I am stretched on your grave and will lie there forever
If your hands were in mine, I'd be sure we'd not sever
Oh, the priests and the friars approach me in dread
For I love you still, my wife, and you're dead
— Táim shínte ar do h'uaighh (traditional Irish poem)
Bob once loved Alice. How far this relationship went, whether Alice knew how Bob felt, how happy a couple they actually were (if they were a couple) are all unimportant.
Alice dies. (Or gets married to someone else, although this isn't as common a version as it used to be.) The point is that the possibility of a relationship between Bob and Alice is over.
Bob will never get over it, will never find a new girl no matter who shows up. Alice was the one for him, and if anyone says he "loved" Alice, he will waste no time correcting their tenses.
Often used as a Cynicism Catalyst. Done poorly, can result in Stalker with a Crush tendencies. This old love may not hold up if a Manic Pixie Dream Girl appears.
Often invoked in I Will Wait for You to confirm that the love really is that steadfast.
Inverse of Second Love. Contrast You Have Waited Long Enough, Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder. Not to be confused with The Murder After.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
Sesshomaru does this for Kagura in Inuyasha - while he does not cry, he becomes so infuriated when Moryoumaru insults Kagura that he attacks him viciously and breaks his sword Tokijin with the force of the blow, putting his own life in danger in the process. More notably, afterwards Tenseiga transforms into a fighting weapon because of Sesshomaru's feelings for Kagura. When he receives the finished sword, he thinks of her again and accepts it because "whether her death was in vain or not is for me to decide".
Part of the primary concept of the manga We Were There, although the relationship between Yano and his dead girlfriend Nana was more complex than it first appears.
In Maison Ikkoku, a major problem preventing Godai (and the other suitors) from pursuing Kyoko is that Kyoko feels this way about her first husband.
A darker version in Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gendo Ikari is quite willing to commit planetary genocide in order to reunite himself with his dead wife.
In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Simon vows to never forget his late wife, Nia, and in Lagann-hen he spends the rest of his life Walking the Earth in order to fulfill her last wish to make the world bloom with flowers.
Yoko also goes through this with Kamina. With the possible exception of forgiving Kittan for stealing a Last Kiss from her and tenderly hugging him goodbye just before his Heroic Sacrifice, she neither loved another man after Kamina's death, nor stopped loving him.
In one Ranma ½manga arc Soun Tendo, in one of the few times that he is allowed to show any depth of character, is revealed to be deeply devoted to his dead wife.
In Rumbling Hearts when a character goes into a coma. They don't show the mourning until after they showed him fully recover, though...
Neviril from Simoun is a victim of this after her lover Amuria dies, which plays a big role in her refusal to pilot a Simoun with Aeru (aside from the fact that Aeru is also quite pushy). In the Distant Finale, it's revealed that this also happened to Rodoreamon, with regards to Mamiina.
In Twin Spica, Asumi's teacher Yuuko is like that after her boyfriend Takano dies aboard the exploding rocket which also caused the death of Asumi's mother. After several years of mourning she decides to go on and then finds someone else to marry pretty quickly. Sadly she never realized that all this time Takano had been roaming the town as a ghost named "Lion-san."
Van of GUN×SWORD is still "head over heels in love" with his murdered fiancee, Elena, three years after her death, and isn't interested in other women. However, the final episode hints that he may be moving on to Second Love.
Mashiro's Uncle in Bakuman。 is this for a girl he fell in love with during his school years.
In his case, while his correspondence with her never got any further than that due to their inability to tell each other how they felt, he believes that he got this far because she served as his inspiration, as he hoped to become a success before telling her how he felt, and he believes (correctly, as it turns out) that she's still watching him.
After Rei Asaka's death in Oniisama e..., everyone grieves her intensely. In regards to her Love Interests, Nanako spends at least two episodes in an Heroic BSOD and her POV is constantly tinted with sadness afterwards, whereas Fukiko decides to never ever fall in love again, half due to this and half due to her crush Takehiko getting back together with his girlfriend, Rei's best friend Kaoru.
Watanuki of xxxHOLiC does not react well to Yuuko's death. It hits him so hard that his personality drastically changes, with him going so far as to incorporate some of her quirks and habits into his own character, and basically just clinging onto whatever he can of her. The last chapter released indicates he's still not willing to let go, even after 100 years have passed.
King Neptune in One Piece is apparently this to his late wife Otohime. In a scene, he believes that Robin is hitting on him and refuses her (non-existing) approaches by saying that he will still be loyal to his wife. That scene is mostly played for comedy, but the point still stands.
Elongated Man's wife dies in Identity Crisis, and he spends the rest of his rather short life mourning her.
Many superheroes have this as their defining tragedy. The Punisher never gets over the murder of his wife and children (no matter how many criminals he kills). Green Lantern John Stewart claims he'll never fall in love again after the death of his wife Katma Tui. Etc.
In the Bollywood movie Mohabbatein the hero's girlfriend killed herself because they couldn't be together. A decade later, the hero is still in love with her and can "see" her whenever he closes his eyes...
Sean: Maybe you're perfect right now. Maybe you don't wanna ruin that. I think that's a super philosophy, Will; that way you can go through your entire life without ever having to really know anybody...
Will: ...You ever think about gettin' remarried?
Sean: My wife's dead.
Will: Hence the word: remarried.
Sean: She's dead.
Will: Yeah; well, I think that's a super philosophy, Sean. I mean, that way you could actually go through the rest of your life without ever really knowing anybody.
A major character point for Rocky in Rocky Balboa. With characteristic eloquence, Sylvester Stallone says of Adrian:
"Yeah my wife's gone. But she ain't, you know, gone."
In What a Girl Wants, Daphne tells her father that her mother never dated anyone else after they broke up. Daphne is eighteen years old, and her parents broke up before she was born.
Tywin Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire is hardened by his wife Joanna's death to the extent that he never smiles again, and treats Tyrion (whose birth caused Joanna's death) like absolute shit.
Also King Robert Baratheon, who never stopped loving Lyanna. Even when he married Tywin's daughter Cersei, he called her "Lyanna" in bed on their wedding night. Unsurprisingly this caused a lot tension between them.
Ser Loras Tyrell, following King Renly Baratheon's death. "When the sun has set, no candle can replace it." Tough all over, innit?
In her Elemental Masters series, Richard Whitestone in Unnatural Issue does not take his wife's Death by Childbirth well, refuses to set eyes on his daughter, and turns to necromancy.
In the Liaden Universe series by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Liaden lifemate marriages do not provide for divorce nor allow remarriage, even after a spouse's death. And truelifemating can often lead to the nondeceased soon following the deceased party into death.
In the Deryni novels, Kelson puts off the thought remarrying for a couple of years or so after Sidana is slaughtered at the altar by her brother, and procrastinates a further two or three years after Rothana refuses him after Conall's execution. In this interim, Kelson is pressured by his mother and his courtiers to provide for the succession. Rothana finally picks out another woman to marry him (his cousin Araxie Haldane) and persuades each of them that their marriage would be for the best.
The Time Traveler's Wife. Clare never gets over Henry, doesn't remarry, just waits around to see him one last time when she's 80.
Henry's father goes to pieces after the death of his mother and drinks himself to infirmity.
In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, there was the Medstar Duology by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry, a pair of books taking place during the Clone Wars and featuring several just-off-the-battlefield surgeons and a Jedi healer, among others. The Jedi healer made friends with several other mains, and died not more than a few years after those books. Twenty in-universe years later on the Death Star (in a novel called Death Star), it turns out that one of those surgeons, having been coerced into continuous service is still around and was very attached to that Jedi. He does state that he doesn't know if it was love or not, but he thinks of her often, particularly when trying to navigate ethical dilemmas.
This is also how General Grievous gets his name his co-general was killed during a battle.
Nicolas Spark's A Walk to Remember IS this trope. Landon and Jamie fall in love and get married at age 17 because Jamie's dying of incurable leukemia. Decades and decades later, Landon has not considered anybody else, once, and has not taken off his wedding ring.
Though he never treated her all that well when he was alive, Amelia in Vanity Fair mourns her dead husband George for years, ignoring the feelings of another suitor and eventually driving him away. It isn't until Becky tells her that George had been planning to run away with her (Becky, that is) just before he died that Amelia finally gets over him.
Aegnor and Andreth in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth mythos. Aegnor, an elf, and Andreth, a mortal woman, fell in love, but Aegnor pretended not to return her affections because he believed love between elf and mortal could not work out. Andreth was bitter over this, until Aegnor's brother Finrod revealed to her that Aegnor had vowed that he would never marry because he could never love anyone else. This continues even in death, as Aegnor refuses to leave the Halls of Mandos (kind of an Elvish purgatory) and be re-embodied in Valinor because he doesn't want to live in a world that doesn't have Andreth in it.
Another example from The Silmarillion manages to both play this straight and avert it: In the tale of Beren and Lúthien as a mortal Man and Elf princess, there were already severe complications to their relationship. Eventually, Beren is slain by the great wolf Carcharoth, and Lúthien out of love for him dies from grief. Unfortunately, because the souls of Men aren't allowed to remain in Valinor and are forced to pass beyond the circles of the world, and Elves are forced to remain and can't pass to wherever it is Men go, the lovers are faced with being eternally separated again in the afterlife, at which point Lúthien out of love sings a lament over their fates, the suffering of Men and Elves at Morgoth's hands, and the prospect of spending an eternity without her love. This gets averted when her song moves the unmovable Mandos to pity, and he personally pleads their case to Manwë. Beren and Lúthien are allowed to return to Middle-earth to live out their lives together as mortals, and when they finally die their second deaths, pass from the world along with the rest of the race of Man.
Thingol's wife Melian (a Maia spirit) is so heartbroken by his death, that she departs the world never to return after her husband is slain by dwarves over the silmaril, dooming Doriath to eventual conquest. Turgon's wife perishes crossing into Middle-earth from Valinor, and he mourns her the rest of his life. Húrin and Morwen are separated for decades, and Morwen never gives up her torch for Húrin, reuniting only in time for Morwen to pass away. Denethor loses his wife giving birth to Faramir, which sours their relationship in later life, and the Steward continues to mourn her until his own death. Théoden never remarries following the death of his wife birthing their son, Théodred. Let's face it, Tolkien's works are filled with spouses who mourn their lost loves for the rest of their lives. It would probably be easier to list examples in which this doesn't happen.
A really tragic example (though without a death) is John Eames and Lily Dale from Anthony Trollope's Barsetshire novels. She falls in love with a cad who abandons her so he can marry a rich girl. She decides to remain perpetually single, and Eames, who loves her, also remains single for her sake.
In the novel Back to the Moon, Jack is hesitant in his budding relationship with Penny because he is still mourning his dead wife Kate. In fact, his entire reason for doing anything in the story is out of loyalty/guilt over what happened to Kate.
Heathcliff for Cathy in Wuthering Heights, to the point where he even digs up her body YEARS after the fact.
In Shadows of the Apt, Tisamon. Even though he thought she betrayed all of them. Some time after he learns they had a child — once he calmed down — he gives her a sword he had intended for her mother and had been carrying around for seventeen years.
In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter, Eramus is still in mourning for his first wife. So much that when she came back, he kept rejecting her. Cruelly.
In Warrior Cats, Fireheart has a crush on Spottedleaf. The two never talked about having a relationship while she was alive, but after she dies, he mourns her for a long time. Whenever he sees her in his dreams, it's mentioned that he always feels the pain of her death as if she's just died. It's only after seasons later, when other cats tell him to open his eyes up to the present - and Spottedleaf herself visits him in his dreams and gives her blessing for him to have another relationship - that he falls in love with Sandstorm.
This also happens to Graystripe and Silverstream. After she rescues him from drowning, Silverstream and Graystripe start to sneak off to see each other, and fall in love. Silverstream later dies giving birth to his kits. Graystripe never really gets over this, even when he got a new mate, Millie, he admits that he's still in love with Silverstream, and that he dreams about her frequently; and wishes that he didn't have to wake up from those dreams.
In The Hunger Games, Katniss's mother goes into a near-catatonic depression after the death of Katniss's father, leaving Katniss to support the family. Even when the mother becomes functional again, she never really gets over his death.
In Cloud Atlas, it's implied that Sixsmith lived forty-five more years, but never loved again after Frobisher. Ouch.
Live Action TV
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Hercules felt this way about his wife, who had been murdered by Hera. In one episode he politely turned down the proposition of a band of Amazons, saying he was still in love with his wife.
In New Tricks, Jack is still very much in love with his wife who died 9 years ago, and when asked about a woman who was showing an interest in him, simply replied "I'm married."
Monk is still married. His wife is dead, but he's still married. Absolutely.
The father in the TV version of 10 Things I Hate About You continues to wear his wedding ring after he is widowed, and claims to be married when a woman flirts with him. (Though he does later go on an enjoyable date with this woman.)
From the series finale: "Every morning for as long as she lived, Delenn got up before dawn and watched the sun come up." Note that she outlived her husband by at least eighty years.
Susan for Marcus: After he dies to save her life, she leaves Babylon 5, never falls in love again and doesn't mention his name until the series finale...twenty years later. It's especially tragic as she never admitted she loved him while he was alive.
Lennier seems to have this reaction to Delenn and Sheridan's marriage. After swearing himself to Delenn's side as her trusted aide, he begins to fall in love with her, believing that his is a "pure, perfect love" but that she is "fated for another". As this admission occurs right as Sheridan and Delenn's relationship is starting to blossom, it is implied that Sheridan is this "other", though he confronts neither Sheridan nor Delenn openly about it. Outwardly, he accepts their relationship, and claims to accept it in his heart, but ultimately his jealousy towards Sheridan grows stronger and leads to Lennier's unfortunate downfall. He separates himself from both of them and seemingly never moves on from the heartbreak.
On ER, we never see Elizabeth Corday show a hint of interest in anyone else after Mark Greene dies.
Elizabeth: I'm not afraid of being with him - I'm afraid of being without him.
In the Doctor Who episode "The Impossible Astronaut", River Song says that her worst fear is having to do this after the Doctor no longer knows her (because of the Timey-Wimey Ball their relationship is happening roughly in reverse for each of them, she knows the Doctor more after each visit, but he knows her less because she's meeting him earlier in his timeline). This makes her first(last?) appearance and Heroic Sacrifice in "Forest of the Dead" all the more poignant.
That Mitchell and Webb Look manages to invert this with a man who's constantly brooding on what his second wife is going to be like, much to the distress of his current wife.
Another has a 'life insurance' policy that offers to replace your dead spouse with a beautiful young immigrant who will behave impeccably sweetly out of gratitude for their nice new life
Person of Interest: Harold still is Grace's fiance, his "death" in 2010 notwithstanding, and she has trouble referring to him in past tense.
On How I Met Your Mother this is the reason that the titular mother waited for Ted, her first love Max died on her 21st birthday and she spent the next eight years morning his death. It wasn't until she met Ted that she really got over it. While she had a boyfriend in between, she still hadn't got over it.
NCIS: Gibbs has undying feelings for his late wife and daughter. Although he has made several attempts to start anew, his romantic relationships since have always fallen apart, some of them after he married and then divorced the woman.
A lot of Kamelot songs are about this trope, for instance the album Epica features a love story which ends with the subject of the singer's love songs early in the album committing suicide, and the singer/main character of the songs goes into a deep mourning, which even spills over into their next album.
Worth noting that one of their songs is even titled "The Mourning After."
Fairly common in folk music, both classical and neo. There's "The Resurrected Lover," "Lover's Last Chance," "The Long Black Veil," "Steer By The Stars," "When I Sing About You"...
"He Stopped Loving Her Today," possibly the greatest Country Music song ever, was about a man pining after his lost love until he dies.
"Baby's In Black" by The Beatles. possibly written about pre-fame member, the late Stu Sutcliffe's mourning girlfriend in Germany, Astrid Kircherr.
Debbie Gibson - "Foolish Beat". The refrain "I could never love again.." says it all.
"I Never Knew" by Deborah Cox:
'Cause I know, I'll never love this way again
Another non-death example: "Crying" by Roy Orbison. "Now, you're gone, and from this moment on, I'll be crying".
Project Pitchfork's appropriately named "Lament".
The Burning Hell's "Grave Situation, Part 2" seems to be about this, from the perspective of the dead guy.
Abney Park's "Stretched on Your Grave" is, word for word, the poem that serves as the page quote.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has a particularly tragic case of this in that the lady in question isn't actually dead — and by the time he finally figures this out, he's already killed her due to having no time before the Judge, who he wants revenge against, comes back into his shop.
The same thing happens in Zevran's cameo, which occurs near the end of the sequel and thus seven years after the original. As the Warden died soon after another woman he loved, maybe he's given up fighting the Cartwright Curse.
Subverted as far back as Final Fantasy II: A dying prince ends his Will They or Won't They? situation with a princess by coughing a "tell her that I love her" at the party, but then realizes that she would follow this trope and tying her to a dead man would be nothing but selfishness. He forbids the party from saying anything, and they obey, even though the princess is expecting word. It's implied that the princess ends up with his brother.
If you romanced Kaidan in Mass Effect 1, then when Shepard dies at the start of the second game he goes into a two-year depression where he refuses to date anyone else because he loved Shepard too much. It gets better when Shepard is brought back to life and can rekindle their relationship in the third game, but it's implied that the same thing happens to him again if Shepard dies again at the end of the third game.
Zihark of Fire Emblem Tellius outright admits that he probably won't ever fall in love with another woman after he broke up with his laguz girlfriend. True to his words, he later turns down Meg's marriage proposal, and pretty much stays single for the entirety of Path of Radiance and its sequel.
Also Prince Kurth from Fire Emblem Jugdral, who refuses to marry despite all the nagging from his people after he falls for a married woman (Lady Cigyun of Velthomer), makes her his lover, and she disappears after the whole deal blows up in their faces and her husband Viktor is Spurned Into Suicide.
James Sunderland of Silent Hill 2 represents a disturbing variant of this archetype. Not only will he never get over his love for his dead wife Mary, it is implied that his obsession with their relationship and her memory leads him the recreate the world around him in her image, even to the extent of possibly recreating Mary herself. The entire story arc of the game revolves around James coming to terms (or not) with his inability to forget Mary, and the events leading to her death.
Godot, aka Diego Armando of Phoenix WrightAce Attorney: Trials and Tribulations is one of these — the game doesn't actually discuss whether he'd have another girlfriend, but his attitude about Mia's death, and the lengths he'd go to "avenge" her make him definitely appear to be one of these. Interestingly enough, both of them might have fitted this trope (while she was alive, he went into a coma, not to wake up until she died) but she was of the more well-adjusted variety if she fit this trope at all.
In Fate/stay night Heaven's Feel Normal End has a depressing example that flashes through the rest of Sakura's life in Shirou's home after he dies at the end of the Grail War, constantly waiting for him to come home.
In CLANNAD there are multiple cases of this depending on the route but the most famous is when Tomoya's wife, Nagisa, dies in childbirth.
In one Bad Ending of School Days, after Kotonoha commits suicide in front of them, Makoto and Sekai break up, and Makoto never gets together with anyone else.
Nobody would replace a loved one the day after they died, and this trope is pretty much the same thing. It's just that sometimes those feelings never go away, no matter how much one rationalises that they need to move on.
Joanna the Mad - Queen of Castile - for her husband, Philip the Handsome. She took to carrying his coffin around with her and sleeping with it. Her son, Carlos I of Castile (Charles V Holy Roman Emperor) played this up a little when assuming rule on her behalf. She clearly had a screw loose, in addition to being a woman - two major handicaps for any sixteenth century would-be monarch.
Later on, Charles III of Spain lost his wife, Maria Amalia of Saxony, in 1760 (after giving him 13 children). He lived on for other 28 years, in which he never remarried, got a mistress or even a (in modern terms) one-night stand. This in an era where political alliances were still held by marriages and every king (Charles III's father included) routinely went through two, three or more marriages in his life.
Queen Victoria of Great Britain remained in mourning for Prince Albert for the rest of her (long) life.
There are some people who genuinely consider the death of a spouse to be very different from the dissolution of marriage; most people, however, consider the death of a spouse to be akin to a forced dissolution of their marriage.
"That was it. There was no one else for me. Second best is no good for me. I would have liked a wife and family, but it was not to be."
James Buchanan, the only U.S. president to never marry, after his fiancée Ann Caroline Coleman's death. "Marry I could not, for my affections were buried in the grave." He seems to have eventually had romances and even reconsider his position on marriage, but never actually went through with it.
Possibly not this trope, as many historians are pretty sure he was gay.
Princess Helene of Wittelsbach aka Nene, older sister of the famous Elisabeth of Wittelsbach aka Sisi, remained unmarried after the death of her husband Maximilian of Thurn-and-Taxis, refusing other possible engagements and focusing on helping manage the Thurn-und-Taxis family business and philantrophy instead.
After the tragic murder of Sisi, it's said that her hubby Franz Josef felt similarly, despite how unstable their marriage was; in her memoirs, his relative Princess Zita from the Habsburg clan wrote that she heard him say "Nobody will ever know how much I loved Sisi".
Eliza Emily Donnithorne, the possible inspiration for Ms. Havisham, was dumped by her fiance on their wedding day, and shut herself in her home for the rest of her life, drawing the curtains and leaving everything in its place to rot.
Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe in 1954, but they divorced in the same year. They became close again in 1961, and it was rumored that they might remarry. When she died in 1962, he arranged her funeral and would send half a dozen roses to her grave 3 times a week for the next 20 years. He never remarried or talked publicly about Marilyn or exploited their relationship, unlike others. When he died in 1999, his last words were "I'll finally get to see Marilyn."
Sgt Lena Mae Basilone never remarried after her husband, Gunnery Sgt John Basilone, was killed in action at Iwo Jima. The two never had any children, and when she passed away in 1999, the obituary pointed out that she still wore the wedding ring from when they were married.
She would later sponsor the Gearing-class destroyer "USS Basilone", and was present for the christening.