Spiritual Symbolism of Mourning Doves: From Grief to Grace

The meaning of a mourning dove could be many things, from a sign of peace and comfort to a becon of hope and new beginnings.

Updated May 17, 2024
Mourning Dove Perched on a Fence Post

When I sit outside in my backyard, I often hear the distinctive calls of the mourning dove. If you hear them as often as I do, you might be wondering about a mourning dove's meaning. What is the symbolism behind mourning doves? It turns out, they might just be sending a powerful spiritual message. 

Mourning Dove Meaning: Is It All About Loss & Grief?

With "mourning" right in the name, it's natural to associate the mourning dove with sadness and loss. And while the mourning dove can symbolize loss and mourning, that's only one small aspect of its greater spiritual meaning. So it doesn't necessarily mean loss, but it can symbolize that. Some people believe a mourning dove's appearance to someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one may be a visit from the person who has passed. The person in mourning senses a message of hope or encouragement when they hear or spot the mourning dove. 

Need to Know

The mourning dove's name comes from its sad-sounding call. 

Mourning Dove Spiritual Meanings

In Christianity, the mourning dove is a spiritual messenger of hope, peace, love, and faith. Several Bible stories include doves that help decode this symbolism. 

Hope & New Beginnings

In the Old Testament story of Noah's Ark, Noah sends a dove out of the ark once the rains have stopped. He hopes the dove will find dry land and not return to Noah. Previously, Noah had sent a raven, but it returned to the Ark. He was surprised when the dove returned with an olive leaf clasped in its beak, indicating the waters had finally receded. The dove became a spiritual symbol of hope and new beginnings.

Jesus's Death & Resurrection

In Christianity, mourning doves also represent the death and resurrection of Jesus, which itself is a story of promise, hope, faith, and new beginnings.

The Holy Spirit

The mourning dove appears in the New Testament, telling of Jesus's baptism, when the Holy Spirit descended as a dove, it symbolizes the coming together of the Holy Trinity to bring about an era of hope for humanity's redemption.

Fast Fact

You can find the story of the dove and Jesus's baptism in Matthew 3:16-17.

Other Mourning Dove Symbolism

While much of the symbolism behind mourning doves comes from Christianity, even if you aren't religious, the mourning dove may have other spiritual meanings including:

  • New beginnings
  • A spiritual messenger
  • A message or visit from an angel
  • A message from a spirit or someone who has died
  • Reconciliation and forgiveness
  • Peace
  • Remembrance
Fast Fact

In North America, the mourning dove is also called the turtle dove. There's also a European turtledove that's a different dove species from the mourning dove.

What a Mourning Dove's Coo Means

To hear the forlorn yet soothing cooing of a mourning dove could be a call to seek and find inner peace. Some people believe the sound is a message from God, Source, angels, or lost loved ones. Others interpret it as a sign that a loved one who has died watches over them.

Fast Fact

What Does It Mean When a Dove Visits You?

I find visits from mourning doves soothing and comforting. What its visit means probably depends on what's happening in your life.

  • If you've recently lost someone or are missing them, the dove could be a message of comfort.
  • If you're going through something that feels hopeless, it could provide a message of hope.
  • If you're feeling anxious or upset, it could be a message of peace.
  • If you've been longing for guidance, it could be a message from a spirit guide, angel, or even Source energy (God). 
  • If you're worried or afraid, it could be a symbol of protection.
  • If you're feeling lost, it could be a symbol of love and comfort. 
  • If you're having a crisis of faith or struggling, it could be a symbol of grace. 

The Magical Meaning of Mourning Doves

If you're not sure why a mourning dove has appeared, it could just be passing through (or taking up residence in your neighborhood). Or it could be there to offer a spiritual boost full of meaning. If you still can't decide what the message might be, take a few moments to sit and listen and see what you feel in your heart. 

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Spiritual Symbolism of Mourning Doves: From Grief to Grace