Thinking Out Loud: Signs of Grieving
Grief usually refers to the personal inner feelings of an individual, but in some cultures when someone dies, family members
and close friends express their grief outwardly by weeping and wailing.
The onset of grief is from the moment a person becomes aware of the death of a loved one. At this point they begin the process of grief, which does not have a set time, as grief affects everyone in different ways. The intensity of the feelings associated with grief depends on the circumstances of the loss, the closeness of the relationship, and the conditioning of the person who has experienced the loss.
Mourning is the outward expression of grief through signs and rituals, which include special behavior and clothing of the bereaved, in keeping with family traditions, religion, and culture. There is no set period for the process of mourning, which extends from the onset of grief to the time when the bereaved has come to terms with the loss and adjusted to the changes that occur in their lives as a result of the death. This period is different for everyone.
Expressions of mourning differ according to culture, religious beliefs, and family traditions of the bereaved. Many religious have strict rituals that have to be followed during the period of mourning. Some rituals begin from the time of death and continue up to the first anniversary of the death.
Some of the external signs of individuals in mourning are: wearing dark clothing or special mourning jewelry; withdrawing
from social activities like parties, dances, not listening to music, or participating in entertainment like concerts, movies, etc.; postponing family celebrations like birthdays, engagements, or weddings for a period of time after the death; visiting the grave on a regular basis.
When a prominent figure in society dies, or when there is another significant loss that affects the community, there are common public signs of acknowledgement of the loss and respect to members of the family who are in mourning. Some of these are: giving the right of way to the hearse and cars in a funeral procession; players of a sporting club wear black armbands during a game when a member of the club, or someone closely connected with the sport dies; observing a period of silence in honor of the deceased person prior to a public function; and flying flags at half-mast.
It is important to be aware of the personal signs of those who are in mourning and grief as well as to understand the public signs of acknowledgement and respect when someone of prominence dies, so that those in mourning and grief can to be supported and treated with respect and compassion during this period when they are in a vulnerable state.
John T. Catrett, III
Scissortail Hospice Chaplain
306 North Main Street, Suite E
Bristow, OK 74010