←Back to the Mental Health Dictionary

Grief and Bereavement

Lorien Waterer

What is Grief and Bereavement?

The proverbial saying from A. Lord Tennyson in his poem, In Memoriam:27, 1850:

“It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all”

Is a reminder that being human, one of the profound sorrows in life one faces is the death of a loved one.

Grief and bereavement are used interchangeably, each have subtle differences. Grief is the encompassing emotional, mental, physical, behavioural, social, cultural, spiritual and philosophical reactions after such a loss. Bereavement is the state of loss. Both can accompany significant losses other than death such as loss of autonomy through declining health of oneself or close others, loss of safety, loss of security, loss of identify at the end of important relationships, loss of dreams or expectations for example dealing with infertility, acquired disabilities.

How to Know if I am Experiencing Grief and Bereavement?

Generally one experience’s a varied, vast, intense and often confusing range of emotions. They can show themselves commonly as lack of productive working, appetite changes, bouts of crying, mood swings, anxiety, stress, isolation from friends and family, frustration and trouble sleeping.

Often one goes through a series of emotions. There is a well known Stage Model of grief that’s been extrapolated from someone coming to terms with their own terminal illness by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, 1969 [1]. However, to summarise there is no one grieving way or stage process for all. Each  reaction is not experienced by all, they can occur in varying orders, can be repeated, have differing intensities and time frames.
Regardless of the how, it is important to know grieving is considered a healthy process and the only way out of it, is through it.

One may recognise some of the grieving reactions to be:

  • Denial - difficulty in accepting the loss has actually happened. Recent studies have shown this as a way the brain self regulates the remembering and feeling of the loss. So one doesn’t have to face the unpleasant side effects of loss all at once. It allows for breaks to relax, regain perspective and ready oneself for the difficult emotions ahead [2].
  • Guilt - sentiments of “I wish…”, “I should or shouldn’t have…” This guilt may come from questioning ones faith in all areas of life, more so if the belief of ‘karma’ is held. “It’s not fair, they were such a good person”. One may feel as though they have done something wrong and start to bargain with God. “I’ll be more caring if my loved one comes back”. One may even start to question their identity “Who am I without them”? Especially if their role with the loved one has been their life for so long. From these stem the emotions of sadness, confusion and anger.
  • Anger - both directed externally to others such as doctors, nurses, family, friends, God, even toward the person who died and directed internally to oneself.
  • Acceptance - coming to terms with the loss, recognising the loss of one’s previous role with the loved one and allowing to work through various changes in life, including redefining one’s identity.

When the reactions occur less frequently and less intensely, the grief is resolving and the painful emotions are easing. It may take a few months to years, each is on their own schedule. Here the person who experienced the loss can be considered as having an uncomplicated bereavement. Though, it is normal for one to always miss their departed loved one.

When one experiences a persistent grieving reaction and causes significant distress, intense sorrow, prolonged longing and or preoccupation with the loss, or perhaps little to no reactions are experienced the person may be experiencing a complicated bereavement.
If one has current life difficulties and the person has experienced a past bereavement, it may be that they are experiencing unresolved grief.

Do I Need Help With My Grief and Bereavement?

With any experience of grief and bereavement, it’s individual nature and the need to integrate it within ones reality, means seeking professional support with Counselling, Therapy, Coaching and or Psychotherapy is appropriate. This is more so if one doesn’t know how to talk about the loss, are not sure how to find acceptance of the emotions involved, if others are pushing them to have closure, if they are struggling to manage their own wellbeing and those who can’t find ways to celebrate the life of the loved one.

If one has difficulty coping with the loss, the reactions to grief are prolonged or absent, seeking professional support is advisable, in-fact a must.

Looking to start therapy

Wanting to Start

Looking for a someone that specializes in

Looking for a someone that is located in

Looking for a someone that specializes in

Looking for a someone that accepts

Grief and Bereavement


MyWellbeing matches you to the right provider that specializes in what matters most to you. Our match form takes less than 5 minutes to complete, and you'll immediately receive 3 provider recommendations that fit your needs. All of the providers on MyWellbeing offer a free phone consultation to assess fit and see if you two should work together. Click below to get matched!

Get Matched

About the Author

Dr Lorien Waterer is a lead Wellbeing expert. She Integrates Personal Performance Development, NLP & DISC in her EMP - Wellbeing Coaching Practice. You can contact Lorien directly from her MyWellbeing profile or through her website.