35 Comforting Songs About Loss, Death And Grief

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

Grief, a universal human experience, is an emotional journey that can be deeply personal and unique. Yet, it’s also a shared emotion that connects us all.

Music often serves as a companion during these times, giving voice to our pain and helping us heal. These songs remind us that it’s okay to hurt, to cry, and to remember.

In this article, we explore 35 meaningful songs about grief. From soulful ballads to melancholic melodies, these emotional lifelines help us navigate through the darkest times. Let’s get started!

1. “Gone Too Soon” By Daughtry

Our first track is a tear-jerker by Daughtry. “Gone Too Soon” deals with the profound grief of loss. Specifically, it’s about the heart-wrenching experience of losing a child. The song was inspired when a friend of the band’s daughter lost her baby to miscarriage.

The lyrics express the sorrow and pain of what could have been, as they mention, “today could’ve been the day that you blow out your candles.” It strikes a chord with anyone who has experienced a similar loss, making it a powerful anthem of grief.

The song deals with grief by not shying away from the raw emotions associated with such a tragic loss. It acknowledges the pain, helping people grieve deeply for the lives “gone too soon.”

2. “Tears In Heaven” By Eric Clapton

A deeply moving song, Eric Clapton‘s “Tears in Heaven” was written as a tribute to his son, who tragically passed away at the age of four. It reflects the singer’s journey through sorrow and longing.

The lyrics are filled with heart-wrenching questions that embody the confusion and pain often associated with grief. Lines like “Would you know my name if I saw you in heaven?” and “Would it be the same if I saw you in heaven?” express the longing for a lost loved one and the uncertainty that accompanies such a loss.

Through this deeply personal piece, Clapton managed to touch the hearts of millions around the world, reminding them that they are not alone in their grief.

3. “Ashes” By Céline Dion

Recorded by the renowned Canadian singer Céline Dion, “Ashes” is a powerful song that was featured in the soundtrack of the 2018 film Deadpool 2. The song carries a strong theme of resilience in the face of despair and grief.

The lyrics of “Ashes” speak to the experience of enduring pain and loss, as shown in the lines “What’s left to do with these broken pieces on the floor? / I’m losing my voice calling on you.”

However, while “Ashes” explores grief, it also communicates a powerful message of resilience and hope. The line “Let beauty come out of ashes” suggests that in the face of adversity and loss, we can rise from the ashes, much like the mythical Phoenix.

4. “Ain’t No Sunshine” By Bill Withers

When someone leaves you, it can certainly make your day cloudy. Bill Withers’ song “Ain’t No Sunshine” echoes this sentiment.

Released in 1971, the song tells the narrator’s despair and loneliness when his beloved leaves him. The line “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone / And this house just ain’t no home / any time she goes away” captures the essence of the song.

His overwhelming sadness is conveyed in the line, “Only darkness every day.” This absence of sunshine — a representation of happiness — when the loved one is gone symbolizes the dark emotions that grief often brings.

5. “Who Knew” By Pink

The heartfelt song “Who Knew” by Pink is a poignant reflection of unexpected loss and the grief that follows. Released in 2006, the track has resonated with many listeners facing similar experiences.

The song was inspired by several friends of Pink’s who tragically passed away. In particular, she wrote it as a tribute to a close friend who died of a heroin overdose when they were only 14 years old.

While the song is steeped in sorrow, it also carries an undercurrent of resilience. It is a reminder that while we cannot control life’s unexpected turns, we can choose how we respond to them.

6. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” By Green Day

Our next song is a masterpiece by Green Day. From their 2004 album American Idiot comes the track “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” It stands apart for its deeply personal and emotional content.

The song is a poignant tribute to frontman and lead guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong’s father, who passed away in September when Armstrong was just a child. The grief in the lyrics is so profound as he pleads to be woken up when the painful month ends.

The music video for the song takes a different approach. It tells a story of young love interrupted by war. Its narrative is both heartbreaking and thought-provoking. While not directly related to Armstrong’s loss, the video complements the song by exploring themes of grief and loss in a broader context.

7. “Alone Again (Naturally)” By Gilbert O’Sullivan

Penned by Irish singer-songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan, “Alone Again (Naturally)” is a melancholic tune that resonates with those who have experienced deep sorrow. Released in 1971, the song quickly became a worldwide hit, topping charts in the US, Canada, and France.

It tells the tale of a man abandoned at the altar. Looking forward to getting married, he was “cut into little pieces” by this act of betrayal.

The song proceeds to describe his overwhelming loneliness and despair. The lyrics also touch upon the grief he experienced when his father and mother passed away as if to make a point that he should be “alone again, naturally.”

8. “And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda” By The Pogues

Up next, “And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda” is a folk song performed by The Pogues. The narrative is told from the perspective of an old Australian man reflecting on his life and experiences.

The song’s protagonist is sent to fight in World War I, where he witnesses the horrors of war and sustains injuries. Now, whenever he hears “Waltzing Matilda,” it serves as a haunting reminder of the war.

The song is a powerful anti-war ballad and was written as an indirect response to the Vietnam War. It explores themes of shattered dreams and the enduring scars left by war. The grief in the song emanates from the protagonist’s losses and the collective loss experienced by a generation due to war.

9. “Angels” By Robbie Williams

One of Robbie Williams‘ most well-known tracks is “Angels.” It was included on his debut solo album, Life thru a Lens, released in 1997.

The lyrics discuss the singer’s thoughts about life, fate, and the belief in the existence of guiding angels. He wonders whether these angels understand human experiences and emotions, particularly as people age and face the inevitability of death.

Despite its uplifting melody, “Angels” explores themes of grief and loss. The song is often interpreted as a comforting message for those who have lost loved ones. It suggests that these departed souls continue to watch over us as angels.

10. “Autumn Leaves” By Ed Sheeran

British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran is well-known for creating songs that touch the heart. His “Autumn Leaves” is a ballad that uses the metaphor of autumn leaves to express feelings of loss and longing.

Just as leaves fall from trees during autumn, the protagonist in the song feels a sense of loss and change in his life. Lines like “Yesterday, you were here with me” suggest a yearning for times past and a person who is no longer present.

As the song progresses, it becomes clear that the protagonist is trying to come to terms with his loss. Despite the melancholic theme, “Autumn Leaves” also offers a certain sense of calm and acceptance, much like the quiet beauty of an autumn landscape.

11. “Candle In The Wind” By Elton John

With lyrics by Bernie Taupin, “Candle in the Wind” is a touching song by Elton John. The song was written as a tribute to Marilyn Monroe, reflecting on her life and the struggles she faced as a famous actress under the harsh spotlight of fame.

The title, “Candle in the Wind,” is a metaphor representing the fragility of life. Its lyrics capture the sadness and loss felt by those who admired Monroe. It mourns the tragedy of her life extinguished too soon, much like a candle’s flame being blown out by the wind.

The song was later reworked in 1997 following the death of Princess Diana. This version, known as “Goodbye England’s Rose” or “Candle in the Wind ’97,” was performed by John at Diana’s funeral.

12. “Marjorie” By Taylor Swift

Many artists create songs deeply personal to them. Taylor Swift is one of them with the track “Marjorie.” This is a tribute to her late grandmother, Marjorie Finlay.

The narrative woven throughout the song revolves around Taylor’s memories of her grandmother and the profound influence she had on her life. Its lyrics paint a vivid image of the bond they shared and the void left behind when Marjorie passed away.

Taylor’s raw vulnerability and captivating storytelling make this song touching and beautiful. The song also reminds us of the unbreakable bonds between family members and how their love shapes us into who we are.

13. “United In Grief” By Kendrick Lamar

The award-winning American rapper Kendrick Lamar delivers a powerful narrative in his song “United in Grief.” It’s part of his album Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

“United In Grief” is an introspective piece where Lamar talks about his struggles. He reveals early in the song that he’s “going through something,” indicating some form of emotional turmoil.

This song with “grief” in the title suggests a collective experience of loss and sorrow. Lamar seems to be using this emotion as a lens to explore larger societal issues. His lyrics often reflect on his upbringing in the “hood,” suggesting that his grief may stem from experiences of inequality, violence, and hardship.

14. “To Where You Are” By Josh Groban

American singer Josh Groban gives a heartfelt performance in “To Where You Are.” This emotive piece was featured on his self-titled debut album, released in 2001.

Its touching lyrics can be interpreted as a conversation with someone who has passed away. It expresses a desire to reach out to them, wherever they might be. The song encapsulates the pain and grief of losing someone dear and the struggle to accept their absence.

On a positive note, “To Where You Are” is also about love, remembrance, and the enduring connections we share with those who have left us. It serves as a gentle reminder that our loved ones continue to live on in our hearts and memories.

15. “Dancing With Your Ghost” By Sasha Alex Sloan

Our next song, “Dancing with Your Ghost,” is a tale of loss and longing. With her haunting voice, singer Sasha Alex Sloan breathes life into the lyrics, which capture the feeling of missing someone who was once a significant part of your life.

Grief is the central theme of this song. It’s not about the emotion in its immediate, raw form. Rather, it’s the lingering sense of loss that stays with us long after we’ve said our goodbyes.

The title itself, “Dancing with Your Ghost,” is an evocative metaphor for this kind of enduring grief. It suggests an ongoing relationship with the memory of a lost loved one.

One of the most striking lines in the song, “Baby, you’re just harder to see than most,” expresses this sentiment eloquently. It’s a testament to the invisible presence of those we’ve lost, their essence still palpable in the spaces they once occupied.

16. “Even In Death” By Evanescence

Sometimes, in one’s grief, it is difficult to accept the death of a loved one. It leaves a void that’s hard to fill. Evanescence‘s “Even in Death” captures this sense of loss effectively.

The opening line alone, “Give me a reason to believe that you’re gone,” expresses the protagonist’s denial of her loss. She continues to sing of her yearning to be with her beloved, even going so far as to say, “I will stay forever here with you, my love.”

Though the protagonist’s grief is evident, the song is also about cherishing the bond shared with the lost loved one and keeping their memory alive, as she gently says, “Even in death our love goes on.”

17. “You Should Be Here” By Cole Swindell

American country music artist Cole Swindell brings sentiment and sorrow to the forefront with his song “You Should Be Here.” Released in 2015, this song became a touchstone for many grappling with loss.

The story within “You Should Be Here” is about experiencing moments of joy and happiness. However, the protagonist feels a void because someone important is not there to share it, hence the recurring line, “You should be here.”

Through this song, Swindell offers a comforting hand to those navigating the path of loss. He reminds them they’re not alone in their feelings. He also encourages listeners to cherish memories and honor the ones who are no longer physically with us.

18. “See You Again” By Wiz Khalifa Ft. Charlie Puth

In 2015, the collaboration between Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth resulted in a song that touches the soul. “See You Again,” which was featured in the Furious 7 movie soundtrack, has become a tribute to the late Paul Walker and a universal anthem for those grappling with loss.

“See You Again” is an expression of remembrance and longing. The story it tells is one of honoring a friend who has passed away. It’s about cherishing the memories shared with this person.

Though the lyrics express a profound sense of loss, they also convey a sense of hope and resilience. It’s grief tempered with acceptance and the comforting belief that this is not a permanent goodbye but a temporary parting until they meet again.

19. “Memories” By Maroon 5

American band Maroon 5, known for their catchy pop-rock sound, explored a more introspective theme with their song “Memories.” Released in 2019, this track is a moving tribute to those we’ve lost and a testament to the power of memories.

The song is about reminiscing and honoring a loved one who has passed away. It’s about raising a toast to the ones who aren’t here anymore and recognizing how memories of them resurface, especially during moments of solitude or reflection.

The song does not mention grief, but it is obvious in lines like “Now my heart feels like December when somebody say your name … / ’cause I can’t reach out to call you.” Despite this, it cherishes the memories of the dearly departed.

20. “Someone You Loved” By Lewis Capaldi

There is a certain grief in being someone’s old flame. Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi captured this emotion in his 2018 song “Someone You Loved.”

Its story is deep and personal, specifically about the end of a significant romantic relationship. The lyrics convey the protagonist’s journey through heartbreak and his struggle to move on, to the point that he “was getting kinda used to being someone [she] loved.”

The song’s portrayal of grief is profound and relatable. It emphasizes that while the pain may seem unbearable at first, over time, one learns to live with the loss.

21. “I’ll Be Missing You” By Diddy And Faith Evans Ft. 112

The collaboration between Diddy and Faith Evans, featuring 112, resulted in a heartfelt tribute song titled “I’ll Be Missing You.” Released in 1997, this track takes us through an emotional journey into the world of loss and remembering those who are no longer with us.

As the title says, it is about missing a close friend and the pain of losing them. Though the melody is upbeat, the lyrics perfectly articulate the feeling of missing them every day: “Every step I take / every move I make / every single day… / I’ll be missing you.”

The message of “I’ll Be Missing You” is so strong and resonant that it reached the top of the charts in over 15 countries. It also won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group in 1998.

22. “Wish You Were Here” By Pink Floyd

Released by Pink Floyd in 1975, “Wish You Were Here” is a touching tribute to Syd Barrett, the band’s original frontman and chief songwriter.

The song deals with the feelings of loss and longing following Barrett’s departure from the band in 1968 due to health issues. It’s a poignant reflection on the void left behind by a key creative force within the group.

The lyrics convey a sense of yearning for the past, a time when Barrett was still with them. This is expressed in the song’s chorus, with the lines, “How I wish, how I wish you were here / We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl, year after year.”

23. “Visiting Hours” By Ed Sheeran

Up next is another heart-wrenching piece by Ed Sheeran, “Visiting Hours”. Released in 2021, it’s a tribute to the singer’s close friend, the Australian music impresario Michael Gudinski. The lyrics express Sheeran’s wish to have more time with him, using the metaphor of “visiting hours” in heaven.

Though the song explores grief and the pain of loss, it also embraces the healing power of memories. Through remembering shared moments and lessons learned from his friend, the singer finds comfort and a way to keep his friend’s spirit alive.

“Visiting Hours” was part of Sheeran’s album = (Equals). Though it did not rank high on the Billboard chart, it took #3 and #5 on the Australian and UK charts, respectively.

24. “Joanne” By Lady Gaga

As a song about grief, “Joanne” is a tribute to Lady Gaga‘s aunt Joanne Germanotta. The latter passed away from lupus at the age of 19 — a decade before the singer was born. The lyrics convey Gaga’s imagined relationship with her late aunt.

It beautifully captures the sense of loss and longing that can span generations. The lines “Take my hand, stay Joanne / heaven’s not ready for you / Every part of my aching heart / needs you more than the angels do” reflect this sentiment.

Through the song, Gaga explores her feelings of loss, processes her family’s collective grief, and finds a way to honor her aunt’s memory. By sharing her personal journey through music, she offers listeners a poignant perspective on coping with loss.

25. “Hurt” By Johnny Cash

Originally penned by Trent Reznor for Nine Inch Nails, Johnny Cash‘s “Hurt” took on a new life and meaning. It became a touching rumination on aging, regret, and mortality.

The lyrics tell the story of a man reflecting on his past with a blend of pride and sorrow. It touches on grief, but not in the traditional sense of grieving for another person. Instead, it’s about grieving for oneself, lost time, and mistakes made.

The profound sadness that can come from looking back on one’s life and realizing the impact of one’s actions is easily heard on the track. Yet within the melancholy, there’s a sense of acceptance of what has become of himself.

26. “Yesterday” By The Beatles

Renowned for its haunting melody and touching lyrics, “Yesterday” by The Beatles is a timeless piece that unfurls a tale of lost love. The melancholy acoustic guitar ballad delves into the aftermath of a relationship’s dissolution.

Its lyrics depict the narrator’s yearning for a time before the heartbreak. He laments “why she had to go.” He regrets the relationship ending, and now “there’s a shadow hangin’ over” him as he reminisces the time they had together.

“Yesterday” was The Beatles’ first song to feature only one member performing. Paul McCartney recorded the vocals and guitar alone, giving it a raw and intimate feel.

27. “Hurt” By Christina Aguilera

From the critically acclaimed album Back to Basics, Christina Aguilera‘s “Hurt” is a touching ballad that showcases her powerful vocal talent. The song profoundly explores remorse, grief, and the longing for forgiveness.

“Hurt” tells a story of regret over a damaged relationship. The protagonist blames herself for causing pain to a loved one. She sings a heartfelt apology, expressing sorrow for her actions that caused a rift in their relationship.

The grief in “Hurt” stems from the protagonist’s realization of the harm she has inflicted upon someone she cares about. She’s not just grieving over the loss of the relationship but also the pain she has caused.

28. “Last Kiss” By Pearl Jam

A cover of a song first recorded by Wayne Cochran, “Last Kiss” by Pearl Jam, is an emotional narrative of love and loss. The band’s rendition of this classic was included in their 1999 release No Boundaries: A Benefit for the Kosovar Refugees.

“Last Kiss” tells the tragic story of a young couple involved in a car accident, resulting in the death of the girl. The lyrics are narrated from the perspective of the surviving boy. He recounts the harrowing experience of losing his beloved right in his arms. The song’s title refers to the final kiss he shares with her before her passing.

Grief is central to the song. The narrator’s pain and sorrow over the sudden loss of his girlfriend are palpable throughout the lyrics, elevated by Eddie Vedder’s rich and emotive vocals.

29. “Angel” By Sarah McLachlan

Our next song is often referred to as “In the Arms of the Angel.” “Angel” is Sarah McLachlan‘s deeply touching piece about despair, solace, and the longing for relief from pain.

The story within “Angel” is of one seeking refuge during times of great emotional distress. The lyrics depict someone who spends their time “waiting for that second chance” and always finding a reason “to feel not good enough.”

Aside from grief, the song also reflects on the feelings of emptiness that often accompany this emotion. This is expressed in the line, “And the endlessness that you fear.” This indicates a sense of overwhelming sadness and fear associated with loss.

30. “My Heart Will Go On” By Céline Dion

Recognized the world over, Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” has touched countless hearts. This is the theme song for the 1997 film Titanic. It weaves a tale of love, loss, and grief that aligns with the tragic narrative of the movie.

Its lyrics tell the story of an enduring love that transcends even death. The lines “Near, far, wherever you are / I believe that the heart does go on” give a sense of deep emotional connection that continues despite the physical absence of a loved one.

“My Heart Will Go On” became an instant hit when it was released and remains a beloved classic to this day. Its haunting melody, paired with Dion’s powerful vocals, perfectly captures the emotions woven in the lyrics and has made it one of the most iconic songs in film history.

31. “I Will Always Love You” By Whitney Houston

Originally written by Dolly Parton, Whitney Houston‘s breathtaking rendition of “I Will Always Love You” continues to be an all-time favorite. It was beautifully reimagined by Houston for her film debut in The Bodyguard in 1992.

The song tells a tale of love and separation. In it, the narrator expresses her deep love for someone but acknowledges that they must part ways for reasons not explicitly stated.

This is where the theme of grief comes in. Here, the narrator’s grief lies in the acknowledgment of a love that cannot be sustained and the subsequent heartache that comes with letting go: “So goodbye, please don’t cry. We both know I’m not what you, you need.”

32. “Fix You” By Coldplay

Written by all four members of the band, Coldplay‘s “Fix You” is a heart-wrenching piece that stands out in their discography. This gem was crafted for their third studio album, X&Y, in 2005.

The song’s inspiration stems from a deeply personal place. Lead vocalist Chris Martin sought to provide solace to his then-wife Gwyneth Paltrow as she grappled with grief over the loss of her father.

This emotional underpinning provides a raw authenticity to the song. It transforms the song from a mere melody into a heartfelt message of love and support. It’s a gentle reminder that even in grief, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

33. “One More Light” By Linkin Park

Picture this: Linkin Park, a band known for its edgy, hard-hitting anthems, decides to take a softer, more introspective route. The result? A poignant ballad that strikes a chord with listeners worldwide: “One More Light.”

At its core, the song tells a story of profound loss. The lines “Who cares if one more light goes out?/ Well I do” evoke a palpable sense of sadness and yearning. These words speak volumes about the feelings of insignificance that sometimes accompany grief.

The music and vocals further amplify these emotions. The stripped-back production allows for a raw, unfiltered expression of grief. Chester Bennington’s voice, fragile yet powerful, conveys a deep sense of personal pain that is both heartbreaking and incredibly relatable.

34. “Gone Away” By The Offspring

Rock band The Offspring dives into the theme of grief in their song “Gone Away.” Written by lead vocalist Dexter Holland, it became one of their popular songs, reaching #1 on Billboard‘s Mainstream Rock chart.

Like most on this list, the lyrics describe someone grappling with the loss of a loved one. His emotions are compounded by the haunting sense of something left undone or words left unsaid.

The death of this person is so sudden that the narrator “can’t deal” and feels that “it’s so unfair” that his friend is “pulled away before [their] time.”

The inspiration for this song is unique, yet no less terrifying. The song was written after Holland and his wife’s near-death experience, after men opened fire in a restaurant they were eating at. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

35. “I Grieve” By Peter Gabriel

We end this list with a song that stands out for its ability to touch hearts. Peter Gabriel’s “I Grieve” is an emotional exploration of love, loss, and the profound impact that grief can have on an individual.

The song narrates the narrator’s struggle with the sudden departure of a loved one. Lines like “It was only one hour ago / It was all so different then” capture the shock and disbelief that often accompany the initial stages of grief.

As the song progresses, the lyrics dive deeper into his emotions. The lines “I grieve for you / You leave me / so hard to move on” are particularly powerful, encapsulating the heartache he feels as he comes to terms with this loss.

Summing Up Our List Of Grieving Songs

As you have read, songs that talk about grief have a way of reaching into the core of our emotions. They offer a sense of solace and understanding, resonating with our pain. In doing so, they help us feel less alone.

We hope the songs we have here brought you some comfort and healing. However, our list is far from complete. If you find solace in other songs that are not on the list, share them with us, and we’ll add them here!

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.