Grief is a natural reaction to loss — we must grieve to heal. The words “grief” and “mourning” are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same.

Grief is one’s own private, inner response to a loss. Mourning is the outward expression of grief, the social response that is openly shared with others. Everyone grieves, but not everyone mourns.

Grief is most often associated with the death of a loved one, but grief can follow other losses, such as a miscarriage, divorce, serious illness or the loss of a pet. Grief ushers in emotions ranging from sadness to anger.

Personal factors play a role in how each individual grieves, as everyone has a different capacity or method to handle stress and emotions. Age and life experience also influences our coping of death when a loss occurs. Culture and faith play a role as well, and can influence our beliefs about death and our responses, such as our choice of rituals for honoring someone who has died. Personality traits, such as being outgoing or quiet, often lead to different ways of coping with loss.

The important thing is to remember is that everyone grieves differently. Talk about their loss and if they want to talk, let them, if not, that is OK too.

Do not tell them “I know how you feel,” because although you may have experienced a loss yourself, it could make the person feel as though you are making light of their pain. Not everyone is a crier, yet they feel the pain of loss just as deeply as others and need just as much support and comfort. If they move on with their life, it means they have accepted their loved one’s death, it does not mean they have forgotten them.

Grief is an adaptive response that is not bound by time. It never really ends; we don’t “get over” grief.

It is something we learn to live with over time, as we gradually adjust to the physical absence of the one who has died. Grief softens and erupts less frequently as time goes on, but it can revisit us at any time, and in varying intensity, whenever we are reminded of our loss.

For some, attending memorial/remembrance services or a support group helps to move on — several are available in the community thru organizations such as ours, churches, or funeral homes.

If you are concerned about yours or someone else’s “grieving”, if you are having trouble functioning in everyday activities, feeling guilty, worthless or hopeless, lack of interest in things you used to enjoy — reach out to people you trust or seek professional help.

Rita Hagen
Executive Director
Hospice Alliance