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37 Quotes From Queer Authors About Heartbreak, Loss and Moving the F*ck On

It’s not uncommon to turn to books during times of heartbreak and romantic despair. Sometimes a breakup quote that feels like it was extracted from the depths of your heart and soup is the exact thing that can help you move on, that can make you feel a little less isolated. It might not feel like it now, but you’re going to get through this! Maybe these words from queer authors can help. And if you like what you see here, definitely seek out the books and full poems they came from.

This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated for 2024.


Zami by Audre Lorde

“Every woman I have ever loved has left her print upon me, where I loved some invaluable piece of myself apart from me — so different that I had to stretch and grow in order to recognize her.”

– Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name


“I know I’m running away but my heart has become a sterile zone where nothing can grow. I don’t want to face facts, shape up, snap out of it. In the pumped-out, dry bed of my heart, I’m learning to live without oxygen. I might get to like it in a masochistic way. I’ve sunk too low to make decisions and that brings with it a certain lightheaded freedom. Walking on the moon there’s no gravity. There are dead souls in uniform ranks, spacesuits too bulky for touch, helmets too heavy for speech. The miserable millions moving in time without hope. There are no clocks in Misery, just endless ticking.”

– Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body

Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson

The First Bad Man A Novel by Miranda July

“We had fallen in love; that was still true. But given the right psychological conditions, a person could fall in love with anyone or anything. A wooden desk—always on all fours, always prone, always there for you. What was the lifespan of these improbable loves? An hour. A week. A few months at best. The end was a natural thing, like the seasons, like getting older, fruit turning. That was the saddest part—there was no one to blame and no way to reverse it.”

– Miranda July, The First Bad Man


“A reminder to remember: just because the sharpness of the sadness has faded does not mean that it was not, once, terrible. It means only that time and space, creatures of infinite girth and tenderness, have stepped between the two of you, and they are keeping you safe as they were once unable to.”

– Carmen Maria Machado, In the Dream House

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

Frid Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fanie Flagg

“You know, a heart can be broken, but it still keeps a-beating just the same.”

– Fannie Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe


“Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this too, was a gift.”

– Mary Oliver, The Uses of Sorrow


“All the way to the lot, I try to think about life’s vast possibilities. Not as a means of self-torture, because I’m not that type of girl. But as a means of trying to get over Morgan. Life is vast. Many things are possible. Morgan was right about that. So even if she is dating Rebecca now, maybe the world isn’t necessarily over for me. There are still Ava Maddoxes to find and sets to create and girls to kiss and colleges to attend. It’s possible that someday I will hear a Patsy Cline song and the heartbreak will barely register. It will be some distant, buried feeling. I won’t remember how much it once hurt.”

– Nina LaCour, Everything Leads to You

Everything Leads To You by Nina LaCour

Bluets by Maggie Nelson

“For to wish to forget how much you loved someone —and then, to actually forget — can feel, at times, like the slaughter of a beautiful bird who chose, by nothing short of grace, to make a habitat of your heart.”

– Maggie Nelson, Bluets


“There are two rumors about breaking up that I feel might be helpful to address here.

One is that breakups should be clean. The other is that you should only breakup when you’re not in love. The truth is, breakups are usually messy, the way people are messy, the way life is often messy. I’s okay for a breakup to feel like a disaster. It doesn’t feel okay, but I assure you it is okay. It’s also true that you can breakup with someone you still love. Because those two things are not distinct territories: love and not loving anymore.”

– Mariko Tamaki, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki

Lena by Jacqueline Woodson

“It seemed like someone was always leaving someone, like that’s the way the world worked—people were born and people died, people left and people came. It was like the world was saying you can’t have everything you want at the same time.”

– Jacqueline Woodson, Lena


“People have long and complicated lives, and it behooves every one of us to understand and accept that the older we are when we meet our life partner, the more likely each of us will be dragging baggage, and that we’ve only been able to grow into the person we became because of that baggage —by having fucked up and learned, fucked up and learned, again and again, and the graver the mistakes we made and the heavier the loads we carried, the bigger the leaps we would have been forced to perform, and it was those very leaps that made us today into better, stronger, more resilient people.”

– Shani Mootoo, Polar Vortex

Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo

“Even as I hold you, I am letting you go.”

– Alice Walker


Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

“The more I thought about it, it made sense that these adult women worked hard on their friendships, even when sex and romantic love weren’t part of the equation. It made me wonder about all the ways that we are able to love each other and how movies and TV make it seem like you have to discard people once they break your heart or once the love disappears. Maybe that was a horrible lie, a complete disservice to real love. Maybe those women in that house were renegades and I needed to take notice.”

– Gabby Rivera, Juliet Takes a Breath


“It hurts to love. It’s like giving yourself to be flayed and knowing that at any moment the other person may just walk off with your skin.”

– Susan Sontag, Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963

Reborn: Journals and Notebooks by Susan Sontag

“I don’t want you if I’m going to have to feel this pain. I don’t want you, or rather I don’t want these feelings of wanting you more than anything else in the world. If having these feelings which you blithely call love means most of the days I live through are spent in wanting that which I can’t be relieved: this is no fucking way to live and I won’t stand for it.”

– Kathy Acker, Memory (One Kind of Time)


Skin by Dorothy Allison

“I believe in the remade life, the possibilities inherent in our lesbian and gay chosen families, our families of friends and lovers, the healing that can take place among the most wounded of us. My family of friends has kept me alive through lovers who have left, enterprises that have failed, and all too many stories that never got finished. That family has been part of remaking the world for me.”

– Dorothy Allison, Skin: Talking About Sex, Class, and Literature


“She let all the memories find their way to the top of her thoughts. Although the loss made her wistful, there was little sadness this time — having made one home, she could make another.”

– Jewelle Gomez, The Gilda Stories

The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez

Alone and longing for you
now I do

– June Jordan, Poem for Haruko


Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

“I found my fingers once again on my breast bone, probing and chafing, searching for the thickening organ behind it. This time, however, it seemed to me that I found it. There was a darkness, a heaviness, a stillness, at the very centre of me, that I had not known was growing there, but which gave me, now, a kind of comfort. My breast felt tight and sore —but I didn’t writhe, or sweat, beneath the pain fo it, rather, I crossed my arms over my ribs, and embraced my dark and thickened heart like a lover.”

– Sarah Waters, Tipping the Velvet


“If there had been enough room for two in our world, maybe we could have moved it anywhere. But there wasn’t. I needed her to make more space for me. I needed real parity — something we’d never had. I think she knew that she was losing me. That her only options were to change how we worked or to let me leave. She didn’t want to do either of those things, so she invented a third option: this life in the suburbs, where i would have more time and money, and we could be happy. She wanted me to be happy, I know. And this way, she wouldn’t have to change anything. But it was like a necklace of maggots. If I turned it this way, they looked like pearls. But they weren’t pearls. It was a sacrifice wrapped as a gift.”

– Melissa Febos, Abandon Me

Abandon Me by Melissa Febos

Whenever
However this ends,
I want you to know, that right now,
I love you forever
I love you for the hardest mile we walked together.

– Andrea Gibson, “How it Ends”


The Terrible Girls by Rebecca Brown

“I couldn’t tell you that you can’t re-do a thing that’s been undone. I couldn’t tell you anything that you would understand. I couldn’t tell you that it wasn’t just the fact that you had ripped it out of me and taken it and mounted it, then left with it then lost it, how it wasn’t only that, but it was more. How it was that when you asked me, I believed you and I told you yes. How, though I had tried a long time to replace what you had hacked away from me, I never could undo the action of your doing so, that I had, and only ever would have, more belief in your faulty memory, your stupid sloppy foresight, than in your claims of change. How I believed, yes, I believed with all my heart, that given time, you’d do something else again. And then I thought, but this was only half a thought, that even if you had changed, no really really changed, truly and at last, and even if you knew me better than I know myself, and even if I’m better off than I’ve ever been, and even if this was the only way we could have gotten to this special place where we are now, and even if there’s a reason, darling, something bigger than both of us, and even if all these even if’s are true, that I would never believe you again, never forget what I know of you, never forget what you’ve done to me, what you will do, I’ll never believe the myth of forgiveness between us.”

– Rebecca Brown, The Terrible Girls


“In hindsight, I see it was my decision not to let go. I didn’t know how, though some days I focused completely on it: using therapy, distraction, exercise. Other days I left myself wildly grieve. Finn affects it all: every conversation I have, what I choose to wear, what books I read, what films and shows I watch. There’s that Buddhist quote, (S)he who angers you owns you. She owned me. I allowed it. She controlled me. I knew this feeling of misery would pass, that what I needed was time, but I was impatient. Unfortunately, we must live through the present to get to the future, writes Hanif Kureishi in his novel Intimacy.”

– Chloe Caldwell, Women

Women by Chloe Caldwell

“… it seems to me that life is just a series of long, jagged peaks of joy — accompanied by a brooding and enduring sense of a loss — of powers, of love, of favorite shirts, of moments and opportunities and notebooks that together constitute the passage of one human, me, bobbing floating skipping like a flat stone down the river of life. It’s massive, this sense of things; it’s anonymous yet it feels personal from here.”

– Eileen myles, Lost in Canada: A 3,600 Word Advertisement For My Missing Notebook


Day: A Novel by Michael Cunningham

“There’s no return for them, nothing left to rekindle. Isabel knows it. They can go on being cordial and affectionate. They can worry together about the children. They can even desire happiness, each for the other, but they are no longer lovers, they are no longer married, which, by way of a transition, is all the more final for having escaped their attention, for having occurred in increments, like a leak that goes undetected until the day it becomes apparent that the whole structure has been saturated, so full of moisture and mildew that it can no longer be repaired.”

– Michael Cunningham, Day: A Novel


“How did anyone move on from anything? How did anyone imagine desire in any other shape except the first?”

“Maybe the moving was not on but through.

‘I know,’ said Shiva. ‘Will it go away?’ She meant the feeling, the skin ache, the constant inability to see around the perimeter.

‘I mean, sort of,’ said Levi. ‘But somewhere, in some parallel life, it feels exactly like I’m still in Greenpoint at Dav’s apartment, them making me Turkish coffee, showing me their drawings, calling me little bird. Like we never ended. I guess everything everyone says about grief and time, it’s all true. Some losses are so hard that only the passage of time will soften them. I hate that. Stupid time.'”

– Temim Fruchter, City of Laughter

City of Laughter by Temim Frruchter

Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett

“After Brynn left, I thought about transitions a lot. The sameness, the dullness of everything. How nothing in my life ever felt like it was moving fast enough, but at the same time I couldn’t stand to leave the one place where Brynn had left me. The last place we’d loved each other

Limbo to me felt like remembering the pain. The memory of slamming your fingers in a car door or smashing your littlest toe into a wall. It was the shivery feeling you got if you remembered ramming your shin into a desk. You could remember feelings over and over again and they never changed or got any better. They always hurt the same, and it seemed they always would.”

– Kristen Arnett, Mostly Dead Things


“There wasn’t much to say after that. Maria was like, I was going to break up with you, too, and then they just kind of looked at each other. Steph cried and for a minute Maria felt like she might not and she felt heartless and mean down to the bottom of her lungs, but then she cried too. Just a little. They hugged and Maria said something about figuring out logistics tomorrow but that she had to go get drunk right now. Steph laughed, which made Maria feel like probably one day they’d be friends.

Dykes.

It feels shitty not to have gotten to say all the shit that Maria is just now realizing she needed to say, about patterns of checking out in her own life and stuff, but ‘I am not your girlfriend any more’ is pretty close to ‘I don’t have to listen to your shit any more,’ and plus, who actually wants to say those things out loud. No matter how bad you need to.”

– Imogen Binnie, Nevada

Nevada by Imogen Binnie

You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat

“Our abrupt ending left me feeling abandoned, and the pain of it was unbearable. I needed an explanation. I needed to know that it wasn’t my fault.”

– Zaina Arafat, You Exist Too Much


I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.

– Adrienne Rich, “Diving Into the Wreck”


The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

“Carol was walking slowly away, past the Ritz Tower doorway, and on. And that was the way it should be, Therese thought, not with a lingering handclasp, not with backward glances.”

– Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt


“Sasha’s apartment smelled like someone had shut the windows and touched all her things. I kept the lights off. Opened the windows. Fell into her bed. It didn’t smell like us.”

– Ruth Madievsky, All-Night Pharmacy

All-Night Pharmacy by Ruth Medievsky

Mrs. S by K Patrick

“I have always known I would have to live without her. But the how, how I might do that, has not crossed my mind until now. To face myself, alone.”

– K Patrick, Mrs. S


“Things continue.This is something I have always found: unfortunately, things go on.”

– Julia Armfield, Our Wives Under the Sea

Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield

All This Could Be Different by Sarah Thankam Mathews

“Not to imply that by the time it came, our final breakup was anything close to bearable. A condemned building experiencing its final demolition. Maria pulling the trigger, saying, face spasming with pain, I cannot do this anymore.

Not to gloss over the subsequent period for which my mother finally flew to D.C. and forced me to bathe and eat and go to work each day.

Nothing is implied here besides the opiate nature of time. Besides the fact that after it all went down, we had regard for each other, grudging respect, an ocean-deep understanding of the other person, and not mutual vision of romantic continuity.”

– Sarah Thankam Mathews, All This Could Be Different


“I hope you cannot eat xiao long bao without thinking of me. Keep my body in your mind as you unstick the dumpling’s gooseflesh from the steamer and cradle it in a spoon. Crest its pert twirl with spice and douse it in sour. Pierce its pliant flesh and suck out the juice.”

– Sabrina Imbler, Dyke (geology)

Dyke (geology) by Sabrina Imbler

“I couldn’t get away from the spirit of Delores that haunted my apartment and clawed its way back into my mind. Every time I sat in that place, the demon took hold. The only thing that led me away from my pain was to think about Charlotte. Then I could forget who I was.”

– Sarah Schulman, After Dolores

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Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3203 articles for us.

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 847 articles for us.

15 Comments

  1. sigh, fine. i am going to read the vampire book. and, as a grownup adulting person, most days, if i get scared i can take responsibility for that. it will not be your fault, Riese. though, in that it would not have happened but for you, it will not not be your fault.

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