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Should We Mourn for the Dead? How Long After Death is Too Long, When Mourning Becomes Unhealthy

Updated on October 21, 2015

Should we mourn for the dead? On the surface, this seems to be a very complicated question, though in reality it's very easy to know what we should do - though what we should do and what we can do may be very different things when the death is fresh.

Mourning is a natural human reaction to death. Someone you love dearly has died, they will no longer be a part of your life, and you will never see them again in this world. It's hard not to mourn, isn't it? However, there are some who seem to hang on to the mourning phase after a death out of a feeling of obligation. Perhaps the thought is that if we stop mourning too soon, we didn't really love the person who has passed on. The lack of the desire to mourn or to continue mourning is no reflection on the amount of love you bore the deceased, and being able to stop mourning is a sign of healing.

There is no way for us to definitively know what comes after life on this earth. Depending on your personal beliefs, perhaps solace can be found in their ascent to a paradise beyond this world, in their transition to a new life, or in final peaceful rest. If the loved one has lived a full life, then looking on everything they have accomplished, the friends they have touched or helped, or the children they have raised may help through the grieving process.

No, we should not mourn for the dead. In fact, in most cases people mourn more for the gap the person's death left in their own life or the lives of living loved ones than for the one who is gone. Did the deceased love you? If they loved you, they would not want you to hang on to the pain associated with their passing. Past the mourning phase is the phase of remembering. Remembering is the time to reminisce on all the wonderful times you had with the deceased and the good things they brought into your life. Some people are remembered in good works, beautiful gardens, or just as a warm feeling in the chest of the one remembering.

This is where the line between what we should do and what we can do may be difficult. Especially if the person was very close to you, their absence is felt daily. For those who need to mourn for a while, it is fitting and healthy that they do so. This can be especially difficult in the death of a child where the deceased did not have a chance to live what we consider to be a full life. Whether you mourn or not does not depend on what you show on the outside, and if you hold the pain in then it will not go away. Allow yourself to go through the grieving process and don't be afraid to reach out to people who can help and are willing to support you. In your own time, you'll get past the mourning phase and be able to revel in the memories.

Mourning is only unhealthy if it is allowed to persist far past the grieving stage. At this point, it may become necessary to examine exactly why you're mourning. Do you feel an obligation to keep the person's memory alive through perpetual mourning? Does guilt at things you didn't do during the person's life keep you in mourning? If you remain in mourning for anything other than a sense of grief, it is neither healthy nor beneficial as this is part of the grieving process. Past grieving, mourning can be destructive to everyday life and your day-to-day mood. Allow the grief for deceased loved ones to run its course, then continue on with your life and remember them in any way you see fit.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      My Mother passed away in 9/11 so did my sister in law, my Uncle butch started the Christmas Holiday and a full year of family friends 12/10. I had two people pass on the same day, an Uncle on my moms side and an aunt on my dads side my mom lost total of 4 brothers two sister in laws two of my daughters friends from 4 years old only 27 died, a best friend of mine also all together 20, in 9 months, my Mom was sick for 5 months and I was there when she died Alice died on 9/11 Mom on 9/26 how can it be easy or there be any time to mourn any one life lost, Mom has been hard she was the last of the 20 it seems unreal at times that so many passed that where so close, My husbands friend Don died last week he was 51, been sick slow sickness a bit at a time to where it didn't even hit us how ill he had became over the last 7 years and My hubby helped carry the casket, Lisa his Step Daughter is not doing well at all, her Dad lived with her for the last 6 months her Mom is only 5 miles away taking care of her mom so Don and her wernt together every day but happy and married, Lisa has covered mirrors not jewish she has hid Dons belongs and will not give her 2 sisters anything of her dads she has packed his cloths and is taking them to her moms to put them in the shed. Lisa told me she feels bad about the way she treated Don when she was a kid, thinking he favored the twin sisters more ( he in fact did ) now feels guilt over that when she knows he loves her a lot, at the service she came in about 2 min prior to it and then the mom and her sisters in the frount row with room for Lisa she went and sat alone where the family usually sits, she is not doing normal things for her or normal things to mourn, she is almost gone well over normal taken other religons and taken that belife and is using it, she put so much in his casket the director had to stop her putting more in. i maen 50 items easy, what about this how can I help and keep it real at the same time she has gone over normal period.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I know this goes to talk about human passing, but I have come across a problem, about 4 days ago, I had to take my husbands dog of 10 years to be put down he was suffering from brain tumors, was turning aggressive and kept having seizures, My husband loved this dog very much, we are expecting out first child in 4 months, and he hasn't stopped mourning and crying over the dog, I cried because the dog was part of the family, but my husband obsesses over the death and he no longer gets excited about the baby kicking, he doesn't want to go out anywhere, not even get groceries, and he keeps replaying videos of the dog and keeps looking at pictures and crying, I'm worried and not sure if this has gone too far, and should I seek professional help for him? he is 29 years old and that's what has me worried, any advice would be helpful

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I think everyone for whatever reason it may be to mourn and for how long. I can't see putting as time limit either. You survive a loss and have trouble living the new life you've been handed. Life is very unfair at times. I have great pain for my sister's passing 7 years ago. She hung herself in my cellar at my home. I still cry for her and miss her very greatly. I love you baby sis.

    • wychic profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mikulin 

      8 years ago from Sheridan, Wyoming

      A prick, huh? That's a new one. And no, I'm not sticking my head in the sand on this one, and I mourn just like any other human. I apparently haven't made my point particularly clear...we know what the end healing point is, but everyone gets their in their own time and at their own pace, and some never get there. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with it, but it does mean that the wound hasn't healed. We all bear our scars, and they're part of a normal life. I don't say that mourning is fact, quite the opposite...only that continuing to mourn out of a feeling of obligation rather than grief is unhealthy.

    • profile image

      aj's daughter 

      8 years ago

      Whoever wrote this article is like an ostrich sticking their head in the dare you tell me to mourn my dead father is know what my father would call you? A prick! It's people like YOU that make the grieving process even harder.people like you think that we should get on with it and move on.well has it occurred to you that for some people the pain is all consuming? Your remedy is NOT my remedy so go back to sticking your head in the sand and "pretending" that your life is so great even though you lost someone.hope it all works out for you that way. Prick.

    • profile image


      8 years ago


    • zzron profile image


      8 years ago from Houston, TX.

      I think mourning for the dead is a normal and healthy human process for dealing with the pain and the loss of a loved one and promotes the acceptance and the healing we need to grow and continue with our own life.

    • womanNshadows profile image


      9 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      ah. then you are feeling your way along with the rest of us. i moved to my mother's hospital room when i was 20 to be with her while she died. six months later, my grandmother died. two years later, my grandfather. then my first child died a week short of five months. then my father died 18 months after that.

      none of those deaths was as life-altering for me, has done as much to me, as the sudden death of my husband. he is my lover, my best friend, my strength, and my soul mate.

      each one was unique. along my 50 + decades i have observed grief in others as well as in my own life and i truly believe it is unique each time, to each of us, even a common grief such as the death of a child, the death of a parent, or the death of a spouse. my loss is not yours, nor yours mine. we all write of it from the perspective of our own lives and though we look for similarities to see how others are faring, we shouldn't. we can only speak for ourselves and to ourselves and hope for an ear to tell our stories to.

      you have my heart felt sympathies for your own personal loss.

    • wychic profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mikulin 

      9 years ago from Sheridan, Wyoming

      There is no set time frame. For myself, I have been grieving for a three-year-old for over a year now and the pain is still fresh. As I've said, mourning is only unhealthy if it lives past grieving...that is, if you find yourself just "going through the motions" out of a feeling of obligation to a person's memory rather than as a result of the raw emotional pain.

    • womanNshadows profile image


      9 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      i am uncertain if mourning is, in your opinion, acceptable (No, we should not mourn for the dead.) or for how long it is acceptable so that it doesn't venture into, as you seem to say, simply mourning for the "gap" they left. how long is too long? six months? the rollar coaster ride of two years? as C. S. Lewis wrote of it? Twain? who have you lost and how long did it take before your grief turned to joyful, exuberant remembrance? how long before your tears dried up and that catch in your heart was gone? how long before you stopped turning to tell them something then have that flash of pain, that realization that they will not be coming home? how long before they became, for you, just a passing memory that brings nothing more than a smile?

      "In your own time, you'll get past the mourning phase and be able to revel in the memories. Mourning is only unhealthy if it is allowed to persist far past the grieving stage. At this point, it may become necessary to examine exactly why you're mourning."

      i am grieving and i read your hub. it's title caught my eye. sensitive and fragile, i felt judged. i felt spoken down to. my opinion only. you were vague in your criteria for mourning and then for no longer mourning. i have been grieving for my beloved husband for only 4 months and 5 days, but now i do know if you consider my grief unhealthy and believe i should get myself into therapy because it has been 4 months and 5 days. how long is acceptable to you. you wrote this hub and i did not see any time frame so i believe it is a fair query. could you please clarify this?

      are you someone who lost one of the most loved and important people in your life and found the secret that so many have struggled with, that all the books, websites, and church groups work with people who grieve have not been able to impart so succinctly? cigarettes cause cancer. grief should only take x amount of time and then it should end.

      amoung your accomplishments you listed on your profile you did not list grief therapist. is that an oversight? is that what your hub is based on, your background in being a grief therapist? what is the foundation from which you draw this information to create your criteria for mourning. i would take it and offer it up to the handful of widows i have met at church.

      thank you in advance for your clarifications.


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