times of tragedy. This quote is a reminder that remaining open to love can be a survival mechanism too. 

Quotes About Tragedy in Love

Not all tragedy ends in death. Sometimes, just like a tragic Shakespeare play, tragedy can also involve love.

6. “There is a saying in Tibetan, 'Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.' No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that's our real disaster.” - Dalai Lama, Monk

The Dalai Lama has offered thousands of words of wisdom for hard times, but the core message of most center around the firm belief in optimism for the future.

He suggests that one must always have hope, even when things seem exceptionally dark.

7.  “We pass through this world but once. Few tragedies can be more extensive than the stunting of life, few injustices deeper than the denial of an opportunity to strive or even to hope, by a limit imposed from without, but falsely identified as lying within.” - Stephen Jay Gould, Author

At times, there are no words to make a tragedy better. Like Gould does, it’s best to admit tragedy for what it is—injustice, pain, and loss. 

8. “The whole world can become the enemy when you lose what you love.”  - Kristina McMorris, Author

Do you feel guilty that you’re angry and resentful after a loss? McMorris gently reminds us that the reaction is common. 

9. “If we climb high enough, we will reach a height from which tragedy ceases to look tragic.” - Irvin D. Yalom, Author

Right after a tragic event isn’t the time to remind someone that “things happen for a reason” or seek to find a place for the tragedy amidst a lifetime.

Giving someone time to recover, and gain some perspective on the matter can be important. 

10. The tragedy is not that love doesn't last. The tragedy is the love that lasts.” - Shirley Hazzard, Author

It’s easy to call the end of love a tragedy. But if that was the case, tragedy wouldn’t hurt us. Love that endures after someone’s life is over becomes a casualty all by itself—even though it’s worth it. 

Quotes About Senseless Tragedies

Tragedies never make sense. They always spark questions—why me, why them, why now? But some tragedies can stretch beyond the limits of our comprehension. They’re too much to handle or even think about.

11. “The tragedy about history - personally and globally is that while we may learn it we rarely learn from it.” - Rasheed Ogunlaru, Author

We’ve all heard about history repeating itself. But learning from tragedy sometimes isn’t the goal. For some people, the only lesson from tragedy is survival.

12. “Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.” -Robert F. Kennedy, Politician

This quote would be great to use if you’re looking for “gone, but not forgotten” words of sympathy messages if you know someone is struggling with this. 

13. “Tragedy is like strong acid. It dissolves away all but the very gold of truth.”  - D. H. Lawrence, Author

Loving people is complicated. It’s hard to know how you really feel until tragedy strikes, pushing all your emotions down to the bare minimum. 

14. “It's not the tragedies that kill us, it's the messes.” - Dorothy Parker, Author

Parker doesn’t ascribe blame to a single event. Instead, she realizes that the aftermath can be what affects most people. 

15. “You get tragedy where the tree, instead of bending, breaks.” - Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosopher

Being strong and flexible is an asset. But the weight of an unexplainable tragedy can cause a ‘tree’ to snap. It takes time for it to regrow and come back to life. 

Quotes About Finding Humor in Tragedy

As we have been taught in society, laughter can be a survival mechanism. It’s important to remember it during hard times, just like therapy, grief books or any other healthy method of coping. 

16. “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.” - Mel Brooks, Comedian

It’s a fine line between tragedy and comedy—it all depends on your perspective. 

17. “Life is a tragedy for those who feel, and a comedy for those who think.” - Jean de la Bruyere, Philosopher

Feelings can bog you down and make you suffer, even if you don’t want them to. But taking a good dose of irony can help mitigate you taking your feelings too seriously.

18. “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in the long-shot.” - Charlie Chaplin, Comedian

Hindsight offers the best point of view sometimes. You can only see the comedy in an event after you’ve had time to process and look back.

19. “It is the tragedy of the world that no one knows what he doesn't know and the less a man knows, the more sure he is that he knows everything.” - Joyce Cary, Author

You can be sure that you know everything. But when it comes down to it, no one really knows how to deal with tragedy. 

20. “Comedy is tragedy that happens to other people.” -Angela Carter, Author

Have you ever heard the saying that “it’s funny until it happens to you?” Carter agrees!

Quotes About Overcoming Tragedy

It takes time to overcome tragedy, including the work of moving through the stages of grief. After that? It’s not over yet, sadly, as you may have to put in the long work of healing. 

21.“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” - Robert F. Kennedy, Politician

Overcoming tragedy takes courage. Often, there are no great leaps of faith in healing. It’s just tiny steps that create ripples and waves over time. 

22. “Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways.” - Dalai Lama, Monk

Senseless tragedies are often part of a larger universal fabric, pointing to civil unrest or social injustice. Whether personal or not, overcoming these tragedies requires a lot of work through what the Dalai Lama mentioned above.

Only by putting in the hard work of education, knowledge and observation, can people look back at tragedies with a different point of view.

23.“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” - Nelson Mandela, Activist

Tragedy caused by hate is hard can be exceptionally hard to rationalize and understand. But it provides a straightforward coping mechanism. Education and effort help reduce the chances that the tragedy that struck you, will never happen to someone else. 

24. “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” - Harriet Tubman, Activist

It’s easy to dream of a world where there’s no pain, violence, or tragedy. Tubman insists the ability to make your dream come true already exists inside of you. You just have to use that energy.

25. “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.” - Nelson Mandela, Activist

With all tragedies, both large and small, the road to healing is not an easy one. Mandela, who was victim to and witnessed some of humanity’s darkest actions, promises that the hard path of optimism is the most necessary. 

Choosing a Quote that Speaks to You

All of these quotes can provide a starting point for any ceremony for the celebration of a loved one’s life, or a funeral service that requires some eulogy writing. If you have a loved one who is looking at starting end-of-life planning, some of these quotes might be perfect to include as food for thought in obituaries or funeral handouts.

In addition, if you’re looking to provide support for someone else, feel free to share them in person or include them in a sympathy card.


Sources 

  1. The Peace Alliance. “Peace and Inspirational Quotes.” n.d., peacealliance.org/tools-education/peace-inspirational-quotes/
  2. Academia. “Treasures of Wisdom: Most Sensational Quotes of All Time.” n.d., www.academia.edu/21782179/Treasure_of_Wisdom_The_Most_Sensational_Quotes_of_all_Time
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