Short Stories About Grief, Melancholy or Sadness

These stories will have main characters experiencing and coping with grief.

See also:

“Wild Horses” by Rick Bass

Karen’s fiancé, Henry, died the day before they were to be married. He was on a railroad trestle drinking with some friends, including his best friend, Sydney. Henry dove in. His body was never found. Sydney, who breaks horses, visits Karen sometimes. In particular, he goes over once a month, and she hits him until she can’t anymore. This relieves her feelings for a while, but they always come back.

This story can be read in the preview of For a Little While: New and Selected Stories.

“The Visit” by Ray Bradbury

A woman arranges a visit with a reluctant young man. He could feel her grief through the phone, and it’s an unusual situation. They’re both unsure how to handle it. The young man is alive because of her son.

This story can be read in the preview of We’ll Always Have Paris: Stories.

“Shiloh” by Bobbie Ann Mason

Leroy has been off work for four months since getting hurt. His wife, Norma Jean, supports them both by working at a drugstore. Leroy is glad to be home with his wife, but he’s worried that she’s drawing away from him—maybe his presence reminds her of their son who died as a baby.

This story can be read in the preview of Shiloh & Other Stories.

“The Griot of Grover Street: Part 1” by Kwame Mbalia

Fort Jones, a young boy, runs out crying from Aunt Netta’s funeral. She was one of the bright spots of the neighborhood, known for her friendliness, singing and desserts. In his grief, Fort crashes into an unusual old man. He’s carrying a big glass jar with him. He’s concerned that the joy has spilled out. Fort’s mother comes along and tell him to help refill the jar.

This story can be read in the preview of Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood.

“Axiomatic” by Greg Egan

A man goes into The Implant Store. They sell tiny chips that can rewire the brain, giving people particular experiences or beliefs. He’s here for a special order. He looks around, giving himself a chance to leave without it. After five years, he still mourns and loves his deceased wife, Amy, but he knows he’s not doing this for her.

This is the second story in the preview of The Best of Greg Egan(28% into Kindle preview)

“Death on Christmas Eve” by Stanley Ellin

The family lawyer goes to the Boerum house to visit Charlie, who’s wife, Jessie, has died. Charlie’s sister, Celia, answers the door. The authorities have cleared Celia in the death, but the lawyer makes it clear he knows she did it. There’s lots of tension in the house. Celia is planning on getting rid of Jessie’s things.

This mystery story can be read in the preview of The Speciality of the House(82% into Kindle preview)

“The Whale House” by Sharon Millar

Laura and Mark scatter their baby’s ashes in the ocean. She knows he blames her. She hadn’t rested as much as the doctor advised. Pregnant at forty-six, she continued to cook and work around the house. Laura and Mark have two teenagers. A third, Jeannine, is also Laura’s daughter, but everyone believes they’re sisters.

Some of this story can be read in the preview of Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean(54% into preview)

“Rain” by Sangu Mandanna

Anna’s mother was killed a few months ago in a car accident. Her aunt Mynah invites her and her father to come visit for a while. They make the trip from England to America, where her aunt lives on Hungry Heart Row, a neighborhood with many food establishments. Anna’s relationship with her father has changed due to their grief.

This story can be read in the preview of Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love(14% into preview)

“Swimming Upstream” by Beth Brant

Anna May stopped at a motel to rest. She dreamt of her son Simon again, drowning while she tried to save him. At first it was a nightmare, but now the dream is familiar. When she’s awake, she imagines things about him. Her ex-husband had custody of Simon. She was unfit—she lived with a woman and had a history of alcoholism. Anna needed to get away for a while. She’s been thinking lately about drinking, just one bottle of wine.

“Dream Children” by Gail Godwin

A woman imagines that people are talking about the terrible experience she’s had. She rides a horse like she has nothing to lose. She has a normal routine and appears normal to others. She starts reading mystical books to understand her situation.

Read “Dream Children”

“Misery” by Anton Chekhov

Iona Potapov is the driver of a horse-drawn sleigh. His mind isn’t on his work due to a recent tragedy. He tries to talk to his passengers about his feelings.

Read “Misery”

“The End of Old Horse” by Simon J. Ortiz

Two brothers, Native American boys, go to a creek to fish and keep cool on a hot day. On their way, they see Old Horse, a dog, tied up, straining excitedly against his rope. They tell the owner, but he says to ignore it.

“Easter Eve” by Anton Chekhov

The narrator takes a ferry across the river to attend an Easter service. The monk who works on the ferry is mourning the death of his friend, a fellow monk.

Read “Easter Eve”

“War” by Luigi Pirandello

Passengers on a train carriage argue over who feels the most grief over their sons lost in WW I.

Read here

“The Last Lovely City” by Alice Adams

Benito Zamora, a doctor and widower, is invited to a dinner party by a young woman. He sees several people he is acquainted with, but he keeps to himself a lot.

“A Temporary Matter” by Jhumpa Lahiri

Shoba had a miscarriage six months ago, three weeks before she was due. She and her husband Shukumar get a notice from the electric company saying their power will be off for an hour for five consecutive evenings. While eating in candlelight, they decide to play a game where they will reveal something previously kept secret from each other.

Read here

“The Peach Stone” by Paul Horgan

A married couple, their son, and a teacher are taking a long car ride. The previous day, the couple’s two-year-old daughter had died in a fire. They are going to bury the dead child in the family plot.

“Currents” by Hannah Bottomy

Gary drinks at night, and his mother tucks his daughters into bed, telling them they’ll swim tomorrow and shouldn’t be afraid of the water. A Filipino boy had drowned, and the narrative moves back in time to fill in the day’s events.

Read “Currents”

“The Management of Grief” by Bharati Mukherjee

Shaila Bhave is an Indian Canadian woman mourning the loss of her husband and two sons in a plane crash. She is in a daze, and everything seems to remind her of her loss.

Read “The Management of Grief” (scroll down a bit)

“A Curtain of Green” by Eudora Welty

Mrs. Larkin is an elderly widow. She spends her days from morning until dark working in her garden. She is focused on planting whatever she can, and isolates herself from her community.

“The Function of Dream Sleep” by Harlan Ellison

McGrath wakes up and sees a large mouth closing up on his side. He’s sure it isn’t a dream—he sees and feels it. He gets a call from Sally, the widow of his recently deceased friend, Victor. In the morning, McGrath goes to the doctor about his side. She suggests that the recent deaths of several friends is affecting his mind.

Read “The Function of Dream Sleep” 

“Down to a Sunless Sea” by Neil Gaiman

A woman walks the docks in London as she has for a long time. You’re under an awning to get out of the rain. She sees you and starts talking about her son.

Read “Down to a Sunless Sea” 

“The Wig” by Brady Udall

An eight-year-old finds a wig in the garbage. He is sitting at the breakfast table wearing it when his father enters the room. It brings back memories for him.

Read “The Wig”

“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” by Ernest Hemingway

An old man sits alone in a café and drinks, as is his custom. Two waiters talk about the man’s life and wish he would go home.

Read “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”

“On the Shore of Chad Creek” by Jack Matthews

Melvin Combs, eighty-three, wakes up to find his wife Maude, eighty-one, has died. They live alone in an isolated spot. He doesn’t want to go for help. To get Maude to his car, he has to carry her down a steep hill and over a bridge. He has a drink to prepare himself.

Read “On the Shore of Chad Creek” (Ctrl + F “Melvin Combs”)

“Schrödinger’s Cat” by Ursula K. Le Guin

The narrator lives in a confusing world where things are very literal. He or she (?) also feels an unfocused sense of grief. The arrival of the mailman opens the possibility of an experiment.

“In Another Country” by David Constantine

Mr Mercer receives a letter notifying him that Katya has been found in the ice. He claims he had already told Mrs Mercer about Katya but she doesn’t remember.

Read “In Another Country”

“Pantaloon in Black” by William Faulkner

Rider, a huge strong black man, digs a grave for his deceased wife, Mannie. He won’t accept any help from his workmates. His aunt and friends want him to come with them but he refuses. He goes to his house. He sees Mannie standing in the kitchen door but she fades away. He goes to work the next morning but he’s still greatly affected by his grief.

“The Nurse” by Ben Ames Williams

Millie has been in a waiting room for three days. She’s about forty-five, and doesn’t take part in the conversation. She cries occasionally, which is one of the reasons she hasn’t been hired yet. She’s looking for a position as caregiver to a baby. She’s still in mourning over her last loss. Finally, she comes to an arrangement with Mrs. Jones.

Read “The Nurse”

“An Empty House With Many Doors” by Michael Swanwick

A man drinks while cleaning up his house. He takes out the garbage and gets his food. He thinks of Katherine, but is also forgetting what she looks like. He goes out for a walk, making his way among all the people. Suddenly, he sees something that, apparently, no one else can see.