Monday, October 13, 2014

Grief vs. Mourning

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. - Matthew 5:4

Someone asked me if I was done grieving recently. I couldn't find the words to answer. Is it possible that people don't know the difference between mourning and grieving?

Mourning is a completely different thing from grieving. Mourning is an action and a manifestation of missing someone by actively remembering them in words and deeds. It is a behavior that can be anticipated and is associated with a loss.

It can be lived out loud and with others. It can take the form of a tribute. It can become a living parable or proverb, a tradition, a folkway. But grief manifests itself in ways that cannot be anticipated, planned for, staved off, or tucked away.  

Mourning is a reaction and a choice, however disorganized. It is something that can be practiced and reasoned and wrestled with....

But grief is not like that.

It's the pang in between the silences
and the indescribable suffering
of a loss and the void
When breath is robbed
 and eyes are stinging 
and fingers can find no solace 
in repeatedly tracing a thing...

Grief lives there.

When the stillness of the morning 
is broken by the slightest sound 
and reality comes rushing in...

Grief lives there.

When the warmth of the sun 
touches your skin and your lips 
almost curl into a smile 
but that lump forms in your throat
and stays there a longer while...

Grief lives there.

In the hustle and buzzing 
of life all around you,
a deep void will creep in
so precisely and drown you
so that even the loudest noise
will dull into the distance
and a cocoon of numbness
is your replacement existence...

Grief lives there.

But in that moment 
before all of those things,
There is an innocence. 
No heaviness, no pang, and no twinge. 
No ill and no throat lump 
No lost breath or cringe,
Just lightness and life 
and all the unawares 
that have not been stolen
but still hang in the air. 

Because no grief lives there.

The moment before it
is like virgin snow 
under the shadow of a boot 
that the ground doesn't know. 
It is a peaceful lake 
with no ripple upon it. 
It is the tranquil stillness 
on the plain with no breeze.
It is the absence of sorrow
before the emptiness rushes in.
It is pure, unassuming, oblivious, and free. 

And grief is the interruption,
the sudden absence of "ok",
without the grace of anticipation,
and you are its prey.
It is the distance from reason
and it's the author of pain 
in between the silences, again...
Grief lives there


~If this description of grief speaks to you, share your thoughts in the comments.~


  1. The weekend before last I had to be at every Mass because we were presenting our pastoral plan. Some combination of the lack of sleep, seeing the young children troop in and out for the Children's Liturgy of the Word, and several baptisms after the last Mass hit me hard. Coupled with it was the knowledge that it was roughly 2 years after we saw that positive pregnancy test. I came home and sobbed to my husband, as it had hit me that it probably would have been about a year ago that our child would have been baptized if he or she had lived. I actively try not to think of such things, but grief sneaks up on you and ambushes you, unexpected. Hugs and prayers.

  2. That description of grief... Wow. Yes. Absolutely yes. It is so profound sometimes and so overwhelming and there is absolutely nothing to be done even when you're just writhing because it hurts too bad to hold still, but moving doesn't help either. Many prayers tonight.

  3. Thanks for this beautiful post.

  4. I can say from the other side that even though I have much joy surrounding this pregnancy, grief is still my constant companion. It shouldn't be this way, I know, but grief is a powerful and crushing emotion that ebbs and flows but never truly disappears. Thanks for your honesty with this post. I know so many of us feel the same way.

  5. Beautiful description. I honestly don't know now whether I'm grieving or mourning, now that you bring up the distinction. Perhaps I will always be in mourning of my own, personal inability to be pregnant, since I've known for so long, and at the same time I am grieving the infertility of my marriage. Very thought provoking, CH. Thank you for writing. :)

  6. This is grief in all of it's silently sliced manifestations. I am praying for you, your pain and your healing.