In a bereavement workshop, Dr. Alan Wolfelt explained the distinctions between grief and mourning. Wolfelt’s a renowned expert, the founder of Colorado’s Center for Loss & Life Transition. His understanding likely won’t be found in a hardbound dictionary or online at Wikipedia. And though I could consult my scratchy notes, I’ll share my simplistic recollection of what he said.
Grief is internal. Mourning is external.
How obvious! Doesn’t everyone know that’s the difference between those two experiences? But I’ll confess: if you’d asked me before the workshop, I might’ve muttered, “Grief and mourning mean sorta the same thing.”
When humans experience loss, emotions roil us. Physically, we are floored. Our spirits sag. Energy wanes. Waking up is a chore; going to bed is dreaded. Have you been fired or downsized from a job? How’d you feel? Did you get dumped in high school or college by the person you were convinced was your lifelong “soul mate?” How’d you feel? In the course of our lives, grief will be our inner companion. You’ll never predict (or desire) grief’s arrival, but we can’t prevent it from visiting. No one escapes grief’s anguish. But when a loved one dies, even though we’ve known grief—lost jobs, a Dear John email, a house foreclosed—the interior pain of grief becomes unimaginable. Which is normal, though labeling the worst feeling you’ve ever had as “normal” doesn’t matter. You. Just. Hurt. Read More →by