Where Does ‘What Is Grief If Not Love Persevering’ Come From?

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Few TV shows were as popular in 2021 as Disney+’s series WandaVision. On its surface, WandaVision was a miniseries sitcom that blends both classic television tropes with Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Following the ups and downs of Wanda Maximoff and Vision, this seems to be nothing more than a quirky show about love and family. 

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Within a few episodes, however, there’s a shift. It becomes clear that this show harbors much more below the surface. Though certainly containing elements of quirky sitcoms, WandaVision is a study of grief and loss.

Through Wanda, as well as other characters, Disney+ explores the stages of grief. Containing one of the most famous quotes about death, what exactly does this TV show mean by “But what is grief if not love persevering?” 

In this in-depth tribute to WandaVision, we’ll explore the truth behind this grief quote. We’ll also examine the ways in which this miniseries portrays the spectrum of grief, death, and what lies beyond. 

Origin of ‘But What Is Grief If Not Love Persevering?’

First, where does this quote appear? The origin of “But what is grief if not love persevering?” comes from the penultimate episode of WandaVision. In this episode, the main character Wanda takes a trip through her past with an AI guide. Wanda revisits the trauma of her past, exploring different forms of loss. 

She relives the bombing of her childhood home in Sokovia, the loss of her freedom to Hydra, and the death of her brother. To Wanda, loss is a close friend. She has lived a life full of loss, from her childhood to the present day.

In one particular flashback, Wanda is comforted by Vision. Though Vision is a synthezoid so he has no family, he still attempts to understand what Wanda feels after the loss of her brother. He famously says:

“It can’t all be sorrow, can it? I’ve always been alone, so I don’t feel the lack. It’s all I’ve ever known. I’ve never experienced loss because I’ve never had a loved one to lose. But what is grief, if not love persevering?”

In most forms of media, grief is seen as something that one escapes. With enough time, you’ll “heal” and feel more like yourself. This Vision quote offers a different way to look at grief.

Instead of trying to run away from it, Vision encourages Wanda to embrace her grief. This message lays the framework for their later romantic relationship, and it’s a reminder that we all experience loss in different ways. 

Interpretations of ‘But What Is Grief If Not Love Persevering?’

In all TV and movies about grief, people come to their own conclusions and interpretations. In WandaVision, people from all backgrounds clung to the different interpretations of this famous quote. Whatever it means to you, your interpretation is valid. In fact, there are many renditions of grief in WandaVision. 

While Wanda’s story is the most highlighted, it seems like every character in this series has his or her own version of grief to grapple with. Here are some of the most popular interpretations of “But what is grief if not love persevering?”

The stages of grief

Of course, one of the first readings of this quote is through the lens of the stages of grief. The episodes of the show were written with the five stages of grief in mind as defined by the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Model. In this model, the stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 

The first stage is very apparent in the first few episodes of the miniseries. These are fully black-and-white, reminiscent of 50s and 60s classic sitcoms. However, the “picture perfect” facade soon cracks, and the laugh tracks fall into the background as Wanda experiences her first outburst of anger in the third episode.

As Wanda confronts the agents outside of her town for the first time, she bargains for a future she can control. It all moves towards acceptance when Wanda finally accepts the truth. 

Complicated grief

Another way to view this series is through the idea of complicated grief. While many believe grief follows a traditional timeline and stages, this isn't always the case. Complicated grief is when the symptoms of loss and mourning don’t get better over time.

Instead, they become even more intense. This leads people to feel trapped in their emotional turmoil. Instead of healing, the entire world seems painted by this loss. 

In the world of WandaVision, Wanda quite literally traps a town of people in her own world of complicated grief. Instead of healing, she builds a “happy” sitcom life with her recently deceased lover Vision. This is how she avoids ever dealing with her real feelings of loss, instead escaping into a fictional reality. 

The power of “goodbye” 

In the final episode of WandaVision, Wanda and her family share a touching goodbye scene. They say their final words, and they mourn their time together. This heart-wrenching scene displays the real power of saying “goodbye” and finding closure with loved ones when it comes to healing. 

However, not all characters in this miniseries are as lucky as Wanda and Vision. Another key character, Monica, never had the opportunity to say goodbye to her dying mother. During the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, Thanos exterminated half of all the life in the universe. 

They reappeared in exactly the same place five years later, but this was too late for many people. For Monica, she reappeared in the same room where she was with her mother years earlier. Unfortunately, she already passed, and she never got to say goodbye. This continues to hinder Monica’s grief, making it hard for her to move on.

Advance directives and honoring wishes

Lastly, this WandaVision quote also gives a framework for viewing how we honor loved ones’ wishes. Vision was very clear about how he wished to be honored after his death. He did not want to be resurrected, and he didn’t want to be used as a weapon. As such, Wanda’s actions to bring him back are a serious breach of his wishes. 

This is a reminder for all viewers that your wishes matter, and it’s important to honor the wishes of loved ones. Not only should we create our own end-of-life plans while we can, but we should share these with loved ones. Failing to honor these wishes only makes it harder to process our grief. 

Other Marvel Quotes About Grief

With that in mind, where can you find other quotes about grief from the Marvel Cinematic Universe? This superhero world is about more than defeating bad guys and saving the day. In fact, the MCU frequently grapples with important topics like life, death, and what comes after. 

“Don’t waste it. Don’t waste your life.” (Iron Man)

The famous last words of Ho Yinsen from Iron Man are a reminder to not let grief get in the way of living. We never know when our time will come. It’s important to live each day to the fullest. 

“It can’t be all sorrow, can it?” (WandaVision)

Another famous quote from WandaVision is Vision’s comforting words to Wanda. He tries to understand what it means to grieve a loss. Profoundly, he recognizes that it can’t be all sadness. It’s also the love and the joy you had for this person. 

“But a thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts. It’s a privilege to be among them.” (Avengers)

In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Vision tells Ultron he defends humans because he loves humankind. Though they’re mortals with short lives, this isn’t what makes something beautiful. Because their lives are brief and bright, they shine forever. 

“What did it cost? Everything.” (Avengers)

When asked what it cost to get a balanced universe, Thanos replies it cost “everything.” He was referring to having to sacrifice his favorite daughter. 

“Let me go. It’s okay.” (Avengers)

Avengers: Endgame was not without its fair share of loss. When Hawkeye finds himself tethered to the edge and about to fall off, Black Widow tells him to let her go. She knows she’ll fall to her death, but she wants her friend to live on. 

Understanding Grief Through WandaVision

Vision had a special way with words throughout the Disney+ series. Though he didn’t seem to know what was going on throughout the majority of the series, he’s no stranger to grief. His famous quote rang true not just for Wanda, but for viewers everywhere. Especially relevant in today’s world, it’s never been more important to understand the cost of grief, healing, and whatever comes next. 

Movies and TV replicate real life. Though dramatized. Real-world grief feels strikingly similar to the depictions seen on TV—even when watching superheroes. If there’s one thing to be learned from WandaVision, it’s that there’s no escaping from the real feelings of your grief. It must be felt. In accepting this pain for what it is (love persevering), we find acceptance.

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