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Ever heard of a mourning period? It’s a formal way of expressing your grief and it can be carried out in different ways across different cultures and religions. Here are some examples of periods of mourning. It’ll give you a better idea of what happens during a period of mourning and what to expect if you find you need to take part in some of the memorial rituals or traditions.

What does a period of mourning mean?

A period of mourning is a time after the death of a loved one that can allow you to formally express your grief in different ways. Traditionally in western culture, this is done by wearing black clothing for a period of time. For example, in the Victorian era, widows were expected to wear black for a number of years. Some would wear black for the rest of their lives. But social norms have changed over time and formal mourning periods are only carried out by people of particular cultures or religious beliefs.

How long is a period of mourning?

A period of mourning can last from a day up to months and even years. The duration of a mourning period depends on the cultural traditions and religious beliefs of the person who died and their close family. Here’s some more info about mourning periods across different religions to give you a clearer idea of how they vary.

Mourning periods across different religions

Sikh mourning period

After the death of a loved one Sikhs don’t have a definitive mourning period. Instead, the family will read the entire Sri Guru Granth Sahib – this is the Sikh holy scripture. This can take place over 3 days or longer and can be done at home or at the Gurdwara. Even though there are no specific mourning rituals, Sikhism does acknowledge that mourning and private grieving can be an important part of the process of losing someone in their family.

For more info about Sikh funeral customs read our article: What happens at a Sikh funeral?

Hindu mourning period

During a Hindu mourning period the family might display a picture of their loved one who’s passed away or create a shrine for them. They might choose to decorate with floral tributes and display it in their house. They may also have visitors during this period of mourning. During this time, it’s also tradition to have a ceremony called preta-karma. This helps the person’s soul move to its new body in the cycle of reincarnation. The Hindu mourning period ranges from 10 to 30 days, with the preta-karma ceremony taking place most commonly on the 13th day.

To learn more about funeral rites in Hinduism read our article: What happens at a Hindu funeral?

Jewish mourning period

There are two stages of mourning in the Jewish faith. The first is known as shiva and the second is shloshim. Shiva, the first stage of mourning lasts 7 days and the second stage, Shloshim, lasts 30 days. During the first period of mourning, some Jews will not leave the house and visitors will come to them instead. They’ll stop doing their usual daily activities and light a candle and pray instead. During the second stage of the mourning period the family will return to their usual daily activities, but they’ll continue to pray to mourn their loss. Some families might choose to hold a longer mourning period if they want, especially after the death of a parent.

To learn more about the Jewish mourning periods and other funeral customs read our article: Jewish funeral traditions.

Christian mourning period

In Christianity, the amount of time set for mourning can depend on the denomination. For example, some Orthodox Christians will have a mourning period of up to 40 days. But a mourning period for Roman Catholics usually only lasts 30 days. During this time, they might choose to have a visitation at a chapel of rest, the funeral service and the burial.

Islamic mourning period

Generally, the mourning period in Islam is 3 days. But this can depend on your relationship with the person who passed away. For example, widows will sometimes mourn for several months. Most of the family will choose to stay at home during this time and visitors will come to them to pay their respects. Sometimes the wider family and community will bring food so that the immediate family have less responsibilities to take on at this time.

For a better understanding of Islamic funeral traditions read our article: What happens at an Islamic funeral?

Buddhist mourning period

The Buddhist mourning period can last up to 49 days. This is because Buddhists believe this is when reincarnation happens. But this timeline can vary depending on the different Buddhist traditions. During the mourning period family members say prayers every 7 days for a period of 7 weeks. This is to help the person with their journey into the afterlife. And they’ll also avoid any celebrations for 100 days after the death of their loved one as a sign of respect.

To learn more about Buddhist funeral traditions read our article: What happens at a Buddhist funeral?

What is a national period of mourning?

A national period of mourning is when a general population takes time to reflect following the death of a monarch or head of state. This can take place over several days and include memorial activities throughout. The most recent national period of mourning took place after the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022. Following her death, the UK entered a period of national mourning. It lasted 10 days. On the 10th day her state funeral took place.

What happens in a period of national mourning?

During the national period of mourning following the death of Queen Elizabeth II the following memorial rituals took place:

  • The Queen’s coffin was taken to Westminster to lie in state so that people could visit and pay their respects.
  • Flags at royal buildings were flown at half-mast as a sign of respect.
  • King Charles went on a tour of the UK attending memorial services in Scotland, Northern Ireland and London. Processions were held in each location too.
  • Gun salutes were carried out in Scotland and London.
  • Royal residences were closed.
  • A minute’s silence was held across the country.
  • The state funeral took place and was televised.


If you’re mourning the loss of someone close to you and you need help or someone to talk to Cruse Bereavement Care offers a free counselling service. Just call them on 0808 808 1677.


Photo by Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez on Unsplash