Sometimes I grieve for the person I have become without her.

I am part of his lasting mark on this earth. This keeps me going.

Photographic memories are comforting. Remember the good times.

I have learned not to fear death because I watched the grace and dignity with which she faced hers.

Grief & Ritual

A presentation of the mural included a discussion on grief and rituals with the Heraklion community. We also invite you to share your own experiences on this site. This is an ongoing archive of experiences of loss and the rituals that have provided solace. Grief is perhaps the most universal yet most isolating of emotions, and we hope sharing our experiences might offer reassurance or at least help others feel less alone.

It’s been three years since I lost her but there are moments that I turn to tell her something funny and I find her place on the sofa empty. I think these moments are the most difficult. The moments I think about her, the moments I want to share something. I just tell it out loud and in my mind I hear her response, what she would tell me, how she would react. This fills me with relief because I can feel her next to me.


Athens, Greece

I lost my mom on May 5 of 2015. After a long battle with cancer, she died in a hospice room. We watched her take her last breath. She seemed to fight the end—until it seemed her body reminded her there was no other way out. Grief feels heavy. It broke apart a family that, in my eyes, wasn’t entirely together. I try so hard to forgive others because she was so giving. It has proven to be very hard to do. Cancer and the cost of fighting it—plus being let go from a job she had worked at since before my birth in 2005 just a handful of months from lung surgery to remove a tumor—robbed her of the chance to retire in peace.

Grief feels heavy and dark. I try to eat many of her favorite foods, recreate some of her favorite meals (perfect homemade flour tortillas elude me still), visit the library (she loved James Patterson novels), wear her grey turtleneck sweater, keep in touch with my sister and send her texts my mother might send, even though she was terrible at texting. I kept the last voicemail that she sent one week before she died. I spend time in the house she tried so hard to save.


, United States

I was at home in Iceland when my daughter rang me with the news that my son died in Australia. I am forever changed. I see my life as before and after the event, a greyer lens on my existence. He was a musician and I listen to his voice whenever I need to.


Skagaströnd, Iceland

My husband went out in the morning one day to buy his first really nice piano. I left to go away with friends for part of the weekend. He did not call me like he usually does during the day. I had a friend go check our house as he was not answering his phone. I knew something was wrong. We found out he was in the hospital five hours away. I fell to my knees and hung onto the legs of my friends. He’d had a major stroke and was dying.

We were at the hospital with him for four days. I had the life support removed and he died while we sang and held him, and poems were spoken. He looked beautiful, like a god. It was peaceful. It was the worst moment of my life. It is two years later now. I am in Spain studying Spanish. I am trying to find a new life. I am lost. I follow threads. I don’t miss him, as much as I miss the life we had, that dissolved when he left his body. That body was our home. Grief today is quieter but comes like a trap door unexpectedly opening under my feet. I have times of great joy now, and I am glad the deepest sorrow has passed. But I don’t know what my life will become.

Magic. The universe sends me magic. A favorite song will begin playing out a window as I pass by. A book will fall into my lap with an inscription in it at the right moment. The hope and belief that life can be bigger and better, and that I survived this, sustains me.


Santa Rosa, California

I lost my lover. He’s alive—he only left me, but still it aches like someone has passed away. Something died inside me, something important exited my life without notice. I want to say if someone is heartbroken, in a state of deep grief after a break up, you are not alone. It only shows that you have the ability to deeply love someone. I feel the pain of rejection and regret, but at the same time I also feel that I continue to receive gifts of growth and strength by overcoming the grief day by day. I do not have religious faith, but some prayers did help me overcome the difficult times. I pray so that I would be pardoned by giving pardon, that I would be consoled by giving consolation. I pray that I will become part of something bigger than myself, and that the universe will help me positively influence another person’s life. I always try to have love.


, Japan

I lost my Mother to cancer in November 16, 2016. She was also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s few years prior. I was aware the cancer was aggressive and our only recourse at the time was pain management. I was adamant to keep my mother home until she crossed over, and so I was there in our home holding her hand singing ‘Like my Mother Does’ when she took her last breath. It was the most excruciating and difficult thing I have ever had to do, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I just wanted my mom to know I was there and she was not alone. Grief to me is an imaginary friend who follows me everywhere. Not always present to others yet I know it is there. In every conversation, every thing I do the absence is always very evident to me.

I often referred to my Mother and I as ‘Thelma & Louise’. I watch it when I am feeling very sad and alone, and I laugh and remember all of our good times and the adventures we had. I am currently in the process of becoming an Advocate for the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada in hopes to honor my mother and help others. I find doing things in her memory and honor bring me purpose and comfort to continue her legacy. So that everyone who meets me will also know her. My greatest inspiration and my hero.

Marie Grcic

, Canada

I have lost my sweetheart and my health. I keep trying to let go, but memories overwhelm me like an ocean wave crashing over me. Moments of tenderness from memories of loving and being loved help me treasure what was.

Nancy Pfaff

Reno, USA

I lost a close friend and mentor, my fairy godmother. I was on the other side of the world when I got the call. It still feels raw and I often pretend the loss isn’t real, that she will be there when I get back home. I wore heavy liquid eyeliner in mourning; she always wore a full face with sixties sex-kitten eyes. She gave me a $100 note with good luck messages written on it before I went away traveling, saying it would help bring me home. I’ll never spend it. I’m making a performance piece about her, probably for closure, about the places we used to go. It is here that her absence is most palpable. Changing, becoming voids as well.


Skagaströnd, Iceland

I lost my first born son to the needle just over a year ago—and yes, grief is a beast that will never be tamed. Feathers, he gives me feathers.


Melbourne, Australia

My uncle died by suicide. My mom told us he was missing when she was sure he was dead. She told me on the way home from my dancing lesson, and I burrowed my head a little lower in my scarf and asked if there was anything to eat at home—to break the tension of my brothers standing around the table. He wasn’t in my life enough to really miss him, but I think I’m scared of what we have in common. I dedicated my degree to him because was very intelligent but never got the chance to pursue academia in working class England in the 1950s. I told him this at his grave.


Skagaströnd, Iceland

I’ve lost dear pets. I’ve lost my grandmother. But the grief that has stayed with me the longest is losing my father. We found out he had stage 4 cancer in July and he was in a hospital every day until September. I became engaged less than a week after we found out. I was married the year after. A year after that, I bought a house. I was promoted at work. All big changes that he would have been so proud to see me accomplish. All moments that I would have loved to share with him. The grief still comes around, nudging me at times while I’m driving. Nudging me at times when I’m alone at home.

I find solace when I react, do, or say things that remind me that I am indeed my father’s daughter. I am glad I get to carry that with me, and I hope he is aware of the impression he made on me. He helped me become the strong and independent woman that I am. I am part of his lasting mark on this earth. This keeps me going.

Maria Wilk McLaughlin

Connecticut, USA

My wife died in the summer of 2011. Her last words to me were help me die. Not in an assisted suicide way, but rather to help her on her way. Her body was full of cancer and she was trying so hard to die that the adrenaline was keeping her body going. I spoke to her, encouraging her to relax and let go, to not fight it. After about twenty minutes she gently drew her last breath. I don’t remember most of the next two and a half years. Grief is still my constant companion. I don’t cry much anymore. I walk around with what I can only describe as an emptiness. I enjoy many things today and the emptiness is still there lurking in the background. I was never angry about her death. The emptiness swallows the sadness, anger, and all the other feelings that could have resulted from her death. There is nothing to strike back at and alone at night is still difficult.

‘Comfort’ is a funny word. There is nothing that comforts me. Friends help. I used to say that I hoped I would die first. After living through her death, I am glad I didn’t die first because she didn’t have to go through what I did. I’m old enough now to know that more of life is behind me than ahead of me, and I hold fast in the belief that there is an afterlife and we will be reunited. In some way still unknown to me, we will be together again. I have learned not to fear death because I watched the grace and dignity with which she faced hers. This is my solace.


Maryland, USA

I lost my mother one week ago. She suffered from cancer but died from bacterial meningitis. I feel sad but also very angry about her loss; I cry and still have not realized that she’s gone. I feel angry about the injustice of losing good people who have things to offer for more years but for some reason they have to go. I need to protect my father who lost his wife. My mother had this saying about having the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.


Heraklion, Greece

Grief is not something that I have entirely felt in my life but something for which I am getting prepared. Due to the bad condition of a beloved person, I feel that I grieve every day more or less. I grieve for the moments I can’t share with her anymore, for the moments I can’t help but missing her. Sometimes I grieve for the person I have become without her and at the same time I feel blessed for the time she dedicated to helping me become the person I am today.


Heraklion, Greece

I watched my dad die. He was only 58. Then cancer took my mum and two sisters. My mum was old but it was hard to see her deteriorate in such an unkind way. My sisters died within nine months of each other, a few years ago. Being far from home, I always hear the news by phone or internet. Today grief feels like a huge part of my life. I deal with it because I must. Photographic memories are comforting. Remember the good times.

Kate Struth

Heraklion, Greece

My partner just lost his aunt. She was like a mother and best friend to him. We’re in a different city so there has been lots of traveling before and after the death. As it only just happened, we are in shock and survival mode. Finding comfort is tricky as I was not close to her but he was. I guess it’s a mixture of trying to distract from the pain yet also offering comfort and remembrance—very difficult in a world where you don’t get much time to reflect.

Mathew Halpin

Heraklion, Greece

I carry a stone from Rockaway Beach, where he taught me how to surf. No matter how bad I was at it, he was always so encouraging. It reminds me of him and to be brave like he was.


New York City, USA

In Taiwan my uncle took me to a Taoist temple and we burned “ghost money”, a symbolic paper money to honor and send prosperity to my elder uncle, grandparents, and older ancestors. It helped me feel connected to them and the local community as we expressed our grief and devotion in this beautiful space together.


New Orleans, USA

I found out my grandfather was dying while I was standing in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant somewhere in Utah. I drove two thousand miles to reach him before he died. I did not make it in time. My grandfather had a peculiar old brass lamp shaped like a pirate that used to frighten me as a child. Now I keep it on my desk and each time I switch it on, I think of him.


Michigan, USA