Grief is the combination of feelings we have inside when we lose someone we love. Mourning is when we make our grief public.
Funerals and memorial services are formal mourning occasions. In my grandparent’s days you knew someone was in mourning because the men wore black arm bands and the women dressed in black. It’s not so easy today, but the opportunity to talk out loud about our loss is important to our healing.
By healing I don’t mean “getting over it.” There are always the internal scars that are opened by birthdays, anniversaries, music and special places. In order to heal, or help others heal, it is important that we move towards the pain, and that means mourning.
But how do we open the conversation about grief to mourn, or be with others so they can mourn safely?
Let me suggest a model for opening our window for communication. I owe the model to two social psychologists: Joe Luft and Harry Ingrim. They called it The JoHari Window. If the model were three dimensional, we could see each of the four squares as a cube or room. It looks like this.
Each of the four arenas above, for descriptive purposes, are the same size. However, when we and others are cautious the Open Arena is quite small. When we talk about our grief experience, the Hidden Arena becomes smaller and the Open Arena becomes larger.
For example, when I tell you about a personal loss, or you, or a child tells you of his or her loss, we can mourn together. When others feel free to share with you what they observe or ask gentle questions, your Blind Spot Arena becomes smaller and the Open Arena becomes larger. Often in these intimate exchanges we have what I call an Ah Ha Moment. It may be “So that’s why I’m so angry,” or “So that’s why I’m afraid to love again.”
So what’s the point? Healing from a loss takes risk; it takes moving towards the pain. This happens when we mourn, and mourning requires opening our hidden feelings and thoughts, and accepting what others may see that we don’t see.
Unfortunately we can’t do that with everyone. You’ll find, some people won’t be helpful. But you have to take the risk, and test the water. If you try and you find that someone is not able to listen and connect about the loss, just move on, keep taking the risk until you find those who do.
Photo Credit.