Symbols of Sadness (A comprehensive guide)

Symbols of Sadness (A comprehensive guide)

In this brief guide, we will discuss some common symbols of sadness and how to deal with sadness..

Symbols of sadness and their meaning

Symbols of sadness are all around us, in art, in nature, even in things we do.

We tend to notice these symbols a lot more when we are experiencing sadness ourselves, otherwise we tend to ignore them for the most part.

Symbols of sadness have been a device that poets, writers, musicians, and artists have used for centuries, to convey emotion through their chosen art form and touch people’s lives.

There are also various symbols that represent sadness in mythology and there are plants and words we also tend to associate with sadness.

In addition, there are various symbols of sadness in dreams as well, according to the various dream interpretation guides in the psychological literature.

Symbols of sadness in Literature

To understand symbols of sadness in art or other things, we need to first understand what Symbolism means.

Symbolism is the manner of representing things by using symbols, or attributing symbolic meaning or importance to objects, events, or relationships between characters.

When reading a story for instance, a reader can tell that a heroine is vain about her looks when there is always a mirror around her, or when she is frequently associated with the mirror.

Similarly, a symbol of sadness might be rain, thunder, extreme drought.

Any condition that signifies great difficulty and loss can usually be a symbol of sadness.

In literature, a symbol is mostly some object that is tangible or visible or appeals to the sense in some other way, and that represents an abstract idea (such as sadness, for instance).

The speaker of literature states things related to the symbol and they are meant to symbolize the concept they want to represent.

For instance, in the poem Ode to the West Wind, Percy Bysshe Shelley ends the poem with the line “If Winter comes can Summer be far behind”?

Here the seasons he is talking about represent happiness and sadness. He is talking about it in terms of the changing of seasons but what is implying is that if you are experiencing bad times you will experience good times as well eventually.

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Symbols of sadness in Music

Music is one of the best art forms to exhibit symbolism and specifically symbols of sadness.

For instance, in her song “Burying a friend” Billie Eilish uses symbolism to talk about her own struggle with mental health issues and how she dealt with suicidal thoughts.

Not only people suffering from depression, even people who are generally of sound mental health enjoy sad music and music that is filled with symbols of sadness.

In Music one of the most commonly employed instruments to portray sadness is the Violin. It has a very haunting melody and it is therefore used often when a sad melody is to be played.

In addition, Minor chords are chord progressions are commonly used for symbolizing sadness in pieces meant to be emotional.

Why we are attracted to Sad Music

Research indicates that we are attracted to sad music for a variety of reasons, one of them being that it is a healthy emotional state that people need to feel, just not in excess.

People use symbols of sadness in Music because like language, civilizations have been using Music to communicate for centuries.

People tend to choose sad music when they are sad rather than happy songs because they want to feel a sort of company, and they want to hear someone sympathizing with them, which is what a sad song can feel like.

Symbols of sadness can come in especially useful when the language is spoken is not the same.

Language is bound by syntax and grammar and other rules that make it hard for people to share ideas with each other in the same language all the time.

Therefore, what we have is music, which can sound a certain way and it will invoke the same emotion in people all throughout the world.

Symbols of sadness in Music arise out of a need for a shareable and learnable symbolic form.

Another great thing about using symbols of sadness in Music is that unlike most other art forms, has no visual aspect to it.

Music elicits feelings and emotions because it is processed in very primal areas of the brain, which are parts of the old pathways that we inherited from our ancestors.

In fact, Music can actually create its own picture through with you can invent your own imagery.

Symbols of sadness in Dreams

Sigmund Freud, known as the father of Psychology, is famous for the procedure he created called the interpretation of Dreams.

Through this method, he claimed to know the subconscious of the individual as well as the hopes and dreams they may be too conscious to say or be unaware of altogether.

In this process, Freud would ask his patients to keep a dream journal and ask them to recount their dreams in the sessions.

He made an extensive list of symbols that occur in dreams commonly, like being naked in a public place, losing a loved one or dying or getting hurt, and wrote the encyclopedia on dream interpretation called The Interpretation of Dreams.

Decades later this book is still the main source for knowledge about the symbols of sadness and other emotions prevalent in dreams.

Usually, when someone talks about symbols of sadness in dreams they are usually talking about the intense feeling of sadness while dreaming or seeing oneself cry or lose someone.

The constant symbol of losing someone and being sad about it in a dream can mean that the individual has a fear of attachment.

People who are scared they will lose their loved ones or that their loved ones will leave them often dream the same in their dreams, and often they may see that their loved ones are dying or hiding behind something.

In addition, another symbol of sadness in a dream can be darkness and blurriness. Not being able to remember dreams or remembering them in a hazy manner may also be a symbol of sadness as it may mean that you are not at one with your subconscious.

Symbol of Sadness in art and visual mediums

Sadness is symbolized time and again in art and other visual mediums.

For instance, in paintings, the use of darker or muted colors, or colder colors that are extremely contrasted against each other, can be strong symbols of sadness.

In addition, in painting that feature people, figures shown as reaching out can also be considered some effective symbols of sadness.

A famous example of a symbol of sadness in paintings is the Mona Lisa.

This painting by Leonardo Da Vinci is one of the most famous paintings of all times and it depicts beautifully how easily debatable symbols can be in visual mediums.

For each symbol, there may be many interpretations, like the Mona Lisa has.

Critics have discussed for decades what the meaning of Mona Lisa’s smile is, and many people see it as sad.

This is also a great example of how the same people approach the same stimulus in a different manner.

Use of Symbols of Sadness in Mental health

While symbols of sadness are great in art and as a medium of communication, they can also be put to use to understand the condition of the individual’s mental health.

In personality tests like the Rorschach Inkblot test and the Thematic Apperception Test, the individual is given different stimuli and they are meant to formulate a variety of responses about these cards.

These cards provide very different answers but they each have some definite symbols of sadness.

For instance, in the stories that subjects are asked to formulate in the Thematic apperception test are often riddled with stories that feature individuals not getting happy endings and losing things that are precious to them.

These stories exhibit very clearly the symbols of sadness that people may see where there are none.

Flowers as a symbol of sadness

Flowers can signify loads of things depending on the context.

They may be used to say I’m sorry, I’m so happy for you, get better soon, and so on.

No one can see red roses without thinking of valentine’s day or of romance in general, that’s how powerful symbolism is when it comes to flowers.

Usually, daisies are seen as happy flowers, due to their bright color, and usually flowers more in the cool shades like purple and blue and so they are used to symbolize sadness.

Symbols of sadness in movies and videos

There are countless symbols in movies and tv shows.

There are specifically a great number of symbols to depict sadness.

Everyone knows that scene of a woman going somewhere by car with her head against the glass of the window and it is raining outside, this is one of the most used symbols that shows sadness.

In addition, loss can be shown by someone falling or someone reaching out, fear can be shown by quick jerky movements and mystery can be symbolized by dark birds like the Raven.

These symbols of various abstract concepts seek to enhance our cinematic experience by not only engaging our eyes and ears but also the primitive centers of our minds that are dealing with complex emotion that goes beyond the sensory modalities.

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In this brief guide, we discussed some common symbols of sadness.

FAQ: Symbols of Sadness

What is a symbol for sadness?

Rain is an often-used symbol of sadness in different art forms. Rain is an especially good symbol for sadness-probably because in reality as well, this particular weather pattern brings about feelings of depression, darkness, and exhaustion.

It may also be so commonly used due to the fact that it somehow speaks to our concept of tears or crying.

What flower symbolizes sadness?

Usually, purple hyacinths symbolize sadness.

A purple hyacinth is commonly seen as an emblem of forgiveness and says “I am sorry,” “Please forgive me” and “Sorrow.”

To tell someone that you are sad about something you did or an event you caused, and wish for forgiveness, you can choose a bouquet of purple hyacinth flowers to represent this sadness you are feeling, and hopefully, they will understand.

What is a symbol of loneliness?

A commonly used symbol of loneliness is a single tree with few leaves, a wolf in a howling pose atop a mountain or hill, a road that leads nowhere, or a person by themselves staring with expression completely blank.

Any of these symbols can be used in any art form to represent sadness, despair, or loneliness.

What flower means sorrow?

Hyacinths of any color usually indicate sorrow and despair.

What is the most powerful symbol?

One of the most powerful symbols in the world is The Hamsa which refers to the healing hand.

It is also known as the Hand of Fatima.

The Hamsa is a respected symbol of divine safekeeping and is usually worn to dispel negative energy.

Another strong symbol is The Ankh or the key of life.

Lastly, a very strong symbol is the Cross which is a sign of infinite love.



Daniela Paez is a Clinical Psychologist with an MSc. In Clinical Neuropsychology from Bangor University. She has vast experience in working with children with disabilities, adolescents and their families, in extreme conditions of poverty and vulnerability. Additionally, she owns a private practice where she provides neuropsychological evaluation for children and adults, and treatment for mood disorders, anxiety, couple therapy, among other conditions.