Healing is a process. It’s a journey that can be shared with the people around you as you learn, cope, and grow together. It can also be personal, vital, and transformative. Sometimes, it’s fluffy and feels like a weight being lifted off your weary shoulders. Other times, it’s long and excruciating. Sometimes, a tiny shift in perspective can soothe and comfort your spirit. Other times, you need to reinforce the ideas and behaviour that keep you from scratching at old wounds.
Healing is not a linear process. We all need help. It comes in the form of kind smiles, insightful books, therapy and quiet signs from the universe. It comes in the form of people, the physical presence of someone who cares, and the wonders of human civilization. It comes in the form of nature, the wind that gushes to your teary face and videos of penguins tripping in ice miles away. I hope this list of healing quotes serves as a reminder of why we take the journey and what helps keep us on it.
Healing Quotes About People
“Just remember, life is a box of cookies. You know how they’ve got these cookie assortments, and you like some but you don’t like others? And you eat up all the ones you like, and the only ones left are the ones you don’t like so much? I always think about that when something painful comes up. ‘Now I just have to polish these off, and everything’ll be O.K.’ Life is a box of cookies.”
—Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood
“Most of what I know
I’ve learned from falling,
from placing the brighter side
of my hands against the earth
and pressing until vertical.
The ground has taught me
more about flight
than the sky ever could.”
—Rudy Francisco, I’ll Fly Away
“What I know about living is the pain is never just ours
Every time I hurt I know the wound is an echo
So I keep a listening to the moment the grief becomes a window
When I can see what I couldn’t see before,
through the glass of my most battered dream, I watched a dandelion lose its mind in the wind
and when it did, it scattered a thousand seeds.
So the next time I tell you how easily I come out of my skin, don’t try to put me back in
just say here we are together at the window aching for it to all get better
but knowing as bad as it hurts our hearts may have only just skinned their knees knowing there is a chance the worst day might still be coming
let me say right now for the record, I’m still gonna be here
asking this world to dance, even if it keeps stepping on my holy feet
you- you stay here with me, okay?
You stay here with me.”
—Andrea Gibson, “The Nutritionist“
“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”
—Kitty O’Meara, And The People Stayed Home
“We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life…it’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s 4 a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt.”
—Marina Keegan, The Opposite Of Loneliness
“Every widow wakes one morning, perhaps after years of pure and unwavering grieving, to realize she slept a good night’s sleep, and will be able to eat breakfast, and doesn’t hear her husband’s ghost all the time, but only some of the time.
Her grief is replaced with a useful sadness.
Every parent who loses a child finds a way to laugh again.
The timbre begins to fade. The edge dulls. The hurt lessens.
Every love is carved from loss. Mine was. Yours is.
Your great-great-great-grandchildren’s will be.
But we learn to live in that love.”
—Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated
“You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people, and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living breathing screaming invitation to believe better things.”
—Jamie Tworkowski, If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For
“When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”
—Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
“During the holidays, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that family is supposed to look a certain way. It’s easy to look at everyone else’s lives and assume that what they have is “right” or better. And it’s difficult not to internalize those comparisons and feel like there’s something wrong with you if your family and the way you spend the holidays doesn’t match up. But the truth is that no family is perfect.
Every person has painful pieces of their family story or dynamics that are unhealthy. Every family has conflicts and ugly moments and circumstances that leave us feeling alone or overwhelmed or unloved. You just don’t see those realities because no one talks about it.
So if the holidays are painful for you, know that it’s okay. You aren’t a failure for not being able “to pull it together” and feel happy. You aren’t pathetic if you don’t have loved one’s to go to or if you’ve had to create distance with family to practice self care. Your life isn’t inadequate if your family gatherings don’t feel “the way they’re supposed to”, and there’s nothing wrong with you if any of these things make you feel heartbroken or anxious or sad.”
“I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships so will our healing, and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside.”
—Wm. Paul Young, The Shack: When Tragedy Confronts Eternity
Healing Quotes About Reading and Writing
“I believe in fiction and the power of stories because that way we speak in tongues. We are not silenced. All of us, when in deep trauma, find we hesitate, we stammer; there are long pauses in our speech. The thing is stuck. We get our language back through the language of others. We can turn to the poem. We can open the book. Somebody has been there for us and deep-dived the words.”
—Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.
When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again.
It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”
—Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
More Literary Quotes About The Healing Process
“A student once asked anthropologist Margaret Mead, “What is the earliest sign of civilization?” The student expected her to say a clay pot, a grinding stone, or maybe a weapon.
Margaret Mead thought for a moment, then she said, “A healed femur.” A femur is the longest bone in the body, linking hip to knee. In societies without the benefits of modern medicine, it takes about six weeks of rest for a fractured femur to heal. A healed femur shows that someone cared for the injured person, did their hunting and gathering, stayed with them, and offered physical protection and human companionship until the injury could mend.
Mead explained that where the law of the jungle – the survival of the fittest – rules, no healed femurs are found. The first sign of civilization is compassion, seen in a healed femur.”
—Ira Byock, The Best Care Possible: A Physician’s Quest to Transform Care Through the End of Life
“The place of true healing is a fierce place. It’s a giant place. It’s a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light. And you have to work really, really, really hard to get there, but you can do it. You’re a woman who can travel that far.”
—Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
“Each of us has a unique part to play in the healing of the world.”
—Marianne Williamson, The Law of Divine Compensation: On Work, Money and Miracles
“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams healing can begin.”
—Danielle Bernock, Emerging With Wings: A True Story of Lies, Pain, And The LOVE that Heals
“I see you standing there with a mouthful of poetry yet a head full of doubt.
You are sharp yet softening while needing to be split open and poured out.
So let go.
All the things you now carry,
all weights that pull you down,
all the beauty you’d forgotten,
any flame burned out.
Tell me what awaits just beyond
the edge of your ache.
There’s relief in the speaking.
And there’s strength in being seen.”
—Victoria Erickson, Edge of Wonder: Notes from the Wildness of Being
“To heal is to touch with love that which we previously touched with fear.”
“And gradually his memory slipped a little, as memories do, even those with so much love attached to them; as if there is an unconscious healing process within the mind which mends up in spite of our desperate determination never to forget.”
—Colleen McCullough, The Thorn Birds
“Letting ourselves be forgiven is one of the most difficult healings we will undertake. And one of the most fruitful.”
—Stephen Levine, A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last
“I wake up & it breaks my heart. I draw the blinds & the thrill of rain breaks my heart. I go outside. I ride the train, walk among the buildings, men in Monday suits. The flight of doves, the city of tents beneath the underpass, the huddled mass, old women hawking roses, & children all of them, break my heart. There’s a dream I have in which I love the world. I run from end to end like fingers through her hair. There are no borders, only wind. Like you, I was born. Like you, I was raised in the institution of dreaming. Hand on my heart. Hand on my stupid heart.”
—Cameron Awkward-Rich, Meditations in an Emergency
“Month by month things are losing their hardness; even my body now lets the light through; my spine is soft like wax near the flame of a candle. I dream; I dream.”
—Virginia Woolf, The Waves
“Every living thing is, from the cosmic perspective, incredibly lucky simply to be alive. Most, 90 percent and more, of all the organisms that have ever lived have died without viable offspring, but not a single one of your ancestors, going back to the dawn of life on Earth, suffered that normal misfortune.
You spring from an unbroken line of winners going back millions of generations, and those winners were, in every generation, the luckiest of the lucky, one out of a thousand or even a million. So however unlucky you may be on some occasion today, your presence on the planet testifies to the role luck has played in your past.”
—Daniel Dennett, Freedom Evolves
“Let everything happen to you:
beauty and terror.
Just keep going.
No feeling is final.”
—Ranier Marie Rilke
“Throw away the idea that healing is forgetting. The actual result is no longer reacting to old triggers with the same intensity as before. The memories are still there, but they do not have the same power over your mind.”
If you liked these healing quotes, also check out 8 of the Best Novels About Grief and Recovering from Trauma and this post on The Empathy Challenge: Can Fiction Heal?.