Grief and Mourning… What’s the Difference?

Photo credit: unknown“Grief” and “mourning” are words that have been used interchangeably to mean the same thing. But, the fact is, there really is a very important difference between them.

Grief is an emotional reaction/response to loss. Grief tends to follow a common pattern of emotional states, such as shock, confusion, denial, anger, sadness, rage, depression, isolation, to name a few, and…not always in that order. If grief is experienced fully and allowed to unfold naturally, the process gradually leads one to some sort of acceptance and peace with the matter. The grief process is the brain’s way of dealing with a matter it can’t completely comprehend in the moment; so it takes time to sort through it all, be patient with yourself. If a death has been sudden or completely unexpected, comprehension is even more of a struggle, for we operate as if death is somewhere, clear out there, far off on the horizon. The truth is… we really don’t know how far or close death is to us.

Loss is not just about losing someone we love, to death. We may experience intense loss from losing a relationship, our sense of self, our job, our home, our freedom, our health, our dreams or a limb, among many other things that we hold precious and important. Whether great or small losses to us, these examples can seem like a death, that will require a certain amount of grief and mourning, to be determined by the individual who is experiencing the loss. But whatever the loss, remember to give yourself some space to heal properly. Many emotions will surface, to be explored. From my experience, feeling these emotions is much easier than trying to survive them by pushing them under. Buried emotions never rest in peace; like zombies, waiting quietly and thought dead, they will raise themselves up again at the first chance of provocation.

Although we may never completely stop feeling our loss, with time, the frequency and intensity of our pain, and our grief response to it, will diminish considerably. In fact, going through a healthy grieving process, however painful, allows us the excellent chance to heal, as grief is itself a medicine. Grief is a medicine that heals the pain from loss.

While grief is the emotional reaction/response to loss, mourning is the process one undertakes to deal with the void that is now left. Mourning is the process of acclimating to living a life without this special someone or something. It is period of adapting to the changes created by this loss.

Although this may not make sense right now, the mourning period is a very sacred, holy and beautiful time to experience, if you allow yourself this. Mourning is a period of deep reflection and introspection. It is a time to experience the sweet love of what is missed. It is a time to love deeper than you ever thought possible. It is a time to remember. It is a time for clarity. It is a time to gain wisdom and compassion. It is a time to learn and stretch. It is an extraordinary time of growth and development, which, although seeming brutally painful, bears amazing gifts to the evolution of one’s soul. Mourning is a time to feel, deal and heal from the inside out. It is a time to experience the pain from the emotional energy of your loss, until it has completely moved through you, and dissipated.

Grief and mourning are two very important and valuable self-healing tools that overlap at many times, even long after the loss. Although each have different roles, both play equally important parts in dealing with loss; designed to heal one’s mind, heart and soul. In this especially difficult, but sacred time, remember to be patient, kind and loving toward yourself.

Blessings of love, healing and profound growth your way.

26 thoughts on “Grief and Mourning… What’s the Difference?

  1. Dear Jade,
    I really enjoyed reading your wonderful insights on the differences between grief and mourning! Thank you for taking the time to share with us 🙂 I appreciate you!
    Blessings of love, healing and profound growth your way as well!

  2. I stumbled upon this site and the timing was perfect. I did not really know there was a difference between grief and mourning but something I read brought me to wonder if there was a difference and what the difference was. I also like to see that they overlap as 8 months after the sudden death of my husband, I guess I am grieving and mourning at the same time.
    Thank you for putting this out there.

  3. Thank you for such a descriptive definition of Grief and mourning. I went through a post abortive Bible study,and after 31 years of grief, God lead me into mourning, what a journey of grace, redemption. I was so fearful to relive the experience, the loss and shame. I didn’t allow myself the grieving process because of the immense shame, guilt. The experience has really changed every aspect of my physical and spiritual life. God will guide you thru whatever journey your on, if you only ask. Thanks for the place to share. Blessings to all who enter the journey, Dawn

  4. Thank you for explaining the difference so clearly. This is exactly the kind of explanation I was looking for. Nobody (in my circles) seems to understand the difference between grief, mourning and bereavement. They think its all rolled into one and that you will be “back into the swing of things in no time”.

    Having lost my mother (to whom I was the primary caregiver) at the end of October 2014 and lost my dad three weeks ago I found this post very helpful to understand the process myself.

    If you don’t mind, I would like to include a link to this page on my blog when next I write (as soon as I get the energy to write again).

    • Hi Natalie! I’m glad you found this post helpful. Thanks for reading. 🙂 I’m sorry for your losses. It sounds like you have had a challenging time lately. Blessings for a graceful recovery. Hugs and Peace to you.

  5. I’m very glad I ran into this post. It is very helpful. It reminds me to be understanding with myself; to allow myself it. It’s ok to feel and give myself understanding n attention to get through it. Thanks again. Syl

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  7. Dear Jade
    Thankyou. I have lost my parents, husband, 4 siblings . I now understand why I feel so confused and angry. I never sought help to help me deal with grief. So I am like that zombie, right?? Will take action because between all these deaths I cannot sustain a relationship. I am constantly lonely even when my two children are my everything after Jesus Christ .

    • Hi Mumbi. Thanks for writing. 🙂 Yes, you have to grieve fully so that the past can be left in the past. If not, those past issues will keep bleeding into the now and future. Reading “Overcoming Fear- Facing Inner Demons” on my site, may help. 🙂

  8. Great blog on the difference between grief and mourning. 29 months on from my sudden death of my partner, I take comfort in acknowledging how my grief has changed and how challenging the mourning process is in adapting to a new life and trying to find a new way to live.

  9. I was looking on Google to find the difference between grief and miurning and I saw the 50 shades of grief and your website. Thank you for making this so clear and easy to understand. I understand we all grief and mourn differently and often people out of their kindness pray for my lonilness but I am not lonely for other people I am lonely for my darling husband who migrated to heaven years ago. As I said to the Lord, it is one day closer to exiting Earth and it is one day closer to see HIM face to face and be united to my husband.

  10. I lost my husband suddenly about 6 weeks ago. I have spent the time feeling all of these emotions and more. And trying to adapt to being alone. To not having the one I so dearly loved by my side. Your explaination helped me to understand that the things I am going through are normal and the importance of the entire process of both grief and mourning. Thank you for this.

    • You are so welcome, Pam. So sorry for your loss. This is such a difficult thing to experience, isn’t it? Blessings of peace and comfort to you. Thanks for reading and sharing. 🙂

  11. Thank you Jade for this great blog. I find it somehow helpful for my current situation because I am in middle of hard grief and I couldn’t believe it is always coming back just because I dig it in myself trying to escape from it. I lost my beloved girlfriend and also taking some serious blows from life… I will embrace my grief from now on.

    • Thank you. You’re welcome. 🙂 I’m sorry for your loss and that you are going through difficult changes in your life. Grief is such a difficult thing to go through, but it is a sacred time, too. I’m glad you will embrace your grief. This will make it much easier to go through. I’m sure your beloved is right there with you, as energy can not be destroyed, it only changes forms. You might enjoy reading the After-death communications on my site. There are many people who experience this. You might too, letting you know that she is not so far away. 🙂 Hugs!
      Thanks for sharing yourself.

  12. I needed your words tonight. I recently lost my hubby of 30 years. Your blog was so helpful in helping me understand what I am going through. Again, thank you.

    • Thank you, Joyce. Glad it helps.😃 I’m sorry for your loss. That’s a long time to be together. May you always realize that even though it seems he is gone, that he is always with you. Hugs.

  13. Jade, I lost my newborn, full term daughter on July 31,2016. Everybody around me prefers to just not mention her. At this point I am still finding things like her umbilical cord clamp on the dining room table where it was put when we came home from the hospital, her pacifiers in my purse and all the things you have sitting around when you have a newborn. Alyssa had seen the pediatrician on Friday when he called her the healthiest baby ever. Every time I even see a newborn I feel as if I have been slapped back into the moment when I went to get her up for a bottle and discovered she was dead. I alternate with all the stages while having such a hard time with even daily decisions. I miss my daughter, my arms ache from being empty. I have found myself thinking that there is really no reason to go on living and I made a plan so I didn’t have to go on. I have been seeing a grief counselor on a regular basis but I can’t live in her office. I sought understanding this morning after having spent the last 7 weeks stumbling around not knowing what to do. I found your site and it has helped me to understand the difference between the horrific moment when I found her and could not revive her and what is now my daily life. It helps me to understand that I am not crazy, there are both grief and mourning going on in my heart and head. I know your site is probably not directed towards SIDS parents but I would appreciate any books or such that you could recommend. Thanks,Vanessa

    • Dear Vanessa. My heart breaks for you. I’m so sorry that this happened. I can’t even imagine how you must feel, although I do get a glimpse of it in your comments. I’m truly sorry for your loss.
      Thank you for reading at my site. I’m glad it has helped in the ways it has. Unfortunately, my site is not directed towards SIDS parents and I don’t know of any books to recommend at this time. I will keep my eyes peeled though. I am wondering if you have read much of the “after-death communications” posted on my site. You can see it under “Metaphysical” on the navigation bar. After each story someone has shared, I give a commentary to shed some insight about that persons experience. These stories are more than helpful to those who grieve as they give hope and important insights. In reading them, you might recognize for yourself that you have already had, or will have a visit from your sweet daughter, comforting you from beyond. May you experience continual peace and healing as you make sense of this devastating tragedy. Hugs.

  14. What a beautiful post! Thank you for highlighting the beneficial aspects of mourning and how it is different from grief. Most people in our western culture don’t know the difference and are missing out on an important transitional step. I am reading up on mourning before writing on my own personal journey through a year of mourning the loss of my baby.

  15. Thank u Ms. Jade. This article was just what I needed to feel better about the loss of my father and my brother. They passed away eight days apart and I was devastated. Now that I am able to understand the difference between grief and mourning I can begin to embrace my healing process…

    • So sorry for your loss, Joyce. Hugs.
      For sure, embracing the grief process is the most healing way to go. May your path lead you to peace and serenity. My best to you. Thanks for your comment.😊

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