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The Need for Mourning

  • Category: Patient Stories
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Hospice of Frederick County

Mourning…is there an art to it or is it something that happens automatically? And what is the difference between grief and mourning?

Grief refers to the reactions and feelings we have from experiencing the death of a loved one. Mourning is the way we outwardly display those feelings and reactions. Everyone who has the capacity to feel grieves. But not everyone mourns. Mourning takes work and acknowledgment.

Many years ago the custom in America was to dress in black after a death in the family. This practice fostered open discussion and inquiry about the death, allowing grievers the opportunity to tell their story over and over. Children often played an active role and would stay up with the body as it lay in state in the home’s parlor.

This ritual became a time to share memories and stories. Mourning practices like this help us to process the pain of grief. We cannot move ahead and eventually redesign our lives without this important work of processing.

Not processing your grief entirely is to end up living in the “shadow of the ghosts,” according to Dr. Alan Wolfelt. Our nation has become quite sophisticated and “advanced”—so much so, in fact, that many now consider death as something to be ignored so as to keep from infecting the pursuit of our “perfect” lives. Instead of this avoidance of sadness improving our lives, we see the opposite effect. Those cultures who still implement ceremony and rituals into their mourning practices are much healthier as a result

Minimizing, denying, or disconnecting from the significance of grief can result in these symptoms:

  • difficulties with trust and intimacy
  • low-grade or clinical depression
  • anxiety and panic attacks
  • psychic numbing and disconnection
  • fear of betrayal/change
  • irritability and agitation
  • substance abuse and addiction
  • eating disorders
  • physical problems (real or imagined)
  • chronic fatigue

The effect of grief, especially unresolved grief is underestimated in our society. Grief is a completely surmountable journey but one that must be acknowledged and supported by all.

We will all walk this journey at one time or another, but how wonderful if we could also be more attentive to others as they traverse the bumpy ups and downs of their grief journeys.

Let's avoid living “in the shadow of the ghosts” and, through grief work and the support of others, regain balance and restoration in our lives.