Grief and Bereavement

Grief: is ‘a mental pain, distress or sorrow. Deep or violent sorrow caused by loss or trouble; keen or bitter regret or remorse’.

Bereavement: is identified as being one is deprived, robbed, stripped of, dispossessed of, life or hope.

Thus, grief is consequent upon something, some event or happening. It is the normal response to loss and its absence is indicative of psychopathology.

Everything mentioned on this page is applicable to the death of someone close or the sudden break up of a relationship.

Grief is a measure of our love and dependence and is the price that we pay for loving. It is mainly a reaction to loss, or anticipated loss, but it also includes our distress on behalf of the person who has died or who is dying. One of the things that we all need at such a time is a deep understanding of both these parts of the grief reaction. For with understanding will come some relief.

It has a course to run. And its duration varies with individual.

Grief is not simple. It can be overwhelming and also a refuge to retreat into. For those who are suffering there is no consolation and for those around

Black woman with Grief and Bereavement

Grief and Bereavement

them words proves appallingly inadequate.

As C.S. Lewis wrote on the death of his wife,

`One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?`

It is a sentiment understood by those who have at some time felt the same kind of pain, confusion and despair. One moment you dare to think you might be able to face life again. The next you fall back into the pit.

There are 4 phases of grief:

Shock – Numbness: Accepting that loss is a reality. This includes intellectual and emotional reality both equally important but one so much harder to achieve.

Reaction – Yearning: Entering into the emotions of grief and dealing with the feelings encountered there.

Repair – Disorganisation and Despair: Acquiring new skills in order to make new life possible.

New Orientation – Reorganised Behaviour: Reinvesting in new ways in order to make new relationships possible

 

Types of grief

Normal:

  • Numbness
  • Attacks of yearning and anxiety alternating with longer periods of depression and despair
  • Preoccupied with thoughts of the dead one
  • Insomnia
  • Anorexia
  • Irritability
  • Social withdrawal

Chronic

All the symptoms of normal grief are present but they are all more pronounced. The general impression is one of deep and pressing sorrow.

Inhibited

The person shows little reaction to the death, but every unresolved grief is given expression in some form. Most common in children under the age of five years. It is widely agreed that some forms of depression in adult life may be attributable to losses in early childhood. As a couple grow older they experience a period of ‘disengagement’ – a mutual severing of the ties between them and others in society.

Delayed

This is where a typical or chronic reaction occurs after a period of delay during which the full expression of loss is inhibited. It may only be called to mind when some later loss is experienced. Crying, a normal reaction in but is often absent in inhibited grief, has been linked with feelings of guilt.

Anticipatory

Where grief is expressed in advance of a loss which is perceived as being inevitable. By definition this ends with the occurrence of the anticipated loss regardless of what reactions follow. For some people may increase in intensity as the expected loss becomes imminent. Reactions differ with different personalities and the nature of the anticipated loss.