Grief, Bereavement, and Mourning

Is there a Difference?

By Charisse Jesiolowski, MSW

Actually yes there is a difference in the meaning of the three words. Hopefully in this “blog” I can help you understand the difference between the meanings of the words. Let’s start with Grief.


Grief is the reaction to an experience of loss. Loss could include but not limited to loss of a job, a pet, a friend or family member. It can also start when there is a major change in your life, such as a new job, moving to a new area. Learning to cope with the loss is often difficult. It is the process of going through the grief that we learn about ourselves and those around us. Death if forever, and grief is the lasting response to that death. It can and will subside over time but we need to make sure we don’t get stuck in the acute grief without moving forward into the integrated grief.


Mourning is often used when there is a loss. Mourning is the process of the consequences of the loss in the memories of the person, place or thing that was lost. Mourning is considered successful when the pain and acute grief of the loss are replaced with beautiful memories, which hopefully will bring joy when thought about.


Bereavement is a fact of life. It is the process of experiencing grief and mourning after the loss. We all go through it. We all experience it when there is a loss. It is how we handle the grief and mourning that will determine how well we move forward after a loss.

So how do we get through the grief process? Contrary to old beliefs, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief is individual and takes time. There are certain feelings and emotions we have that go along with grief such as Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  Grief is actually circular or fluid.   We don’t go through each one and think “ok the grief is done”.  Just when you think you have come out of the grief, something will trigger an emotion, memory or feeling that will start the cycle again.

The best way to get through the grief is to do a lot of self-care. People can be judgmental. This is your grief journey not theirs. Find someone who you trust and depend on, to help you on the hardest days. Try not to isolate yourself. If you are having a hard day and memories keep creeping up, let someone know, you are just having a hard day.  Sometimes listening to music helps, sometimes reading a book helps, sometimes just going for a walk helps. Be kind to yourself, be open and honest about your feelings. The tears and the sadness will eventually turn into happy memories and even, do I dare say, HOPE. Hope that we can move forward to live a life of acceptance and joy with a new understanding to help others understand the grief they may be going through.