How to Heal the Pain of Loss According to Charles Dickens

In 1862, Letitia, Charles Dickens's little sister, lost her husband. Having been married for almost 25 years, she didn't know how to address her pain. The letter that the famous British writer wrote provided her with an ocean of comfort and empathy.
How to Heal the Pain of Loss According to Charles Dickens
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 07 March, 2023

Throughout the history of literature, one particular author has stood out for his exceptional gift. Charles Dickens. In his books, he outlined the most amazing characters and the most abhorrent emotional universes. Love, hate, melancholy, sadness, longing, disappointment, loneliness, regret. His books are true compendiums of human emotions.

For example, particularly unforgettable was the character of Pip in Great Expectations. The evolution of the shy orphan who suddenly found himself blessed by financial help from an unknown benefactor is required reading for every generation.

In its pages, we discover characters like Miss Havisham, a woman who was abandoned at the altar on her wedding day. This fact paralyzed her and she’s refused to take off her wedding dress ever since. In fact, she lives in a house frozen at that same tragic moment in time.

Dickens was a really effective writer in plumbing the depths of suffering in any of its forms. This ability wasn’t only demonstrated in his writing. In real life, he also showed the same sensitivity.

“There is a wisdom of the head and… there is a wisdom of the heart.”

-Hard Times, 1854

image to represent how to heal the pain of loss according to Charles Dickens
The most difficult experiences we’ll ever encounter in our lives involve the loss of loved ones.

Healing the pain of loss according to Charles Dickens

In 1862, Letitia Austen lost her husband, Henry Austen. He was a well-known artist and architect with whom she’d shared her life for 25 years. You may not have heard of her. However, the interest in this seemingly anonymous story lies in the fact that this woman was the younger sister of the writer Charles Dickens.

It’s well known that the greatest writer of the Victorian era was a man of great wisdom and sensitivity. This belief isn’t mere opinion, it’s one we obtain after reading his novels. Moreover, there’s the entire collection of his own letters collated in The Letters Of Charles Dickens (2012).

Letitia’s suffering that she couldn’t overcome caused Charles Dickens to write her a letter to try and comfort her. However, he did more than comfort her with his words. In fact, he provided her with certain strategies that were extremely interesting from a psychological point of view.

In this world, there is no support other than one’s hope and the mercy and goodness of God. Through those two harbors of a shipwrecked heart, I firmly believe that, in time, you will find a peaceful resting place, even in this care-ridden land.

Faith and hope, the inner lights

According to Charles Dickens, to heal the pain of loss, we must turn our gaze inward. It’s this intimate space to which we must cling, that gives us meaning. It’s here that we find the two dimensions that have always provided comfort to us, as humans; faith and hope.

Indeed, these two dimensions speak the language of the heart and form a mooring capable of giving us support and security when our worlds fall apart. After all, losing a loved one is an experience that no one is ever prepared for. Despite this fact, few experiences are more common and we manage to survive and move forward.

Hope is the idea that, despite our current pain, there’ll continue to be reasons to continue moving forward with less suffering. Faith, spirituality, and religion make up this private dimension. We all have our own. It’s a tool that tempers sadness, nonsense, and fears.

Daily effort and habits: external guides

The author of Oliver Twist, Hard Times, Great Expectations, and David Copperfield told his sister that time would move on and her grief would be less. He suggested, with subtle elegance and empathy, that the rough seas she found herself in, in which confusion had taken the helm, would calm down at some point.

However, he also claimed that progress isn’t possible without effort. As a matter of fact, these words that he addressed to his sister had great therapeutic significance. He suggested that she must establish certain ways of thinking. For example, to avoid irrational ideas, and not fall into absolute despair, etc.

In addition, he proposed the necessity to improve her habits: organize her days, look for new occupations, get out of bed, and do things to distract her mind… He proposed that this would make her dark emotions give way to light and hope.

Nothing can be achieved without effort. In a determined effort to establish the thoughts, to divide up the day, to find a regular occupation or to do it, to get up and do something, one finds mainly the mechanical means of creating a better mentality.

Woman with light in her mind to symbolize how to heal the pain of loss according to Charles Dickens
According to Charles Dickens, grief is like living in a rough sea.

The goal: to achieve a state of a calmer state of mind.

“The disturbed mind and affections, like the rough sea, seldom subside without an intervening time of confusion and trouble”. Dickens didn’t hesitate to warn his sister of an obvious reality. This was the fact that balancing and overcoming grief after a loss isn’t an easy journey. It means having to travel through a troubled sea in which difficulties will accompany us for a while.

There’s truth, sensitivity, and honesty in the letter that he wrote to his sister. He didn’t offer her empty words and easy and inconsistent encouragement, like someone who pats us on the back and convinces us that “everything will pass”. According to Charles Dickens, to heal the pain of loss, we must understand that there’s a process to go through, one that’s not exempt from ups and downs and emotional chaos.

Despite this fact, sooner or later, we manage to reach calmer states of mind. At no time does Dickens speak of happiness or well-being. Even in this aspect, we find him to be honest and brave when it comes to addressing a loved one like his sister.

Overcoming pain means going from a storm to stability, from darkness to a new, more serene dawn. Even now, Dickens’s words continue to offer us comfort and wisdom. It’s hardly surprising that he became one of the best ever writers on life, love, and human suffering.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Colledge, Gary (2012), God and Charles Dickens: Recovering the Christian Voice of a Classic Author. Baker Books.
  •  Ledger, Sally y Holly Furneaux, (2011), Charles Dickens in Context, Cambridge University Press. p. 318.
  • The Letters Of Charles Dickens, 2012. New Publisher
  • Walder, Denis (1981). Dickens and Religion. London: Allen.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.