Grief and Mourning… What’s the Difference?

What is Grief?
Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss. The grieving process may be set into motion anytime one experiences any form of loss, whether it seems significant or not.

This grief reaction can range from the loss of an item to the loss of a dream, the death of a bad relationship to the death of a great relationship. One may grieve a person they loved and knew well, while another may grieve someone they never met. Celebrity deaths, missing children and abductee deaths, featured on the news, are examples of this. Some people, who seem depressed in life, may actually be grieving the current condition of our world and planet.

In a dualistic world where death and loss are possible and probable, there is no end to the kinds of experiences of loss and grief that one could have.
The grief reaction can range from mild to intense, sometimes even turning into a more severe form of grief referred to as “complicated grief.” Because of the circumstances involved in the loss and the inability to cope, emotional, mental and physical healing may be prolonged or even become stuck in unhealthy patterns, contributing to even greater misery.

Aside from the death of a loved one, the following are common losses that cause grief:

  • Death of a pet
  • Loss of a child
  • Loss of health
  • Loss of a dream
  • Identity crisis
  • Miscarriage
  • Financial loss and instability
  • Losing a home
  • Losing an item of importance
  • End of a marriage or partnership
  • Loss of a friendship
  • Losing a job
  • Empty-nest syndrome
  • Loss of safety after a traumatic experience
  • Loss of youth and beauty
  • A missing loved one
  • Soldier going off to war
  • Losing one to an addiction
  • Loss of control in life

Grieving allows for a wide range of emotional states, which, over time, help us work through and come to terms with our losses. There is no set time period for grieving. Every person is on his or her own schedule. It takes as long as it does, so be patient.

Grief can be quite a roller-coaster ride too. With a loss of control over your emotions, sometimes you’ll be up and sometimes you’ll be down. Gracefully accepting and surrendering to the inevitability and unpredictability of this process will be your way of riding out the storms with greater ease.

Allow yourself to feel everything, it actually hurts less than if you “stuff” your emotions down. Crying is nature’s way of detoxifying painful emotions. Thinking about feeling something painful hurts much more than feeling something painful. Be brave. Just go with it and cry your eyes out! You’ll feel better afterward.

Grieving emotional states commonly include, shock, numbness, denial, sadness, anger, guilt, blame, anxiety, depression, despair and finally, hope and acceptance.

Grieving physical conditions commonly include, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, aches and pains, weight loss, exhaustion, tiredness, weakness, restlessness and trouble with concentration.

The grieving process can bring up many painful emotions, including emotional traumas from the past. Grief counseling or joining a grief group can be a great support for you and can help to facilitate your process.

Although it’s not nice that people have to experience such pain as grief, it is really comforting to know that you are not alone. Feeling alone and isolated can make the grieving process so much worse. It helps to hear other people’s stories for perspective and to get you out of your own head for a while.

In the end, the grief process is actually a gift, although it is hard to believe that it could be. If you stick through it and follow it to the end, you will experience greater understanding, wisdom, love and compassion, among many other gifts.
What is Mourning?
While grief is the inward expression of loss, mourning is the outward expression of that loss.

It wasn’t long ago when mourners, having lost their loved ones to death, wore black… sometimes even for a whole year! In the past, mourning has been largely influenced by the rituals of religious beliefs, cultural customs and society’s rules. However, it is important to follow the path that will move you through the mourning process with the most ease, after all, this is for you.

Mourning may include, visiting a loved ones gravesite, making a scrapbook of your loved one, gathering with friends and family to remember and share stories of your loved one, making a memorial, planting a tree on your loved ones behalf, scattering ashes at a designated place and time, writing their story or making a charitable donation in their name. These are just a few examples of mourning. Listen to your heart for what is appropriate for you.

A Mourner may appear reflective, sad, insulated or socially withdrawn. Some mourners may not show any outward signs and may even act like they have it all together. Be available to them, nevertheless.

When referring to a death, the mourning process is all about adjusting to life without a loved one. This can be very challenging since the initial emotions that surface after the loss are more about resistance to what happened, rather than to surrendering to this new reality.

Many things change with the loss of a loved one. For instance, the hopes and dreams you shared together are gone, your plans have changed and your ability to have a normal conversation with them is very much impaired.

Now, life is radically different! Mourning allows room for all the transitions that will need to take place to get back to a healthy and happy life. Despite missing your loved one, you will eventually build the courage and desire to get back to living a life in which they no longer live.

The loss of your loved one can leave a huge empty space that lasts for a very long time. Even though your loved one will never be forgotten, you will need to make new emotional connections and form new relationships. Your life will begin to change. You will need to learn to cope with the painful changes of loss and in many cases; you will need to learn to make decisions alone.

Most importantly, however you choose to do it, mourning is a chance to recover and to heal your heart so you can gain courage and confidence again to get out and begin to live in life once more.

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

  1. I am delighted to find this same insight that grief can bring gifts.
    Am in healing and writing a story is part of my journey. Age 71.

  2. Very helpful in defining the difference between grieving and mourning and the different types of loss. Who is not walking with unresolved grief?
    Thank you so much

  3.    I Miss You Dearest Cathleen

       My name is Michael my fiancée’s name is Cathleen. I found her cold and empty Sept 13th of this yr. I have spoken to her and cried everyday since. For quite sometime now I thought I was exaggerating these things to comfort myself to convince myself she still loved and was trying to reach across the veil.
          After doing some  reading, your site in particular I’m beginning to think that it is Cathleen ….. my television, the cable, my phones all acting up. TV Turning on off repeatedly. Features becoming inexplicably unavailable. Etc etc …. I signed up for a couple dating sites on the internet 2-3 weeks ago ever since the television has been fine. It’s the phone and tablet now, I believe she wants me to stop searching, to wait, possibly has insight into the future and knows I’ll b with her soon or someone special is looming just over the hill-so to speak.
         I get whiffs of her blowing by me, I feel a heaviness in my chest when I come home and start crying soon after walking in the door.
         I miss her deeply, the impact of losing her on me is enormous and much, MUCH more intense then when my wife of 20yrs passed 5 1/2 yrs ago. Cathleen is my soul mate. When she was taken I wasn’t just lonely, it was as though 1/2 of me was gone. Cathleen was the Ying to my Yang, the other half of an intricate jigsaw puzzle all those little pieces connecting ever so perfectly. This is the only analogy I can come up with that even begins to explain the depth of us. Oh there were the usual ones, ya know? The same old things you read and hear ….. well as I said I have been reading your website and I appreciate the work you have done. So I thought I would share some of the things Cathleen and I have shared.

    Thank You for Listening

    Michael S-

    • Thank you for sharing, Michael. You are not alone. I most definitely have been there, like many of us. Hang tight though, it sounds like Cathleen is desperately trying to connect to comfort you. Keep on going. Eventually it will get easier. So sorry. Hugs.

  4. I lost my husband of 37 years to
    Brain cancer.
    Diagnosed with it and died one
    Month later.
    He was my best friend and I
    Miss him so much.
    I am so sad.
    See a grief therapist and that seems to
    Help a little, but then this great
    Sadness takes over and all I
    can do is cry.
    I have all his pictures on my phone and
    Kiss them every day.
    I think I have lost a lot of my
    Faith and have no idea if I will ever get
    It back .
    Some days I am able to work and
    Others I am not so I allow myself to read, cry and sleep.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss, Molly. No one is ever really prepared to lose a loved one. May you find some peace. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • I’m sorry Molly. I think I have some understanding of how you feel. My husband left me for another woman after 20 years and remarried then died from brain cancer in under a year.
      It happened 5 years ago and functioning is not that easy. You are not alone in your suffering.

  5. My grief and mourning has been going on 20 years for my Mom and Grandparents. 5 for my Grandmother, 4 for example and brother in law. I have cried so much. I didn’t know a human could cry so much. I drive by places where my people used to live all the time. Think of them all the time and sometimes wish I could just die myself. I’ve lost my purpose. I do not feel normal at all.

  6. My Dad has recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, he is terminally ill. My parents have been married for 52 years. My Mom hides to cry every day. My brother seem to think that my mother cries too much and that he will have a talk with her? I think he worries that my Mom will bring my Dad down while he’s still alive? Mom stopped living and carter to Dad.

    • I’m sorry. I’m sure this is a very difficult time for you and everyone, as everyone handles the stress of sickness and impending death so differently. For sure there will be adjustments when your Dad passes, too. Blessings for peace and comfort to you and your family. Hugs.

  7. I have always been lonely. My dr says I have a condition that makes it hard for me to make connections to people. So I connect to people really fast and hard and intensely. And when I make friends, they stay in my heart forever. Its that intense for me. I’ve been told I don’t know how to grieve, or that I won’t grieve. That I hold on to the pain and don’t let it go. My mom died when I was 23 and it still hurts like it was just yesterday. I always think of the life we would have had, had she lived. And all my life, all the losses. They all just hurt. Its like a mountain of pain building up on me. And I’ve been dealing with it and pretending its not there. And then two weeks ago my friend committed suicide. I lost my friend. And it was overwhelming. I felt so much guilt and so much pain. And the group we had in our game, well, all our friends left too. So I lost all the other friendships that I’d made through the gaming world. They really weren’t much, but they were something. And now they are all gone. Completely gone. Now there’s nothing. I’ve tried reaching out. And its like people don’t hear me. They don’t hear my pain. They end up saying stupid things about themselves or the conversation. They totally miss the words I say, the pain I am feeling. I get so angry, I end up just screaming and ending the conversation. Recently I lost my Psychiatrist. So I don’t have him to talk to, like I normally would. And my therapist has been on vacation, so she hasn’t been around, but I left her a msg hoping she’d call me when she got back but she didn’t. I hurt so much I’m having to fight to get out of bed, to wake up. I dont’ want to face the world. It hurts to be awake. Every hour, every minute is nothing but emptiness, loneliness and pain. And I don’t know what to do about it.

    • Just hang on. I know what it’s like to be in pain. I was in pain for much of my life. My mother died too. I was 13 years old. My good friend committed suicide. He was like the first person I felt was part of my tribe, so to speak, but he left. I know what it feels like to be alone, too. There are many just like you that can identify with how you feel. Yes, there is a lot of painful things in this world.That’s for sure. You say you don’t know what to do. Perhaps there is nothing to do right now. I found that to be the case much of the time, as doing something usually takes us out of what it is we need to deal with. There is nothing wrong with feeling the pain. If you really feel it with your heart, it goes away rather quickly. But being the type of person I used to be, I experienced pain in my head. That is the most painful place to feel pain. It took me much of my life to move from feeling in my head to feeling in my heart. Most people don’t understand how to make that journey because it has been so undistinguished by us because of our conceptual minds. Hope this helps. If you ever need help, I offer private online therapeutic sessions as a grief recovery facilitator, among other things. Hope this helps. Hugs. You are not alone.

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