Did you know that grieving and mourning are not the same thing? Grieving is what goes on inside of you when you experience a loss; mourning is expressing your grief on the outside. To heal from your loss and reconcile your grief, mourning is an important part of the journey.
In the past, we used to observe specific periods of mourning, including wearing particular types of dress, such as black clothing and black armbands. By our appearance, others could then see that we lost a loved one, would ask about our loss, and give us a chance to share our story and mourn.
Today in the U.S., we are known as having a death-denying culture — we want people who have lost a loved one to get over their grief quickly and quietly on their own. As a result, mourners have few places to take their grief and mourn. Even well-intentioned family members and friends might not provide a safe place for mourning — it can be hard to witness others in pain and to let go of trying to “fix” them.
One way to find a safe place for mourning is to join a healing support group. A support group can be an instant community of others who understand what you are experiencing. It also can be a place to tell your story and learn about the grieving process. At their best, support groups are places that plant the seed of hope within each of its members, no matter where they are on their grief journey.
Sooner or later we all face loss. How we accept it and deal with it is critical to our continued growth, or it may contribute to our closing up and shutting down to life. One of the hard lessons of grief is that to transform the pain, you must experience it. A support group can help encourage you through your experience of this pain.
Fortunately, in the Centre Region, a group of individuals from grief organizations came together to create Grief Connection, www.griefconnection.org. The mission of this group is to collaborate with individuals and local grief organizations to provide personal and professional resources for grief support. To this end, we created the Grief Connection website to share information about local grief resources and support groups, organized by type of loss.
When you or someone you know experiences the loss of a loved one, visit the website to learn about places you can go to take your grief and mourn. Our hope is that whether you find support on your own or through a group, you will learn that the pain of grief will not have the final word, but instead you can heal.
Jackie Naginey Hook is a spiritual director and Life-Cycle Celebrant at the State College Presbyterian Church.