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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.


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