Grief vs. Grieving: What's The Difference?

anticipatory grief death divorce/breakups job loss/transitions normalcy pandemic parenthood & pregnancy loss Feb 12, 2023

What's the difference between grief and grieving? If you’re anything like me a couple years ago, you’ve never thought about this. And, frankly, you might be in so much pain from a loss that you don’t even care. But understanding the distinction between grief and grieving might help you in your own unique experience of loss.

So grab a cup of tea (or coffee or wine or whatever!) and let's chat about these two closely related, but different terms. By the end, hopefully you'll have a better understanding of both grief and grieving–and maybe even feel a little bit lighter.

  • Grief is the natural response to loss, while grieving is the process of coming to terms with that loss. 
  • Grief is the collection of feelings like sorrow, anger, jealousy, nostalgia, or a host of other emotions that come with loss. There is no wrong way to feel in grief.
  • Grieving is the process of exploring those feelings and adjusting to life without the person or thing you’ve lost.
  • Grief can be triggered by many different things, including death, the end of a relationship, moving somewhere far away, leaving a job, a diagnosis, or some other big change.
  • And, just like there are so many things that can lead to grief, there are many ways to grieve-- and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Grieving can look like crying in the arms of a loved one, drawing a picture of the person we miss, making our person's favorite food, going for a long walk to think, or anything else we can think of that allows us to make space for our feelings surrounding our loss. 
  • Grief is not something we cure. After a loss, we might grieve for the rest of our lives as we continue to process our feelings. But, how our grief feels might change over time, and the ways that we grieve might change, too.

Maybe this analogy will be helpful: Think about grief like an amputation: it's a loss we experience. The limb will never regrow. Our loss will always be there. But, over time we will learn how to function without the limb and find ways to carry ourselves, again-- that’s what grieving is.

Your grief will never go away. But when you take the time to grieve, you will learn how to find yourself, again, at peace with your loss.

Grieve on.

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