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To the Stars!
Mourning Woman Statue
| On Mourning
Mourning and Grief are similar.
Grief usually refers to the internal feelings experienced due to a loss of a loved one, emotions like sadness and numbness.
Mourning may refer more to the shared feeling of loss at someone's death. It is usually a social experience within your community, specific to your culture. This process has been called "grief gone public".
Whatever word is used, there is an adjustment process to the void.
Mourning/Grief may also be felt at the loss of something else valuable - like a pet, job, life goal, or identity. Or it may arise during a major life passage (e.g. young to old). Or it may surface when you face your own imminent death, as with a terminal disease.
Why do we mourn?
"...why is there a long period of distress during the process of mourning the death of a loved one? Emotion researchers such as Oatley and Johnson-Laird (1987) have tried to make sense of this aspect of the function of emotions. In their thinking, based on earlier ideas by Simon (1967), one important role of emotion may be to signal to the organism that ongoing behaviour should be interrupted to take account of a conflicting goal... Sadness during bereavement... can be seen as having the function of initiating readjustment of the life goals that included the lost one. If the association was a close one, this period of reassessing or reforming goals could be lengthy."
(Mackintosh, B., SD226 Book 6: Emotions and Mind, The Open University, 2006, p.72)
"A main function for sadness is to help adjust to a significant loss, such as the death of someone close or a major disappointment. Sadness brings a drop in energy and enthusiasm for life’s activities, particularly diversions and pleasures, and, as it deepens and approaches depression, slows the body’s metabolism. This introspective withdrawal creates the opportunity to mourn a loss or frustrated hope, grasp its consequences for one’s life, and, as energy returns, plan new beginnings. This loss of energy may well have kept saddened and – and vulnerable – early humans close to home, where they were safer."
(Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence, p.7)
What are the Stages of Grief?
In the context of a person who has been told they will die soon of a terminal illness, we often hear of the five stages of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. When facing death, these five emotional stages are often thought to be experienced in a linear fashion.
However, this model was never intended to be as as structured as people think. Rather it was to start a conversation in the 1960s about a taboo subject.
"The five stages are meant to be a loose framework - they're not some sort of recipe or a ladder for conquering grief. If people wanted to use different theories or different models, she didn't care. She just wanted to begin the conversation."
(Ken Ross, son of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, cited at BBC, posted and accessed 3 July 2020)
So there is no right way to grieve.
"In life, everyone grieves. But their grief journeys are never the same. Despite what you may hear, you will do the work of mourning in your own special way. Also, do not adopt assumptions about how long your grief should last. Just consider taking a 'one-day-at-a-time' approach. Doing so allows you to mourn at your own pace." (Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Grief counsellor)
I prefer a wave theory of grief.
"The notions of phases or stages is helpful up to a point, but we can get trapped into thinking people ought to be at a certain stage at a certain point. I much prefer a wave kind of model which says that you can be up one day and down the next."
(Ann Eyre cited in Open University K260 Block 3 - The Contexts of Grief and Bereavement, p.74)
"Grief is a journey, not a pitstop. There are countless ups and downs, moments of overwhelm, anger and sadness that strike out of nowhere. Eventually things become easier." (Sue Hawkes, posted 25 March 2019, accessed 11 September 2019)
"The truth is, there is no formula for grief or a one-size-fits-all process. Whether we are grieving the death of a loved one, a dream, or a lifestyle, our process will likely resemble a petulant sea. Let’s be gentle with ourselves and others as we navigate the journey." (Marjorie Avent, posted 8 May 2018, accessed 29 February 2020)
"Grief is not forever but love is"
(AIDS Memorial, Water of Leith, Edinburgh, UK)
Death & Immortality
Grief [part of the series on Emotion]
Time & Models