Symbols of suffering are a great way to handle pain and grief. They can help you pinpoint why you suffer so that you can learn to embrace the right kind of pain and let go of the needless suffering in your life.

Symbols of Suffering

13 Symbols of Suffering in Different Cultures

1. Tragic Mask

The mask of tragedy is a symbol of suffering in the theater. It represents the goddess of tragedy, Melpomene, who was a muse in ancient Greece. To this day, the mask of tragedy is a tool in the arts to represent a dramatized yet disconnected version of suffering.

2. Ankh

The Ankh has many meanings, and one of those is suffering. In Ancient Egypt, the Ankj was a talisman that could protect those who were suffering and offer comfort to those facing adversity.

3. Phoenix

The phoenix continues to rise from suffering better than ever, used to represent the ability to regenerate after struggles. Though not immortal, it can die many times before keeling over for good.

4. Empty Chair

An empty chair represents a specific type of suffering involving loss. This is the type of suffering one experiences from the loss of a loved one. It comes from the fact that through the years, people seem to lean toward specific chairs that become theirs. So their absence is intense when one is near that chair.

5. Ribbon

Many colors of ribbons represent suffering. The black ribbon is the most prominent, which is a way to show compassion toward those who suffer from depression. However, every color of the ribbon is used in the same way to show empathy for different types of suffering.

6. Icarus

Icarus is a Greek character known for not surviving the transition to adulthood. He suffered greatly, as did his family, as it was his not listening to his father that caused his demise when he flew into the sun.

7. Star of David

The Star of David is a symbol of suffering in the Jewish faith. The tie to suffering began during the Nazi persecution of Jews in World War I, which is why the start now has more meanings than its original Jewish ties from the 17th century.

8. Guanyin

Guanyin is a Chinese goddess of compassion who is famous for reducing suffering. She’s commonly an epitome of compassion and revered for her mercy and ability to give those who are grieving hope.

9. Oizys

Oizys is the Greek goddess of suffering and misery (Miseria in Roman mythology.) She is the daughter of Nyx and Hesiod. Though there is not much to know about Oizys, she’s still a powerful goddess who represents everything that creates suffering.

10. Cross

The cross is a symbol of suffering in Christianity. It was used during Christ’s crucifixion, which was the ultimate sacrifice and act of suffering in the Christian religion.

11. Crown of Thorns

The crown of thorns carries the same weight as the cross in terms of suffering. It and the cat of nine tails are weapons used to inflict pain upon Christ during his crucifixion.

12. Soldier/Warrior

Soldiers and warriors represent suffering that is brought on by sacrifice. This is the type of sacrifice that has been made millions of times throughout history for the greater good of mankind.

13. Weeping Willow

The weeping willow tree represents the emotions that create suffering. The droopy branches are a good representation of the feelings of pain, sadness, and suffering. It is a common tree used to represent suffering in art and literature, often without words, as many users subconsciously understand this connection. With the weeping willow’s pain comes beauty, resilience, and personal growth.

Flower Symbols of Suffering

  • Lotus – this flower has many meanings, including suffering that leads to enlightenment
  • White Poppies – this color of poppy represents current suffering while red poppies represent suffering from war
  • Daffodil – this flower can represent joy as well as sadness, depending on the culture
  • Bleeding Heart – the aptly named flower represents pain, suffering, and sorrow

Crystals That Symbolize Suffering

  • Malachite – healing powers that fight against physical suffering
  • Black Tourmaline – absorbs suffering and protects
  • Bloodstone – blood purifier that works for all types of suffering
  • Fluorite – balances chakras to relieve suffering

Animal Suffering Symbols

  • Lamb – a pure animal that represents grief and sacrifice
  • Ravenan omen bird that represents knowledge, wisdom, and heartache
  • Penguin – an enduring animal that symbolizes suffering due to the climate in which it lives

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