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.

Sad Symbolisms in todays world

The most common symbolism to show sad emotion is Rain, whether that is in video, audio or written artistic form. Rain can be very sadness-inducing because even in real circumstances this type of weather pattern can cause feelings of depression, darkness, and exhaustion.

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.

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 unclothed 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.

Symbols of Sadness in Nature

Symbols of sadness in nature may consist of just about any symbols that people may find easy to attribute feelings of sadness or stress to, and they may be useful in symbolizing sadness in forms of art or literature as well.

Symbols of sadness in nature can be seen in plant or animal life, and sometimes even in things like weather patterns or climate changes, which can signify tormented emotions and a mindset of unrest.

Symbols of sadness in nature related to climate or weather can most commonly consist of rains or thunder, which are often associated with darkness and depression and generally low mood, which may be due to how someone feels when they are sad, and how they may experience sadness as a sort of darkness on the inside.

Rain is also a frequently employed symbol of sadness in nature because rain falling is often thought of in relation to tears flowing when someone cries, which makes for a good symbolism and as mentioned before, it is used fairly often in movies and tv shows where someone is shown leaning against the window and their tears  blend almost seamlessly with the rain.

Dark words, twisted paths, a melancholy sort of atmosphere are other symbols of sadness in nature that people may use often in art or visual mediums such as movies or tv shows.

Symbols of Sadness with Flower

Symbols of sadness with flowers may likely consist of flowers that are themselves associated with sadness and sobriety, and any symbols of sadness with flowers may make for great additions to artworks or other visual mediums of expression.

A common symbol of sadness with flowers to express rejected love or heartbreak is a bouquet of withered and broken flowers, which may signify a death of love and affection, and it may express well how the person feels on the inside.

Many symbols of sadness with flowers may feature dead or dying flowers, because sadness is often associated with concepts of things ending or the person feeling like they are close to their end or just generally feeling dead on the inside, and this is meant to be reflected in the symbols of sadness.

Another common symbol of sadness with flowers may be Purple hyacinths, which has been mentioned in the previous section about flowers as a symbol of sadness, but bear in mind that purple hyacinths can also mean that you are asking for forgiveness.

If you are going to a funeral or a sad event and want to take along a symbol of sadness with flowers, you can take a bouquet of flowers like purple hyacinths or even gladiolus, although the latter can sometimes mean get well soon as well.

Chinese Symbols of Sadness

The chinese symbol of sadness is  悲伤之, which is pronounced as Bēishāng zhī.

Some other common negative emotions that serve as Chinese symbols of sadness or others are as follows:

  • Sad: Nánguò 难过
  • Upset: bùān 不安
  • Lonely: jìmò 寂寞
  • Disappointed: shīwàng le de 失望了的 
  • Gloomy: yīnyù de 阴郁的
  • Miserable: tòngkǔ de 痛苦的
  • Discouraged: qìněi de 气馁的
  • Exhausted: jīn pí lì jìn de 筋疲力尽的
  • Depression:  窪

Ancient Symbols of Sadness

Some ancient symbols of sadness could be found across the hieroglyphs in tombs of famous emperors and in other depictions and cave paintings made by the early man, and while these have not been decoded completely yet, there are many symbols there that may be considered ancient.

Ancient symbols of sadness also focused a lot on natural things like flowers, plants or animals that somehow spoke of sadness to the people, and they tend to be centered around the reality of the individuals. 

Ancient symbols of sadness also had a lot to do with color, and when the symbols of sadness were being depicted in art or in written symbols which had images and not letters, colors were often employed to put the point across and tell the viewer that the message was meant to convey sadness or other negative emotions that usually tend to fall in the same category as sadness.

A common ancient symbol of sadness could be considered the color Black, which has always, and still does, symbolize death and the underworld, and it also equally symbolizes authority and power. 

This ancient symbol of sadness also implies submission, which is why priests often wear this color to signify their submission to God but on the contrary this color can also be used as a symbol of negativity and evil, hence the color of Dracula’s cape.  

Best Symbols of Sadness

Some of the best symbols of sadness include:

  • Rain and thunder
  • Dark forests/woods
  • Purple hyacinths
  • The color black
  • Low and moody music
  • Minor keys in music
  • Quick and shallow brushstrokes in art
  • Raven (Bird)
  • Broken heart
  • Withered flowers
  • Darkness
  • Looking down into an abyss

Some of the best symbols of sadness can include anything that would signify how the person feels on the inside, and since sadness is associated with the lack of thinking ability and tears or fogginess of the mind, symbols of sadness often include the things that reflect that.


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.