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Navigating Grief with the Mourner's Code

When we lose someone or something important in our lives, we break apart. The reality we once knew is shattered and we find ourselves lost, in a completely foreign landscape, disconnected from the person we love and to the version of ourselves we once knew. We experience an array of painful feelings, images, and thoughts and can feel detached from the world at large. This is grief.

Grieving is a constant process of noticing our feelings, honoring the pain, and searching for ways to reconnect to our loved one, ourselves, and to community.

In his book Understanding Your Grief: Ten Essential Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart, Grief educator Alan Wolfelt shares, "Grief is work - it calls on your physical, emotional, cognitive, social and spiritual energy." Grief is ever present after a loss and the act of Mourning is a labor of love, an art of reconfiguring parts of your psyche back together in a new way. Grief work is about going into the depths of our pain, feeling our emotions honestly, reconstructing an updated identity, learning methods of self-nurturance, and leaning into acceptance with time and support. Grief healing requires the process of mourning, and mourning requires a companion.

Mourning is "when you take the grief you have on the inside and express it outside of yourself,"states Wolfelt. This may include talking about your loved one, crying and physically release through massage, expression through an art process, engaging in ritual, or writing about your experience. Your grief requires space and movement, and a witness, to release and begin the healing process.

Wolfelt highlights ten self-compassionate principles to remember on the journey, which he calls The Mourner's Code. These ten inalienable rights can help you remember that you are the expert in your grief and that your healing process deserves respect, honor, and time.

The Mourner's Code

1. "You have the right to experience your own unique grief."

Your loss is completely yours. No one else can tell you what you should or should not be feeling. You are the expert of your emotions and your pain is never to be micromanaged or critiqued by another person.

2. "You have the right to talk about your grief."

You can talk about your loss as much or as little you want, and you can choose who you entrust with your feelings. You are not required to share with everyone. You can decide to open up only when you feel safe and supported."Include quotes by experts in your post to add credibility." – SEO specialist

3. "You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions."

The list of emotions we may experience while we grieve is endless. We can feel avoidant, confused, insecure, angry, fragile, numb, relieved, resentful, and envious. Truly, the list goes on and on. And, we can feel many of these emotions at once, in a jumbled knot inside our chests. Remember that this is a natural component to the process. All feelings are welcome. None are wrong or unwarranted.

4. "You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits."

Some days you may have the energy to talk and move, and some days, you may feel like a brick, heavy, immobile, stuck. Give yourself grace. Every moment is different. Every day is different. On days when you're having a tough time just existing, do the bare minimum and give yourself a pat on the back for all you did. Respect your heart and your body's messages.

5. "You have the right to experience 'griefbursts.'"

Grief can surprise you like a sneaker wave. Just when you thought you were feeling solid, something reminds you of your loss and you crumble back into a million pieces. You may find yourself crying at an unexpected time, in an unexpected location. Roll with it. And if someone comes up to comfort you, allow them if it feels nurturing to do so

6. "You have the right to make use of ritual."

Finding ways to honor your loss and show your continual love is integral to healing. Lighting a candle, creating an alter, celebrating an anniversary, going on a weekly walk at a special place, and creating a gathering for loved ones can all exist as forms of grief ritual. These are ways to consciously make space for our grief and integrate it into our current existence.

7. "You have the right to embrace your spirituality."

If you have a faith practice or want to explore one, allow yourself to connect with your spirituality. Find people connected to your faith that you can talk to and explore your beliefs.

8. "You have the right to search for meaning."

If you have a faith practice or want to explore one, allow yourself to connect with your spirituality. Find people connected to your faith that you can talk to and explore your beliefs.

9. "You have the right to treasure your memories."

Your memories matter. Find ways to revisit memories and share them with others in your life. They help keep your love alive.

10. "You have the right to move toward your grief and heal."

Your grieving process is lifelong and an ever-present facet of your life, but how we engage with it shifts over time. Although our loved one has passed on, we continue to live and deserve to enjoy a fulfilling life, with the time we have left. Healing is not betrayal to your loved one. It is a way of honoring them and carrying their love with you wherever you go.

Reach out for SUPPORT.

If you are interested in deepening your Mourning process, I am here to support you. As a grief therapist, I am a "companion" rather than a "teacher." I am here to sit with you and remind you of this code, so that you can heal in your own time. You can also follow my Instagram page @ericaedwardstherapy for more posts about grief, healing, and being human.


Wolfelt, Alan. 2003. Understanding Your Grief: Ten Essentail Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart. Companion Press.


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