The death of a loved one is something people innately fear. The experience can be painful and traumatizing depending on their relationship to the deceased and the strength of their bond. Coming to terms with a loved one's death may cause recurring waves of grief and mourning as a person further experiences the stages of grief associated with bereavement. Both are natural and normal reactions to the loss of a loved one.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Why Do We Grieve Deceased Loved Ones?
- Why Do We Grieve Strangers or Celebrities?
- Why Do We Feel the Need to Grieve Pets?
Grieving encompasses all of the internal ideations that go along with dealing with death and loss. It can last for weeks, months, and sometimes years. The grieving process is what helps most people cope with the death of a loved one.
In contrast, mourning is the public or outward manifestation of the feelings and emotions that accompany a significant loss. It plays a part in how a bereaved person expresses themselves to the outside world.
Why Do We Grieve Deceased Loved Ones?
We grieve over the deaths of those we love because it’s painful to lose them and to imagine going forward in life without them. Not only do we feel the defeat of their death, but also for ourselves as we experience the secondary losses closely tied to their death. Grief and mourning often accompany the other during a time of bereavement and after a significant loss.
Grief is the culmination of our thoughts and feelings we process on the inside as we come to terms with our loved one’s death. It’s normal to experience different types of grief and to publicly mourn a significant loss.
But why do we grieve when someone we love dies?
1. It hurts to lose the ones we love
Psychological pain and sorrow are two emotions that we feel when we lose someone we love. It doesn’t matter whether we anticipated the person’s death because they’d been dealing with a long and protracted illness or if they died suddenly and unexpectedly. It still hurts to lose a loved one regardless of how and why they died. We don’t fully expect any of our loved ones to die.
Our rational thinking tells us that the longer a person lives, the more likely it is for them to die over a younger person who’s otherwise healthy. But when it happens, it can still catch us off guard despite our best efforts in anticipating the likelihood of death to occur.
2. Where there’s love, there’s loss
Loss brings pain, and pain brings grief and suffering. When forced to say goodbye to someone we love, the agony can be profound. Intense pain and anguish take over as we try to make sense of what’s happened. We grieve over our loved one’s death because it’s hard to imagine a life without them.
As sadness and bereavement begin to take hold of our emotions, we begin to physically ache for our loved one who’s died. Grief and mourning have a therapeutic purpose of getting you past the initial stages of grief where you experience the shock and disbelief that your loved one has died. Together they work to propel you to a place where you can live with the loss and move through your grief in a healthy way.
3. We can’t imagine life without them
Sometimes the reason why we mourn so deeply for a loved one who’s died is that we understand the harsh reality of having to live life without them. The impact of the death of a loved one can go beyond the physical and emotional.
For some people, losing their loved one can mean losing their only source of financial or emotional support. They’ll have to figure out a way to survive life now that their loved one has died.
4. Others expect us to grieve
Sometimes, a close bond with the deceased was simply not there, and their death fails to evoke feelings of grief and sorrow. Yet, friends and family expect you to react in a way that's opposite of what you feel like.
To appease the family and others, we often choose to go through the motions of sorrow. We participate in grief rituals out of habit and routine, not necessarily because we're in mourning. At times, the only reason why we have funerals is to satisfy tradition.
Why Do We Grieve Strangers or Celebrities?
Whenever tragedy befalls a celebrity or person we don't know, people come together to comfort one another as if that person was a part of the collective whole. Some people grieve these types of events because they can identify with the loss or feel somehow connected to the person that died. Suffering along with the community gives people a sense of purpose and belonging. It's the bond that holds together the masses who have a shared interest in the person's death.
The other reasons we grieve a stranger’s death are:
5. We feel connected to them
Whenever people grieve a celebrity or stranger's death, it's because they feel connected to them in some way. Whether celebrities remind us of ourselves or the person we wish had become, their death equals our lost hopes and dreams.
If we see our reflection in that person, then a part of us vanishes along with them when they die. We grieve that lost connection to them and somehow feel let down by their death.
6. We can relate to how they died
A celebrity or stranger’s death in the news can trigger grief because we can relate to how they died. You don’t have to be a celebrity to die of a drug overdose or another type of substance-related death, illness, or accident. People all over the world die in these ways, whether accidentally or intentionally.
Because tragedies of all kinds occur in society, it’s not uncommon to know or hear of someone close to you who’s died in the same way as the person on the news. The grief that you feel for them may be an extension of the grief you’re feeling over the death of your loved one.
7. We see them as a part of us
If someone in our community or a well-known person dies, the community grieves them as a whole as if they, too, lost a loved one. This has to do with the realization that death can happen to anyone at any time.
Communities come together to collectively mourn because they want to be a part of something that brings people closer together. It is also a sobering reminder that celebrity or fame doesn’t make anyone immune to death and tragedy. Strangers find peace and comfort through shared grief as they mourn together.
8. They’ll never create anything new
We mourn the loss of a celebrity for many reasons. One thing that we’ll regret is the loss of their artistry.
We’ll never again see or hear anything new from them. It may have been a famous singer, author, or actor who’s died. Grief is compounded by the loss of the person and the loss of their artistry.
Why Do We Feel the Need to Grieve Pets?
There’s a hidden sorrow in the death of a pet, and grief over their loss can be isolating. Many people may not want to talk about the death of a pet due to the taboos associated with death, but also the diminishing stereotype of pets being less than important. People, by and large, feel uncomfortable with the idea of mourning, especially when it relates to the death of a pet. They find it difficult to place the same value in the life of a pet as that of a human being.
9. Losing a pet is painful
Losing a pet is often an emotionally devastating experience. Pets represent an extension of the family for most people who have one. Pets see us through some of the most challenging times in our lives.
They provide immense love and joy and offer unconditional love. When they die, it’s natural to feel a profound sense of loss. It’s not unusual to grieve the loss of a pet in much the same way as we mourn the death of other beloved members of the family.
10. Your relationship with them is important
Your relationship with your pet was meaningful and important. When your pet dies, your grief's in danger of becoming disenfranchised or invalidated by society. Pet loss grief is usually minimized because it's misunderstood, making it particularly hard to process and work through.
You may feel that your pain is unrecognized by a society that places little value on an animal's life. The difference between mourning vs. grief is sometimes a subtle one that is often confused. Allowing yourself to openly mourn your pet as you grieve their loss helps you work toward the reconciliation of your grief.
11. They are like family
Grieving the loss of a furry friend and experiencing the different stages of grief is not unusual when our pet was a significant part of your life. A pet's death can affect its owner in many unexpected ways. It can impair your emotional and physical well-being and cause you to experience symptoms of acute grief that can last anywhere from several weeks to several months.
Some people feel the loss of their pet for up to a full year. Pet loss grief can be as intense as when you experience a loved one's death, yet rarely does it get treated as having the same or similar impact.
Grieving Death as We Mourn
When you're experiencing grief over the death of someone you love, allow yourself to grieve and mourn as you need to. The grieving process becomes so much more difficult, complicated, and impeded when you choose to hold in your emotions.
The expression of your grief is cathartic and will help you in healing from what seems like a state of endless despair.