The difference between grief and mourning.
Grief and mourning are often used interchangeably. They are used to describe the same thing but they are actually very different from each other.
Grief comes from love. It is internal. It is deep within you. Grief refers to the way you feel inside. Your thoughts, your feelings. That initial shock and pain of losing someone/something we love. It is that feeling of being “torn apart.” It is a private struggle.
Mourning is step two. It is an external response. It is usually a shared response with other loved ones. It is social, like a funeral or memorial service. Mourning takes that internal emotional response and externalizes it. It is an action— like planting a tree, holding a service, sharing memories with family or friends.
External mourning is important when moving forward through loss. It allows us to get our feelings out, to release them and connect with them differently. Without mourning, our grief can turn into something that is carried with us in private causing continuous pain. That is why we tend to choose something to represent and memorialize the person/pet we have loss. We want to let out some of that emotion and feel ok again.
Moving forward, and accepting a loss does not end the pain forever. It will still come and go with time and often change the way it shows its face. But it is important that we recognize the difference and understand the benefits of mourning as a community, leaning on each other, offering support. You can’t hold it all inside forever.
Acceptance is an important part of healing. It is a necessary step to begin moving forward. But, just because you have gotten to the acceptance stage doesn’t mean that all your grieving is done.
Acceptance of a loss does not mean you won’t feel sad at times or lament every once in a while. You still might have moments where grief overtakes. You still might feel overwhelmed with sadness at times, and that is ok.
Still Have Moments
Loss of any kind is difficult to accept but even after you learn to embrace your reality you will still be faced with moments. After all, you once had this person, pet, home, a career that you loved, that was part of you and you will still miss it.
Part of acceptance is learning to live with loss and to allow yourself to feel those moments of sadness. Don’t tuck it away or shrug it off, let yourself live it and then move slowly back into your present reality. The loss that you are grieving is just as much a part of you as the person, place, thing that you once had.
Find The Joy
These moments, while difficult to endure, are little reminders to look at what we still do have in our lives. They teach us to find the joy in the little things and embrace the moments of peace that fall between the moments of grief.
If you are struggling with moving through grief or loss of any kind, it may be helpful to seek the help of a licensed mental health professional. They can help you through to the acceptance stage and give suggestions on how to move forward through the sad times. You are stronger than you think. Your loss is meaningful. It is important. It is not forgotten. It is ok to have moments, to live them, to be in your grief. It is ok.
The other day someone asked me how long it should take to get over their divorce?
While I would have loved to give them a simple answer, it is not that cut and dry. The truth is it will take—as long as it takes. Every situation is different. Divorce itself, even if you and your partner agree that the marriage is not working and divorce is the best option, is not easy.
Your marriage ended for any number of reasons that can be hard to accept. Your divorce challenged your innermost voices, it put strain on your self-esteem and turned your entire world upside down. It is not supposed to be an easy thing to recover from. Even if you know in your heart that it was the right choice, it doesn’t mean that you will instantly feel wonderful.
Your Internal Core
When you got married you expected to be with your partner forever. You made a commitment to each other to care in sickness and in health, to stand by each other in times of stress, and to grow old together. Just the mere factor of that not working out is a huge disappointment. It is a major blow to your internal core as a human being.
That is not even taking into account things like children, pets, shared possessions—like homes, cars, etc. You are now faced with figuring out a new normal. If you have children you are likely feeling the strain of their own emotional distress. You are trying to make things as easy as possible on them, while it is hurting you to see them hurt. You may have been forced to move out of your home, split up possessions that may have been of high importance to you, and you may be feeling more financial strain than ever before—divorce is not cheap.
All of these things make getting over such a thing extremely difficult. Don’t try to rush your heart. Instead, take comfort in knowing that you will find that new normal. You will. You will be able to move on. Your kids will be ok. You will find that happiness, that relief, whatever it is that you need. You will. In time. These things take time.
Counseling services are always there for you if you need an extra set of ears to bounce things off of, or if you need guidance in how to move through this major life change.
I miss my father more than ever. He died when I was just 10 years old.
He died around the holiday season making this time of the year difficult for my family and me.
After he passed, I took his cigar box from my mom and I have had it ever since. Its always had a spot in my home. It’s a piece of him that I hold dear. Whenever I want to connect with him, I find myself talking to the box. I put special things in the box, written wishes, and goals for the next year. It’s like talking to him.
Most times when I am talking to the box, I am also crying. I cry because I miss him. I am grieving him because I loved him. It has been difficult but I recognize that those tears come from my sadness that he is no longer with us.
Grief is a testament to love. Love is such a beautiful, complex yet simple, thing. I hate that I feel sad and miss my dad but I am so very glad I got to love him. I would not have it any other way. I would much rather have a love that turns into grief than to never have loved at all.
Other people, I have talked to have similar, yet different, ways of connecting with their loved ones who are no longer around. For some it is continuing on with a tradition, wearing a special outfit, looking at the stars, reading a card, attending a religious ceremony, wearing a piece of jewelry — whatever it is, however you choose to connect is personal and unique to your situation.
How do you choose to connect with your loved ones when they are no longer around?
No matter what the relationship entails, breaking up is hard. It means change and uncertainty over the future. It can easily unravel your current life as you know it. You are probably feeling overwhelmed with all the emotions as you go through the five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. There it is.
You will get there. You will find acceptance. But how do you do it? How are you suppose to move forward? It is all in the power of your thinking.
Someone once told me that accepting a break up means there is no future with that ex. No wonder that person was struggling with moving on — why would the heart want to move forward when it sees no future? That is a pretty bleak and daunting way to think about your future life. Rather than looking at the break up as the end of everything, pivot your viewpoint.
The reality is — we do.not.know if down the road you might have a new beginning with your ex. So much can happen in the future. You don’t know if you will meet someone new, someone, you have an even stronger connection with. Regardless of what the future may hold, you have to accept the end of this current relationship (as you know it) before you are able to move forward.
You have to let the death process of the current relationship take place. Travel through those five stages of grief so you can find a new beginning. Don’t prevent yourself from having a future relationship by avoiding acceptance. Just because this one relationship is currently over, does not mean there is no hope for the future. There is so much potential. So many different ways events can take place and shape our lives. Make the conscious choice to change your thinking and find the positive.
There are many reasons for divorce to occur leading to a vast array of emotions. But why would bitter feelings occur if you and your partner agree that your marriage isn’t working? If you don’t have any hard or angry feelings toward your partner then why would you feel so upset at the situation? Why can’t you just end the marriage and move on?
It is because when you walked down that aisle you had an expectation of what marriage would be. You thought you would spend your life with this person and be happy and in love through the process. Now that reality is setting in and this expectation has been shattered, you are grieving. You have lost your marriage and now you have to grieve that loss.
It is truly human nature to feel this way, according to a Psychology Today article that looks at a study done on chimpanzees. When all of their basic needs are met— safety, love, survival, esteem, and actualization— they act much differently than if they are missing one of those five. When you go through a divorce you are bound to feel bitter, angry, scared, and just plain jerkish because you are not having all your needs met. You suddenly have to worry about all these things you didn’t have to concern yourself with before. When we feel safe, secure, and loved we are able to rationalize things better.
In addition to having your expectations shattered, you are also in for a whole slew of changes and let’s be frank — us humans don’t like change very much. Divorce also brings up many feelings of being powerless and out-of-control, you might not know how things are going to play out, what will tomorrow be like? And, there is a need to fight for what you love and believe—a sense of entitlement. Even if you still deeply care for your soon-to-be ex-spouse, you remember how long it took to pick out that couch downstairs and you want it back. You also worked really hard to save up for that house and now you don’t want to sell it. You want to hang on to the things that are important to you.
Divorce is one of the most stressful things a person can ever endure. It is a mountain of obstacles to face and it takes time and energy to get to the other side. If you are feeling overwhelmed, bitter, stressed, angry, know this is normal. Seek help from a licensed therapist who can help you to take care of yourself.