💚Was there any wisdom, any words of clarity about how to handle grief in the Buddhist scriptures or in a good teacher's interpretation? Is grief a unique mind state? Is it lobha based?

  • There was, and not asked for the first time. Gone isn't to avoid of what has become. So why again?
    – user24247
    Oct 19, 2022 at 5:23

3 Answers 3


Grief Management

AN 5:49 tells of how King Pasenadi happened to be in the Buddha’s presence when one of his courtiers came and whispered into his ear that his favorite queen, Mallikā, had just died. Overcome with shock and sorrow, the king could do nothing but sit there brooding, his shoulders drooping, at a loss for words.

The Buddha’s immediate response was to teach him three things to do to manage his grief. The first was to reflect on the universality of loss. No one anywhere, no matter how powerful, can arrange for what is subject to change not to change, or for what is subject to death not to die. To the extent that there are beings—past, present, and future—change and death happen to all of them. This thought helps take some of the personal sting out of the loss, allowing you to acquiesce to what has happened and not to waste energy in trying to undo what can’t be undone.

The second step the Buddha taught to the king was that as long as he saw that traditional funeral observances performed a useful function in giving skillful expression to his sense of loss and to his appreciation for the person now gone, he should arrange them. The Buddha never advocated that his listeners try to smother their grief with feigned indifference. As long as they felt a need to express their loss, they should try to do it in a skillful and healing way.

Among the observances he mentioned as potentially useful were eulogies, donations, and the recital of wise sayings. These three activities have since formed the core of funeral observances in many Buddhist traditions. If you actually want to help the person who has passed on, you make gifts and do good in other ways. Then you dedicate the merit to your loved one. To heal the wound in your heart, and to encourage goodness in the people still alive, you express your appreciation for your loved one’s goodness. To remind you of the continued value of Dhamma practice, you listen to passages of Dhamma. Weeping and wailing accomplish none of this. They destroy your health, cause distress to those who love you, and please those who hate or despise you.

The Buddha mentioned this last point as motivation for gathering energy for the third step, which is to remind yourself that there are still good things to accomplish in life. For the sake of your true well-being and that of others, once you’ve skillfully expressed your appreciation for your loved one, you need to get back to the good work that the loss has interrupted.

The Buddha gave just an outline explanation of these three steps to Pasenadi, perhaps assuming that the king would know how to fill in the details, especially for steps one and three. But our discussion in Chapters Three and Six should allow us to fill in the details ourselves.

With regard to the first step, reflecting on the universality of loss: In light of the practice of the brahmavihāras, when you think of all the beings everywhere who have suffered loss, the obvious response should be compassion. When you think of how unavoidable and pervasive loss is throughout the cosmos, it helps to broaden your heart and to enlarge your compassion for the suffering of others. At the same time, the act of broadening your perspective on others’ loss and grief helps you gain some distance from your own. You pull out of your grief, not by denying it—for that would be inhumane—but by turning it into a more healing, expansive, and uplifting emotion, one that acknowledges suffering but, instead of being swallowed up by it, allows the mind to grow larger than its sufferings and to manage a more ennobling and nourishing response to them.

From this enlarged perspective, you can gain a broader sense of what needs to be done in the third step of grief management, reflecting on what good work you still have to do in life. In the words of the question that ended the Buddha’s conversation with Pasenadi, you should ask yourself, “What important work am I doing now?” The wise response is not to define “important” in terms of the pressing responsibilities of the daily grind. Instead, you think about what’s important in terms of the future course of your life as a whole."

by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu "Grief for the Loss of a Loved One"


The Buddha speaks about grief in AN 5:49. This search turned up a few others that also may help shift perspective, and provide a little relief.


Grief vanishes once you see through the eyes of Dhamma. What has a beginning must have an end. So why grief?

Also forms is not me , mine or myself. Feelings are not me , mine or myself. Choices , perceptions and consciousness are not me mine or myself. So why grief ?

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