Expressing grief, no matter if publicly or privately, can help you find closure after dealing with a loss and is a part of healthy grieving. The public expression of grief is often connected to grief rituals and cultural traditions. Many cultures incorporate public funerals, burials, and memorial services when a community supports families suffering the death of a family member or other loved one.
The way we express and experience these rituals can differ from one culture to another, but the overall sense of community and support remain the same.
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Grief represents how we feel on the inside after suffering a significant loss. Mourning, by contrast, is the outward manifestation of that grief. Together, grief and mourning play essential roles in our grief process.
Some people are more comfortable with the private expression of their suffering, and others prefer community support to help them cope.
Different Ways You Can Publicly Express Grief
Public mourning or the public display of grief isn't unusual in most Western societies. We've come to expect some form of a shared array of emotions following the death of a loved one or another type of impactful loss. Some examples of public mourning include crying at funerals, roadside memorials, and tattoos commemorating the deceased's birth and death dates.
These public expressions of grief are meant to be impactful, help those in mourning with the grieving process, and lessen the emotional weight of grieving alone and in private. The tips below may help you publicly express your pain and sorrow as you’re learning to cope with your loss.
1. Express your emotions
Typical reactions to grief include a wide array of physical and emotional experiences. Everyone grieves differently, and it’s essential to express your pain and sorrow in a way that feels authentic to you.
During the grieving process, you can expect to feel intense pain and suffering, irritability, anger, confusion, and many other grief responses that may seem foreign to you at the time. Letting out your emotions can help you move forward through your grief in a healthy way.
Some ways to express your feelings publicly include:
- Crying at a funeral
- Saying goodbye in a eulogy
- Attending a candlelit vigil
- Wearing a memorial T-shirt
- Singing songs at the memorial service
2. Talk to your loved ones
Talking to your loved ones and your support group is vital to the healing progress. Opening up to those in your support group lets them know that you welcome their love and support, especially at a time when you need it most. Many people may not know how to approach you while you're grieving and may stay away until you've moved on from your loss.
Chances are they don't know what to say or uncomfortable talking about death. You can open up the conversation by telling them stories about your loved one, how their death has impacted your life, and how you're struggling to cope.
3. Post on social media
A creative way to express your grief openly and publicly is to post on social media to let others know what you're going through. Most people will jump at the chance to lend you their support, and you might find it reassuring to know that there are people out there who care about you when things get tough.
Remember that you only need to post the details you're comfortable with, and you do not have to feel pressured or obligated to tell people every detail surrounding your loss. Consider limiting who can see your post.
Some social media platforms allow you to control the privacy of every post. You can even restrict sharing your thoughts and feelings to only close friends and family if you want.
4. Celebrate special days
Celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and other special days related to your deceased loved one can assist you in expressing your grief while honoring their memory. Invite others to join you in these celebrations. You may find that old and forgotten relationships renew through shared pain and sorrow.
Expect there to be a certain hesitation to celebrate special days soon after your loved one's death. Many of these events can be triggering and create a lot of stress and anxiety in some people.
Try not to get discouraged from these celebrations. Invite only those who are supportive of your need to grieve openly. As time passes, you may find yourself cherishing and holding on to the memories connected to past celebrations with your loved ones and the new memories created following their death.
5. Join a support group
Online grief support groups can provide a way for you to express your grief openly and publicly.
The more you can interact with others who share in your sorrow, the easier it’ll be for you to process the feelings and emotions that accompany a significant loss. You can learn from others' experiences and share your personal grief experience to help others through their journey.
However, keep in mind that finding the right fit in a group is usually accomplished through trial and error. Don’t be afraid to test out a few before deciding on the right fit for you. You don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why you choose to leave a particular group.
Different Ways You Can Privately Express Grief
The personal expression of grief and private rituals affect ways of processing your feelings and emotions after the death of a loved one or other significant loss. Not everyone feels safe with public mourning rituals. Some people tend to feel better expressing their grief privately.
There’s no wrong way to grieve, and whatever helps you push through your pain and sorrow is valid and meaningful to your grief journey. Taking part in private rituals helps you thrive after loss and enables you to experience lower levels of grief than someone who suppresses their grief altogether. The following ways may inspire you to express your sorrow even when no one’s watching.
6. Talk to your loved one
Continuing the relationship with your dead loved one is a natural and normal way of staying connected to them. You can extend your relationship by going on long walks in nature and talking aloud to your loved one or sitting in contemplative silence as you have conversations with them in your head.
Whatever method works for you is how you should express your grief without fear of how others react.
Consider that your loved one's essence is still with you to comfort you and bring your peace and hope. Also, don’t be afraid of asking your loved one to send you signs and signals that they’re still around. You can get as specific as you want when asking for a particular symbol.
7. Write in a journal
Writing your way through sorrow is a very therapeutic form of grief expression. Journaling is a creative way to express how you feel that doesn't require any writing formality or rules. Set some time aside for you to be alone with your thoughts and devote a few minutes each day to writing about your feelings.
You can set a timer using a healing music soundtrack that runs the length of the time you want to devote to this grief and loss exercise. Once the timer goes off, set your writing aside until the next time you’re scheduled to sit and write. Building a daily habit of journaling will help you heal from your grief.
8. Seek professional help
Seek out grief resources in your community to help you get through some of the most challenging times in your grief journey. Consider getting connected to a professional grief counselor or therapist that can talk to you one-on-one about what you're going through.
Together you can develop a way to help you move through your pain and get back on track with daily life and answer any questions about grief you may have. A grief therapist can be instrumental in offering you a list of grief and loss activities to help you continue living a productive and meaningful life after loss. In time, you’ll start seeing an improvement in your overall mood and outlook in life.
Meditation comes in many forms and practices. You can meditate privately in the comfort of your home by searching online for free grief meditation videos or soundtracks that you can follow along to. Meditation takes a bit of discipline and practice to get into the habit. Anyone can do it, and there's no need for special equipment or specialized knowledge.
The needed discipline comes from having to sit through being alone with your grief and allowing your emotions, thoughts, and feelings to manifest. Daily meditation practice will help your heart heal from the pain and sorrow that accompanies a significant loss.
10. Design a memorial garden
Many people who've lost a loved one find comfort in designing and implementing a memorial garden in their backyard or patio. Even when you don't have access to either, you can set aside a small area within your home and design a memorial table or memorial corner in remembrance of your loved one.
A designated memorial space will give you a place to express your grief whenever needed that honors the memory of your loved one. You can include a memorial bench to sit and contemplate on your loved one, hang a beautiful wind chime, or plant trees, shrubs, and flowers that remind you of your loved one who’s died. For an indoor space, consider a memorial altar table or a rock zen garden.
Expressing Grief After Loss
A loved one's death can represent a devastating loss that also tends to bring an overwhelming sense of despair. When grieving a significant loss, be patient, compassionate, and gentle with yourself.
Accept that grief is a part of loss and how you're feeling is also a part of the mourning process. Permit yourself to express your sorrow, whether privately or publicly, instead of repressing those feelings. If you keep your feelings buried, you can turn your grief into something more complicated in the months ahead.