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Personal Note: I have experienced “Mourn Mirage”. Three weeks after my mother died, I was at Disney World.  I tore away from my husband to run towards my “Mom” screaming “Mommie!” as I dashed towards the image.  My husband caught me before I accosted the woman. I literally fell apart right on that main street among hundreds, maybe thousands of people.  But I didn’t care because, in that instant, I saw Mommie again. – Lisa

Grief has a language all its own, but even the best therapists can get tongue-tied around the tricky stuff. Our grief vocabulary isn’t clinical, and you probably won’t find it in the self-help books that friends hand you after the memorial service. But this does come from some hard-earned experience: We both lost parents as young adults. Loss is messy, melancholic and often darkly hilarious. It also lingers forever. Here’s a glossary that takes all that into account. Use it well.

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Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner are the authors of the book “Modern Loss,” from which this is adapted. Illustrations by Peter Arkle.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page SR4 of the New York edition with the headline: How to Speak Grief. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe