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What the Bible Says About Grief and Mourning

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


The Bible says something about almost everything to keep us informed about what God wants us to know in order to live a righteous life. Learn what the Bible says about grief and mourning.

Grief: Definition

Grief is a deep sorrow that has been caused by a loss. Usually, grief is associated with someone's death. However, grief can be the response to any loss to which a person had an emotional bond.

People grieve because of many losses throughout their lives. Some of those losses include the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, the loss of good health, or the loss of a house, car, or other attachment that once was but is no more.

Grieving is a process. As such, no one can pinpoint the duration of grief. It depends on the person, the person's spiritual beliefs, and the person's spiritual growth among other things. Therefore, the worst thing a person should tell another person is how to grieve, when to grieve, and when to stop grieving.

People react in different ways to grief. Those reactions might include sadness, confusion, shock, being overwhelmed, and even anger.


What the Bible Says About Grief

Grieving is not a sign of weakness or lack of spirituality. Expressing grief can help people deal with intense sorrow over the death of a loved one. Grief is an important part of healing, and it is nothing to be ashamed about. Therefore, people should not hide their grief by pretending they are not hurting.

There are many examples of people grieving in the Bible. David grieved over Saul and Jonathan's death. He was sad over the death of the king and Jonathan, who was David's soul mate.

Jesus understands our grief because, like many of us, He experienced it first hand. Jesus did not hesitate to express His grief by weeping openly at the grave of His friend Lazarus when he others weeping and wailing. Jesus empathized with the people in their grief. He showed that He cares enough to weep with us in our sorrow.

Mourning: Definition

Mourning is the behavior of a person following a loss. To distinguish between grief and mourning, think of grief as the emotional response and mourning as the behavioral response.

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Emotions associated with grief include sorrow, sadness, depression. Behaviors associated with mourning include wearing black, withdrawing from social events, overeating, not eating, sleeping more than usual, or abstaining from activities that remind people of their loss.

What the Bible Says About Mourning

The Bible teaches us that mourning takes time. When we experience loss, we need time to work through our own grief. No one can do it for us. Sharing feelings with others might help us recover and move on with our lives. Be careful to have a good support system because some people might not be equipped to help. They could cause you to mourn much longer.

The Bible is clear that mourning is an appropriate behavioral response to a loss.

Bereavement: Definition

Bereavement is quite different from grief and mourning. Grief and mourning refer to responses to the loss. Bereavement is not a response. It is the period of grief and mourning.

Grieving and mourning are verbs. That means they are what a person does. Bereavement is a noun. That means it is the time the person who experienced the loss grieves and mourns.


Stages of Grief

Of the three keywords above, grief is the only one with stages. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the Swiss-American psychiatrist and author of the internationally best-selling book, On Death and Dying believed there are five separate stages of grief. Other psychiatrists have added more stages. In fact, some authorities say there could be up to 12 stages.

Kübler-Ross explained what happens psychologically and emotionally in each stage of grief. Keep in mind that there is no set order of the stages, and not everyone goes through all of the stages. The late psychiatrist did emphasize that one of the stages is the shortest and one is the longest.

  1. Shock, denial: This is the first and shortest stage of grief. When a person discovers the loss, he can't believe it. The reality of loss has not set during the initial stage of grief.
  2. Anger: This stage is one of anger and outrage. Some guilt might exist in this stage.
  3. Bargaining: During this stage, the grieving person engages in internal bargaining and negotiation.
  4. Depression: This can be the longest stage when a person experiences a great deal of sorrow and sadness.
  5. Acceptance: The last stage of grief is when the bereaved better understands and accepts the reality of the loss. Sadness still exists, but there is evidence that the grieving person is finally adjusting to the loss.

Have much did you learn from this article?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. What is the term for the emotional response following a loss, such as sadness, sorrow, anger and even guilt?
    • grief
    • mourning
    • bereavement
  2. What is the term for behavior responses following a loss, such as wearing black?
    • grief
    • mourning
    • bereavement
  3. What is the term for the period of grieving and mourning following a loss?
    • grief
    • mourning
    • bereavement
  4. According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, how many stages are there of grief?
    • one
    • three
    • five

Answer Key

  1. grief
  2. mourning
  3. bereavement
  4. five

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