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There are generally accepted laws and customs regarding a mourner, whether mourning for a relative or for the tragedy of the destruction of the bais hamikdash. Examples include restriction from bathing and hair cutting. What is the purpose of these halachos? Is there a theme? Some ideas might be:

  • We are required to actualize our grief.
  • Doing these actions give us a "geshmak" which makes us forget about our grief.

Are there any sources that address this? Any ideas?

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2 Answers

http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=46539&st=&pgnum=27

The main purpose of Hilchos Aveilus is to remind us to do Teshuva.

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More specifically what I was looking for was the part where he says that actions affect how we feel- so the laws help break our hearts. Our goal is Teshuva. –  YDK Aug 8 '11 at 20:31
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Rav Meir Spiegelman (link) discusses this topic at length. One of his themes is that practices of mourning are based partially in the laws of tum'a. Just like purifying ourselves brings us closer to G-d, when we feel a distance from Him, we act as though we were impure. Examples include not bathing, washing clothes, cutting hair, wearing shoes, sitting on a chair, or lying on a bed.

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