How Will I Know if I Have Overcome the Mourning Period?

How Will I Know if I Have Overcome the Mourning Period?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Despite what we may think, it isn’t always easy to know if we have overcome the mourning period. That psychological reaction to the loss may still be unfinished, acting like an infected wound. Filling our lives with conditioning and limitations. It is necessary, therefore, to recognize the clues that might show that grief still hasn’t been dealt with.

We understand by mourning, any event that detaches us from something or someone significant for us. It can be the loss of a loved one, an emotional break-up, or losing a job. It can even be leaving behind a certain role that identified us and made us feel fulfilled. Such an event means, above all, the abrupt disappearance of some sort of bond, the extinction of something that meant a lot to us.

“Any attempt to eliminate the mourning only irritates it even more. You must wait until it is digested and then the distractions of life will dissipate its remains”.

– Samuel Johnson –

As far as the best way to cope as we go through the mourning period, there is no universal strategy. Each person reacts differently, and that is surely the greatest difficulty. We cannot therefore recommend a series of “normal” coping techniques that can help us all. The simple reason is that there is nothing as private, messy, and chaotic, as the pain caused by a loss.

However, there is something that we cannot deny: the strength of a human being’s resilience is immense. Although we can never completely cure the emptiness of that loss, we will be able to live with it. We can even allow ourselves to be happy again. However we must face, and effectively deal with, our own personal mourning.

Flower coming through trunk

Signs that you haven’t overcome the mourning period

A curious thing is that there is a lot private, almost invisible, mourning in our society. This is sometimes “unauthorized” grief where the bereavement is not always recognized. An example of this would be those mothers who lose their babies during pregnancy. This traumatic event affects many women who undoubtedly need specialized support that is often lacking in hospital centers.

Likewise, children are also part of this group that is not always understood. There are many children who live out their mourning in silence. They do it in an environment that still thinks that they, because of their age, still don’t understand what death is. In addition to this, it should be noted that there are also men who suffer from this “unauthorized” mourning for a very specific reason.

In many countries the figurehead of the man continues to represent that rational and protective role where he is expected not to express his emotional pain openly. Often, this conception hinders the process of reconstruction after a loss. And sometimes to the point of chronic states of helplessness that we need to understand, and deal with of course.

Let us see, then, what the symptoms are that can suggest that the mourning period hasn’t been overcome.

Sad teenager on bridge

We still can’t talk about the person we have lost

In every mourning period a decisive moment must come. It is that moment when, finally, we open up. It is when we need to talk to someone about our loss. About the person or the situation we have left behind. Speaking, expressing, remembering, and bringing certain memories to the surface can relieve and comfort us. It also favors emotional relief.

If several months and years have passed and we still cannot talk about that person, that means the grieving has not yet been overcome. If we perceive a wall, a lump in the throat and a resistance to remembering the person or situation, then we need to ask for professional help.

Facts that trigger excessive emotional reactions

The person can seemingly lead a normal life. However, in their day to day lives, emotional reactions that no one can understand may suddenly appear. Sometimes, an object, a certain piece of music, a specific situation. All these can act as a trigger for the memory.

When the door to the past suddenly opens, then unresolved pain, caused by the loss, suddenly emerges. There the emptiness of loss comes to the surface as an open wound.

Constant changes in lifestyle

Another obvious fact that shows we have not overcome the mourning period, is the constant need to make changes. Some people are unable to maintain the same job two months in a row. Friendships, hobbies and even interests change. Nothing satisfies or relieves us, and we find everything tiresome. There is often a constant search for new things that makes us forget the reality.

nervous system of a man

Mood swings

Some people go through periods of euphoria and times of isolation and great apathy. This is simply more evidence that they haven’t come to terms with their loss. They swing between needing to be surrounded by others, to times when they need solitude and personal reflection. All these are obvious clues of a hidden mourning that completely undermines the quality of life.

In many of these cases it is common for the person to end up with subclinical depression. This is a disorder that doesn’t meet the criteria of a major depression, or even a minor one, but, nevertheless, the emotional exhaustion is present in a very real way.

When we know we have overcome the mourning period

So far we have seen all these hidden symptoms that seem to indicate that our loss is still very much with us. It conditions our life, limits it, and leaves us trapped in a state of chronic suffering. Many of these symptoms end up giving shape to psychological disorders. Disorders that further reduce our motivation to move forward, and to be happy again.

We need to understand that we must give sufficient time for our brain to adapt to a reality that has changed abruptly and even unfairly. And, because of that, in this period of transition that can last for months and years, our surroundings, our attitude and also the medical professionals around us, will be able  to help us deal with any particular mourning issues.

Girl surrounded by spheres

Evidence of recovery

Some things that show that we have overcome the mourning period are:

  • We are able to talk about the person we have lost in a normal way. We allow ourselves to release our emotions and even cry, but we do it with acceptance.
  • Gradually we are able to place plans on the horizon, and look forward to new goals.
  • We create a space for that person inside of us. Far from leaving them behind, we have them as a precious asset to be integrated into our reality, but without depending on them. We remember them with affection and love but without letting the pain block us.
  • We open ourselves to our surroundings. We agree to meet new people, to expand our relationships, and to let positive emotions embrace us without feeling guilty or letting our conscience feel bad. The happiness that we allow ourselves to experience can be a good tribute to those people we left behind, but who live on in our hearts as a safeguard.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.