Grieving and mourning are a part of life after loss — allowing yourself healthy strategies for coping and supporting someone else after a loss can be tough but worth it.

Losing someone you love or supporting someone through a loss is not an easy task. If you’ve lost someone close to you, you may feel overwhelmed, sad, and alone. If you’re supporting someone through a loss, you may not know what to say or how to help them.

Grief and mourning are a part of what occurs during a loss. Though they’re similar, grief and mourning have different meanings.

Loss can mean many different things; you may grieve someone who has passed, mourn the loss of a relationship, have a job or financial loss, or lose important things. You don’t just “get over” losing someone or something.

Allowing space for yourself to express and feel your emotions and reaching out for support can be helpful after experiencing a loss. No one person reacts or copes with grief and mourns a loss in the same way.

Grief is the emotional response to a loss. There are various ways in which you may respond to grief after a loss. The grief response solely focuses on emotions.

There are five stages of grief:

  • denial
  • anger
  • bargaining
  • depression
  • acceptance

These five stages don’t have to occur sequentially, and you can be in multiple stages of grief at once. You may experience many emotional reactions to grief, such as:

  • shock
  • increased anxiety
  • disbelief or denial
  • distress
  • loss of appetite
  • insomnia
  • anger
  • sadness

One review from 2022 suggests that most people that have experienced a loss recover from the grief within a year of the loss. But this view may be limited because they don’t define what “recovering” from grief means.

Those who have difficulty adapting to the loss may have complicated or prolonged grief.

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), persistent complex bereavement disorder occurs after a period of intense emotional pain that lasts at least 1 year.

During complex bereavement disorder, you may experience emptiness, helplessness, and an intense longing for someone you have lost.

Mourning is the outward response to grief. In other words, it’s how you express grief after experiencing a loss and how you adapt to grief after a loss. Cultural and religious traditions and customs may be a part of mourning.

For example, a funeral or celebration of life after someone passes is a ritual of mourning. Other practices of mourning after someone passes may include:

  • sharing positive memories of the person
  • planting a tree or flower in their memory
  • donating to an organization they were a part of
  • starting a foundation to raise awareness of a specific condition
  • praying

Anything that expresses grief that isn’t precisely the emotional reaction is a part of mourning.

Now that we have defined grief and mourning, let’s look at how they differ. Grief deals with the emotions surrounding the loss of someone or something. Mourning is how you express that grief.

Grief occurs during the mourning process, and mourning occurs during the process of grief.

If you’re dealing with a significant loss, you may fluctuate in your emotions. Sometimes the grief you experience may be difficult, and other times, you may have moments of acceptance.

If you’ve lost someone, you may experience things in your daily life that remind you of that person.

For example, if you hear a song that the person you lost would have loved, that may evoke a grief response and cause you to become emotional. If you play that song in their honor, this is a mourning response.

There’s no “right way” to cope with a loss. If you’ve experienced any loss, which most of us do at some point in our lives, it may be an intense and emotional experience.

Coping with the loss of a loved one

Coping with the loss of a loved one can be a challenging experience. If you have experienced this or are trying to support someone through the death of a loved one, it may be hard to know the proper steps to take.

Loneliness is a common emotional state that accompanies grief. A 2021 study, that looked at 372 grieving adults’ experiences of social support after a loss, found that social support is helpful when emotional support and emotional acts of concern are given.

A 2014 review identified actions that could help support someone through grief or help themselves through grief, such as:

  • being sensitive in communication about the person who died
  • honoring their loved one’s memory
  • offering assistance with housework, child care, and meals
  • allowing the person who is grieving to express emotions without judgment
  • joining support groups
  • seeking out support from networks such as a religious community, organization, or neighborhood
  • finding support from a mental health professional

There’s no timeline for coping with grief, but practicing taking care of yourself can help you experience the process of grief in a healthy way.

Coping with the loss of a pet

The loss of a pet often brings up different challenges than losing a human loved one.

Although pets can’t express their wishes in the same way as humans, a large 2019 study involving 369 Italian dog owners shows that grief responses to losing a pet are similar to losing a human loved one.

One study from 2020 that examined methods of coping from animal owners that had to euthanize their pet found that many people who have lost a pet largely mourn the loss of their pet privately or with their family.

The implications of this study suggest helpful strategies for dealing with the loss of a pet, such as:

  • seeking out counseling
  • joining a pet loss support group
  • calling a pet loss hotline
  • educating yourself on the grief process

Coping with the loss of a relationship

Losing a relationship through a break-up, separation, or divorce involves grief reactions.

The emotional pain you may experience if you’re dealing with the loss of a relationship is often intense and can lead to depression, anger, and loneliness.

Some tips for coping with the loss of a relationship include:

  • expressing your emotions
  • finding social support
  • seeking therapy
  • practicing self-care

Getting through a relationship loss takes time, but support is available to help you cope. You’re not alone during this time.

Coping with financial strain and job loss

Another significant loss that many individuals have experienced is job loss, which often results in financial strain. One small 2021 qualitative study of participants who have been unemployed offers suggestions for coping with job loss.

Some helpful coping mechanisms include:

  • seeking out social support and information from family, friends, and extended support networks
  • finding enjoyable social activities that don’t cost money
  • finding meaningful leisure activities
  • seeking support from a mental health professional

Grief and mourning are experiences that affect us all at some point. It’s not easy to lose someone or something close to you. The type of loss you experience and how you handle it can make a difference in learning to cope with loss.

In all types of loss, social support that allows honest expression of emotions is vital for adapting to life after loss. Grief support groups, using hotlines for assistance, and seeking therapy may also help you cope.

You’re not alone if you deal with unhelpful emotions and mental health challenges after a loss. The Grief Resource Network offers a variety of information and hotline numbers for grief support.