Grief Song

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"How could I ever forget?
This was
the moment my life was set
That day that I lost you
It's clear as the day we met
How could I ever forget?"

Next to Normal, "How Could I Ever Forget?"

Someone died (or is otherwise gone), we're very sad, and we're singing about it. Frequently a Tear Jerker.

Compare Break Up Song, Death Song. See also Really Dead Montage.

Examples of Grief Song include:


  • "Paperthin Hymn" by Anberlin.
  • "Emily" by Mary and The Black Lamb
  • "The Other Side", by Richard Marx (a tribute to his late father).
  • Also by Richard Marx, "Straight From My Heart".
  • Hitomi Yaida's "Over the Distance"
  • X Japan: First we have "Tears," which was written in memory of Yoshiki Hayashi's late father and is Yoshiki's coping with his suicide. This song was later dedicated to the late guitarist Hide as well. Then, we have the Grief Song trilogy of "Without You," "I.V.," and "Jade," which are three songs that compose a dialogue between Yoshiki and Hide and Yoshiki coming to terms with the loss of his beloved friend.
  • "Tears in Heaven" by Eric Clapton was dedicated to his son Conor, and later Princess Diana.
  • "Candle in the Wind" by Elton John, about Marilyn Monroe. A version with revised lyrics, titled "Candle in the Wind 1997", was about Princess Diana.
  • "One Sweet Day" by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men.
  • "Let it Be" by The Beatles
    • "Yesterday".
    • "For No One"
    • "She's Leaving Home"
    • Etc. (They have a number of them.)
  • "Dance with my Father" by Luther Vandross
  • "How to Save a Life" by The Fray
  • Bri-ight eeeeyes! BUUURN-ing like FI-RE!
  • Gruesomely parodied by Tom Lehrer in "I Hold Your Hand in Mine".
  • "Night Shift" by The Commodores and "Missing You" by Diana Ross were both responses to the murder of Marvin Gaye.
  • "All Those Years Ago" by George Harrison and "Here Today" by Paul McCartney are both about the death of John Lennon, as are "Empty Garden" by Elton John and "Kid About It" by Elvis Costello.
    • As well as "Life is Real" by Queen.
  • Don McLean's "American Pie" is sort of related to this; the refrain mentions "the day the music died", a reference to when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper died in a plane crash.
    • Admittedly, the entire song is a eulogy for the musical scene of the '50s and '60s and the cultures surrounding it, and is grieving for more reasons than just Buddy Holly's death. It provides a focal point, though.
  • Hello! Project and its related artists do this quite a bit. They also subvert it, too.
  • "Hurt" by Christina Aguilera.
  • "Slipped Away" by Avril Lavigne, which she wrote about her grandfather's death.
  • "He Was A Friend Of Mine", a traditional folk song that has been covered by many performers. The version by Willie Nelson played during the credits of Brokeback Mountain.
  • "I Will Remember You" by Sarah MacLachlan.
    • "Angel", also by Sarah MacLachlan.
  • "Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro. It turns into one in the last few verses.
  • "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen (but more often its cover versions).
  • The album Believe by Disturbed was inspired by the death of singer David Draiman's grandfather. "Darkness" in particular was about moving on.
  • "All My Love" by Led Zeppelin.
  • "Mother" by John Lennon and "Julia" by The Beatles are both about John Lennon's mother.
  • "Wake Me Up When September Ends" by Green Day.
    • "J.A.R." (written to a friend of Mike Dirnt who had died) as well, even though that's more upbeat.
  • "Gone Too Soon" by Michael Jackson was originally about his friend Ryan White, who died of AIDS at age 19. More recently, it has also become associated with Jacskon's own death.
  • The appropriately named "Tearjerker" by Red Hot Chili Peppers, about Kurt Cobain.
    • Also "Transcending", on the same album, about River Phoenix.
    • "Dani California" is about the death of the title character.
    • "My Lovely Man", off Blood Sugar Sex Magik, was written in tribute to Chili Peppers' guitarist Hillel Slovak, who died in 1988.
  • "Breakfast Table" by Chris Rice.
  • "4am Forever" by Lostprophets
  • "He Was My Brother" by Simon and Garfunkel
  • "My Lover's Gone" by Dido
  • "Biko" by Peter Gabriel, a tribute to anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, killed in police custody.
  • "Gone Away" by The Offspring.
  • "Come Back" by Lesley Roy
  • "Matthew 25:21" by The Mountain Goats pays tribute to John Darnielle's late mother-in-law.
  • "Blood Brothers" by Iron Maiden.
  • "Why" by Rascal Flatts.
    • "What Hurts The Most" also qualifies.
  • "You're Gone" by Diamond Rio.
  • "The Thing About Grief" by Clare Bowditch and the Feeding Set.
  • Inverted by Pearl Jam with "Other Side".
    • "Just Breathe" kinda counts as a straight example, though.
  • Jimi Hendrix, "It's Too Bad", about Hendrix's troubled relationship with his half-brother Leon.
  • "Elle G." by the Newsboys
  • My Chemical Romance produced their Concept Album Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge in honor of Gerard Way's recently deceased grandmother Helena (see the song "Helena"), whom he was close to. A Grief Album, really.
  • "Let Me In" by REM was recorded live in the studio after the death of Kurt Cobain.
  • "When You Go", "Summer's Over", "I Hate California", and a number of others by Jonathan Coulton
  • "To Live is to Die" by Metallica. Somewhat unusual in that it's almost entirely instrumental except for James Hetfield reciting a short piece of poetry composed by the departed subject of the song, fallen Metallica bassist Cliff Burton.
    • There's also "The God Who Failed", about the death of James' mother.
  • "Eva" by Orgy, on their science fiction Concept Album slash Rock Opera Vapor Transmission. Notably, the album is about real people, and Eva is one of only two individuals named by real name, and the only one whose role was explained: she was the late mother of one of their producers.
  • Dream Theater's "Take Away My Pain" (about John Petrucci's deceased father) and "The Best Of Times" (About Mike Portnoy's deceased one).
  • ACDC: "Hells Bells", towards their deceased ex-singer Bon Scott. In fact, the entirety of Back In Black was dedicated to him.
  • Almafuerte's "En este viaje" was written about Ricardo Iorio's deceased wife.
  • Michael Kiske wrote "Always", in his first album Instant Clarity, about Ingo Schwichtenberg, his deceased ex-comrade of Helloween.
    • The song "Afterlife" from Gamma Ray's album Land of the Free, written by former Helloween lead guitarist Kai Hansen, is also dedicated to Schwichtenberg.
  • "Angel's Son" by Sevendust, dedicated to the lead singer of Snot.
  • The Grateful Dead's "Bird Song" was written about Janis Joplin after her death, and "Cassidy" is partly about the death of Neal Cassady (its spelling derives from its also being about the birth of staff member Eileen Law's baby Cassidy). "He's Gone" was originally a trope subversion: a slow dirge about erstwhile manager Lenny Hart, who hadn't died yet; he had merely drained the band's bank accounts and vanished. However, after the death of original keyboardist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, the song quickly reverted to a straightforward example of this trope in the minds of fans and the band alike.
    • There is also a Grief Song about Jerry Garcia; guitarist Warren Haynes wrote "Patchwork Quilt" in memory of Garcia, and has played the song with The Dead and Phil Lesh & Friends.
  • Evanescence's "Hello", "Like You", and "My Immortal".
    • The Other Side, My Heart is Broken, Never Go Back and Even In Death.
  • "Hear You Me" by Jimmy Eat World. It was written in memory of two young women, Mykel and Carli, who ran Weezer's fan club and were personal friends of the band. They both died in a car wreck. "Hear you me" was more or less their Catch Phrase.
  • Many Type O Negative songs, including "Everyone I Love Is Dead" and "Everything Dies."
  • "The Duel" and "Is Heaven Good Enough for You" by Allison Moorer.
  • "Night Comes Down" by Judas Priest. Even metalheads grieve.
    • Which brings us to "Watching Over Me" by Iced Earth.
  • Pretty much the entirety of Eels' Electro-shock Blues album.
  • "Fred Bear" by Ted Nugent is an unusual example of this. While the song is in remembrance of his deceased hunting partner, the song is more a celebration of hunting.
  • "Friend of a Friend" and "Word Forward" by Foo Fighters. The former is the only song by the band confirmed to be about Kurt Cobain, and the latter is about Dave Grohl's childhood friend.
    • "Friend" was written and recorded in 1992 whilst Cobain was still alive, it becomes more poignant in the updated version.
  • Kamelot's "Don't You Cry" and "The Mourning After".
  • Tori Amos' "Toast", "Marianne", and "1000 Oceans."
  • "KKK Took My Baby Away" by Ramones.
  • "Harvest of Sorrow" by Blind Guardian.
  • The entirety of Neil Young's album Tonight's The Night is about two friends who overdosed. One of them, guitarist Danny Whitten, bought his last shot with the severance pay from when Neil fired him. Neil was... shaken up, to say the least, and it shows. Also, some of Sleeps With Angels is about Kurt Cobain, who quoted Neil in his suicide note.
  • In honour of Freddie Mercury, the surviving members of Queen wrote, performed and sang "One By One (Only The Good Die Young)" for the Queen: Greatest Hits III album.
    • "All Dead, All Dead", from News Of The World.
    • The album Innuendo. Even though Freddie Mercury is alive, it was his last album, made knowing he was dying of AIDS. Several songs refer to his dying, especially the song "The Show Must Go On" where his voice is replaced by a record stuck in the groove.
  • "Together Again" by Janet Jackson is a tribute to a friend who died of AIDS.
  • "I'll Be Missing You" by P-Diddy (then Puff Daddy), dedicated to The Notorious B.I.G..
  • "Once in a Lifetime" by Wolfsheim, which is about the loss of the singer's wife and unborn child in a hurricane.
  • "He hasn't returned from the battle" by Vladimir Vysotsky.
  • "One Moment More" by Mindy Smith, written after her adoptive mother died.
  • Within Temptation has "Our Farewell" and "Forgiven", the second one being written after a friend of Sharon's lost his child.
  • "The Other Side" by Paul van Dyk & Wayne Jackson, a tribute to the victims of the Indonesian tsunami.
  • "Little June" by Groove Coverage, which is about a Dead Little Sister or a friend who was murdered.
  • "Moonlight Shadow" by Mike Oldfield (and later "Missing Heart" and "Groove Coverage").
  • "In My Darkest Hour", "Foreclosure Of A Dream", "A Tout La Monde" and "Promises" by Megadeth.
    • Although technically, "Foreclosure of A Dream" is about financial loss, namely the loss of the Ellefson family farm under Reagonomics. It is a form of grief, though.
  • The B-52's: "Ain't It A Shame". It was not written as a tribute to their guitarist Ricky Wilson, as he played on it. However, it was released the year after his death, and so became a de facto tribute to him. There's also Cindy Wilson's solo song "Ricky" which is directly about him.
  • Simple Plan are known for this. Their most well-known example is likely "Untitled (How Could this Happen to Me?)", written from the point of view of someone who is dying at an accident scene caused by a drunk driver. The video for it was produced in partnership with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
  • The Genesis song "Since I Lost You" is about the death of a child.
    • Genesis member Ray Wilson's "Another Day" is about the suicide of a friend.
  • "Show Me The Meaning of Being Lonely" by the Backstreet Boys, dedicated to Howie D.'s deceased sister, among other lost loved ones.
  • "I Will Never Forget" by Kimya Dawson is a surprisingly angry song about suicide, and is much darker than the tunes most people think of when they hear her name.
  • Scorpions' "We'll Burn the Sky" had lyrics by Jimi Hendrix' ex-girlfriend, and is apparently about him.
  • "Back on the Chain Gang" was the first Pretenders single after the deaths of two band members, and Chrissie Hynde sounded like she was shaking her first at God. Selena's remake stripped the anger from the lyrics.
  • A particularly bitter Vietnam War-era example: "One Last Cold Kiss" by Mountain, about a swan whose mate is killed by hunters.
  • Bob Dylan's "He Was A Friend Of Mine."
  • The Whitlams have a couple of these. "Blow Up The Pokies" is about former band member Andy Lewis' struggle with depression and a gambling addiction before he committed suicide. The 'Charlie Trio' of tracks from the 'Eternal Nightcap album' are about the suicide/accidental death of band member Stevie Plunder. "The Curse Stops Here" is about Tim Freedman being the 'last one' of the original band members alive, and his determination to survive while the other two had given in to suicidal thoughts.
  • "Byron's Song" by Rebekah Ann Curtis is about the titular friend's death from cancer.
  • Skillet has "Lucy" from their 2009 album, which was originally written about an aborted baby.
  • Pato Fu's "Canção pra Você Viver Mais" ("song for you to live more"), inspired by a terminal disease of the singer's father.
  • Space have 'Bad Days' and 'Avenging Angels' (no, really).
  • "Jueves", written for the Madrid's subway bombings by the spanish group La Oreja de Van Gogh
  • Delta Goodrem, A Year Ago Today, about an aunt who passed.
  • Several of the songs off the Rush album Vapor Trails could be interpreted this way, such as Ghost Rider and The Stars Look Down.
  • "So Far Away" by Avenged Sevenfold, in honor of their late drummer Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan.
  • "House Carpenter" by Hurt seems to combine this with Obsession Song.

If you're not breathing, why am I

  • Gary Numan wrote "A Prayer for the Unborn" when his wife suffered a miscarriage after finally becoming pregnant via IVF treatment. In his early performances you can hear his voice crack with emotion when he sings it live. No word on whether the sonogram typically projected behind him during this song is the real thing.
  • "The Edge of Glory" by Lady Gaga was written about her grandfather, who was dying, and an intimate moment she saw him share with her grandmother in the hospital. It's not sad, so much as it's about accepting life will always come to an end, but you need to experience life anyways. When she plays the song in a capella, the song shifts to a ballad, and goes become more of a sad grief song.
    • "Speechless"
  • "May" by James Durbin.
  • "Nur zu Besuch" (translates as "Just Visiting") by the very popular German band Die Toten Hosen. It's about the vocalist's mother and the lyrics describe a visit to her grave. It's very simple and low key, peppered with little ordinary details and mostly avoids Purple Prose and soppyness, and it's all the more effective for it. ("And your garden... It's really doing well. Although you can tell it's missing you very much. And there's still mail arriving, adressed to you in big letters. Even though everyone knows you've moved away.") Unlike most other grief songs, this one ends on a note of acceptance and with the hope for an end to depression.
  • "Goodbye My Lover" by James Blunt was just meant to be about a break up, according to Word of God. But considering the amount of people playing it at their spouse's funeral, Word of God hardly matters in this case.
    • Also "No Bravery", which is a grief song for an entire country / people / the person James Blunt was before going to war.
  • "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" by Boyz II Men.
  • "My Angel" was written after the death of Kellie Pickler's grandmother.
  • Bone Thugs-n-Harmony honored several deceased friends (including Eazy-E) in "Tha Crossroads".
  • "Cryin' For Me (Wayman's Song)" by Toby Keith is a tribute to Toby's friend Wayman Tisdale, and has been described as being too depressing even for Country Music.
  • "Last Kiss" by Wayne Cochran.
  • “See you on the Other Side” from Ozzmosis fits this because it talks about mourning over a loss and telling the person they’ll reunited on the other side… i.e. in the afterlife.
  • "The Living Years" by Mike and the Mechanics.


  • Curtis Mayfield's "Freddie's Dead" from the Soundtrack to Superfly
  • The Muppet Christmas Carol: "When Love is Gone", during Scrooge and Belle's breakup scene.
  • In the film version of Return of the King, there is Pippin's song as Faramir's Knights of Minas Tirith charge Osgiliath. In the first film and in the book, Elves sing a tearjerking lament for Gandalf. In The Two Towers movie, Eowyn's song at her cousins funeral is a heartbreaker, particularly when one deciphers the Anglo-Saxon.
    • In the novel The Two Towers, Aragorn and Legolas sing an emotional lament for Boromir.
    • In the novel The Fellowship of the Ring, the elves of Lothlorien sing a lay for Gandalf, whom they thought was dead.
  • The song "Remember Me This Way" by Jordan Hill was featured in the movie Casper.
  • "My Heart Will Go On", performed by Celine Dion, from the film Titanic.


  • Many of the songs from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
  • "It Don't Make Sense" from Parade.
  • "How Could I Ever Forget?" from Next to Normal.
  • "This Nearly Was Mine" from South Pacific
  • "'Till We Reach That Day" from Ragtime
  • All of William Finn's Elegies, but particularly "When The Earth Stopped Turning"
    • "Anytime (I Am There)" is the show's real Tear Jerker, but it's sung from the perspective of the bereaving rather than the bereaved.
  • "Gone, Gone, Gone," "My Man's Gone Now" and "Clara, Clara" from Porgy and Bess.
  • "Candide's Lament" from Candide.
  • Parodied in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat with "One More Angel in Heaven". Joseph's brothers know he isn't really dead, but they put on a show of grief for Dad's benefit.
    • Played straight with "Close Every Door to Me," where Joseph has hit rock bottom in prison.
  • Also parodied in Oklahoma!, with "Pore Jud is Daid".
  • "Endless Night" in the stage musical version of The Lion King.
    • Can't forget "Rafiki Mourns."
    • "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" is one from Timon and Pumbaa's perspective.
  • The Dark Reprise of "I'll Cover You" in Rent.
  • The Dark Reprise of "If I Loved You" from Carousel is an interesting variant, as it's sung from the viewpoint of a deceased person who's about to leave for the afterlife after being allowed to see his wife and daughter on Earth fifteen years after he died.
  • "Empty Chairs At Empty Tables" from Les Misérables, dealing with Marius' grief and survivor's guilt.
  • "Chavaleh" from Fiddler on the Roof is an interesting case, as Tevye has to declare his daughter Chava dead to him after she marries outside the Jewish faith, but this song makes it clear it's not easy for him. He loves his daughter, yet he believes he has no choice but to disown her.
  • The reprise of "For Good" serves this purpose in Wicked. Just to up the tearful irony, it's paired against a triumphant, if concordant, reprise of "No One Mourns the Wicked."
    • "No Good Deed" is one for Nessarose and Fiyero's deaths and Dr. Dillamond's mutation, which may as well be death which drives Elphaba over the edge and into wickedness.
  • "Days of Plenty" from the musical of Little Women.
  • "Those You've Known" from Spring Awakening. Interesting in that it is sung mostly by the ghosts of the departed.
    • Also "Left Behind".
  • "No More" could be seen as a variant of this in Into the Woods. For sure, though, "The Witch's Lament" is a straight example.
  • Invoked by Urinetown with "Tell Her I Love Her", which is part Death Song for Bobby and this for Little Sally.
  • "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" sung by Christine about her father in The Phantom of the Opera.
    • The Phantom's mournful "All I Ask Of You" Reprise also qualifies, as he is singing about Christine who he believes he has lost forever to Raoul.
  • The the final scene of Love Never Dies is a series of Dark Reprises that are all Grief Songs. It starts with Meg reprising "Giry Confronts Phantom" and "Bathing Beauty" when she tells how she used her body to help Phantom. Phantom uses a brief version of "The Beauty Underneath" to apologize too Meg and try to calm her down. And after Christine is shot and dying, she and Gustave reprise "Look With Your Hearts". Then Christine and Phantom sing a reprise of "Once Upon Another Time". And finally Christine uses the tune of "Till I Hear You Sing Once More" to ask for her final kiss.
  • "Supper Time." Holy god, "Supper Time." From the 1933 revue As Thousands Cheer, this number is a black woman wondering how to explain to her kids that their father has just been lynched.
  • Notre Dame de Paris: Quasimodo's "Danse mon Esmeralda" (doubles as BSOD Song), right after Esmeralda's death. He's witnessed the death of the woman he loves and killed his adoptive father. He's resolved to die holding Esmeralda's dead body, because "dying for you is not dying". Yeah, he's pretty broken.
  • "Why" in tick, tick, BOOM. Jon has just found out his best friend Michael has AIDS. The song is about Jon remembering the good times he and Michael had, and wanting to make the best of the time they have left.
  • "Alabanza" from In the Heights is the neighborhood grieving Abuela Claudia.

Video Games

Web Comics

Web Original

Western Animation

  • "Chorale For Snow White."
  • Owen's upcoming song Oh, My Izzy! in Total Drama World Tour, while it has a very up-beat tempo is sang right after Owen breaks up with Izzy, and she is taken out of the game due to head trauma.
    • Coupled with the Art Shift during the song, which is done in Owen's crayon style (which is his imagination.)
  • Leaves from the vine / falling so slow / like fragile, tiny shells / drifting in the foam. / Little soldier boy comes marching home / Brave soldier boy, come marching home.
    • Sung at a makeshift memorial shrine for his son who died in the siege on Ba Sing Se... a soldier who did not come marching home.
      • Also acts as a dedication to Iroh's voice actor, Mako, who had died before the episode aired.
  • "Ghost" by Indigo Girls
  • "Yellow Butterfly" by Meg & Dia.
  • It Changes from Snoopy Come Home.
  • Nefertiti from Fireaxe's Food for the Gods.


  • "The Time Has Come (Pikachu's Goodbye)" from the Pokémon: 2B A Master album. Although the song itself is a perfectly straight example, when it's actually used in the anime, Pikachu immediately returns as soon as the song is over.