Bereavement, Grieving and Mourning

Brain Injury Blog by Janelle Breese Biagioni

March 7, 2011

Bereavement, Grieving and Mourning ~ Don’t These Mean the Same Thing?

We use the words bereavement (or bereaved) and grieving and mourning interchangeably, as though they all mean the same thing. They don’t.

To be bereaved is to be “deprived of a close relation or friend through their death.” In other words, it is the event or “the call” ~ it is what has happened to you that caused you to lose someone or something.

Dr. Alan Wolfelt, from the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Colorado, explains the difference between grieving and mourning the best. He says, “Grieving is how we feel on the inside – it’s our internal response to the loss. Mourning is giving expression to those feelings of grief – or grief gone public.”

So in terms of a brain injury, the event that caused the injury to the brain would cause the loss or losses. The person’s feelings about the losses associated with their brain injury is their grief. In giving expression to those feelings of loss, we begin the process of mourning. The difficultly is that when it is not a “physical death” people are often not invited to grieve or mourn their losses.  Another challenge in grieving and mourning the losses associated with brain injury is to understand the layers of loss involved. I tell people, “It’s like peeling an onion ~ there are layers and layers and there will be lots of tears.”

In my next blog to help people understand what layers there may be to their loss, I will explain the difference between a primary and secondary loss.

One response to “Bereavement, Grieving and Mourning”

  1. Unless you have been personally touched by the emotional trauma of brain injury, it can be so hard for others to understand the depth and range of emotions felt by both those who survive their injuries and their families. Janelle has a wonderful way of helping others understand their emotions and feelings – and she knows all too well how difficult this emotional journey can be.

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