Sorrow Passes and We Remain

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I found a letter dated July 28, 1883, written by Henry James to his friend Grace Norton, in a reference book. He wrote a letter of encouragement to her as she was desolate, depressed, and determined not to live. I post portions of it here should anyone out there feel as Grace did, in need of life-saving encouragement.


You are not isolated, verily, in such states of feeling as this – that is, in the sense that you appear to make all the misery of all mankind your own; only I have a terrible sense that you give all and receive nothing – that there is no reciprocity in your sympathy – that you have all the affliction of it and none of the returns.

I don’t know why we live, but I believe we can go on living for the reason that life is the most valuable thing we know anything about and it is therefore presumptively a great mistake to surrender it while there is any yet left in the cup.

Sorrow comes in great waves, but it rolls over us, and though it may almost smother us it leaves us on the spot and we know that if it (sorrow) is strong, we are stronger, inasmuch as it passes, and we remain.

My dear friend, you are passing through a darkness in which I myself in my ignorance see nothing but that you have been made wretchedly ill by it; but it is only a darkness, it is not an end, or the end.

Don’t think, don’t feel, any more than you can help, don’t conclude or decide – don’t do anything but wait. Everything will pass … and the tenderness of a few good people, and new opportunities, and ever so much of life, in a word, will remain.

You are marked out for success, and you must not fail. You have my tenderest affection and all my confidence.

4 thoughts on “Sorrow Passes and We Remain

    laura bruno lilly said:
    August 23, 2018 at 5:04 am

    Now how would this be conveyed in 21st century texts/tweets?

    Time is always ticking, but it can be a ‘good’ thing as in time to ‘go through’ what needs to gone through and then coming out the other side of that dark tunnel as Henry assured his friend would occur…
    Just sayin’…
    Lovely to read, even if one is not in the ‘depths of despair’.

    Liked by 1 person

    Jill Weatherholt said:
    August 22, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    What a good friend Henry was…thanks so much for sharing this, Irene.

    Liked by 1 person

      Irene Olson responded:
      August 22, 2018 at 4:06 pm

      He sure was. It’s amazing how many people have read this particular post today and I acquired another Follower as a result, someone who writes about mental illness. Life is good when lives are touched.


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