What is Grief & Bereavement?
Over the course of our lives, we all experience grief as a result of a loss. Grief is a normal, and necessary, reaction to losses of all kinds (e.g. loss of a job, loss of finances, etc.), but usually the most troubling occurs when we experience the death of a loved one. After experiencing such loss, we may ask ourselves why this happened to us, or how we’re going to be able to make it through another day and move forward with our lives. The profound devastation, sadness, anger, confusion, and denial we experience are part of grief.
Bereavement is the period of grief and mourning after we experience loss. Each person will react to and manage their grief in different ways; no two bereavement experiences are the same. There are similarities, however, that are often described as the “stages of grief”; denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and acceptance. While we may face these different experiences as a result of our bereavement process, there is no one formula, process, or specific amount of time for grief. Typically, over time, we instinctively develop new ways to cope with our loss, and our grief becomes more manageable.
Sometimes, however, we can’t adapt to our loss. This is when “grief” becomes “complicated grief”. The major signs of complicated grief include:
- Acute grief over a long period of time, as if the loss just happened
- Difficulty concentrating due to a preoccupation with the loss
- Feelings of worthlessness and meaninglessness
- Recurring feelings of being numb or in a daze
- Denial that the loss occurred
- Changes in personal relationships
- Avoiding grief altogether (e.g. avoiding anything that is a reminder of the grief)
- Engaging in self-destructive activities (e.g. alcohol, drugs, risky behaviour)
- Inability to regulate emotions
If you, or someone you know, may be experiencing complicated grief, getting proper support can help.
Grief is a powerful emotion, and bereavement can be a painful experience. However, grief and bereavement are necessary and normal experiences after loss. It is also normal to need the support of loved ones and/or professionals to move through grief in a healthy manner, and to avoid or treat complicated grief.