Conceptual Study on Grief, Loss, and Bereavement


Bereavement refers to the state of the great loss, usually the death of a very close person. It implies both “normal grief reactions” and mourning, which follow the loss (Sadock, Kaplan, & Sadock, 2007, p. 65). Everyone feels bereavement in his or her way. It can be accompanied by shock, sadness, crying, anger, guilt, and, finally, exhaustion because of overwhelming feelings. Bereavement passes with the acceptance of loss.

Uncomplicated Bereavement

Uncomplicated bereavement is a painful and torturous but still normal response to the loss. It can even be considered as a “necessary part of emotional healing” (Preston, Talaga, & O’Neal, 2004, p. 52). Uncomplicated bereavement has no serious adverse effects on human mental health and never turns to clinical depression. This period is just needed for a person to survive the loss of a loved one.


While the term bereavement refers to the state of the great loss, grief is the way how an individual reacts in this case. The medical dictionary defines the term as “mental suffering” (Grief, 2015, par. 1). However, suffering can also be physical. Grief can be expressed in many ways: a depressive mood, sadness, anger at yourself and others, blaming yourself and others, sleeping and appetite problems, various illnesses, etc.

Complicated Grief

Unlike uncomplicated bereavement, complicated grief is severe and often turns into clinical depression (Preston et al., 2004, p. 52). Complicated grief can have serious consequences and affects an individual’s both mental and physical health, causing weight losses, insomnia, suicidal thoughts or even attempts, violations of social functions, inability to feel pleasure, and so on. Such a kind of grief requires treatment.

Prolonged Grief

Prolonged grief is the term used to describe grief that lasts more than it is supposed to (Lewis, Dirksen, Heitkemper, & Bucher, 2014, p. 144). It can be caused, for example, by the continued denial of loss (for more than six months) or by the fact that an individual can not accept the loss and continues experiencing mental and physical suffering. It is fraught with self-neglect, an inability to move forward, emotional disconnection with people, etc.

Traumatic Grief

Traumatic grief is the term that refers to both prolonged and so-called hypertonic grief (Sadock et al., 2007, p. 66). Traumatic grief brings an individual regular and intense grief splashes with prolonged depression, yearning, an inability to experience positive emotions, images of deaths arising in the head, and so on. This condition usually causes various psychiatric illnesses (Sadock et al., 2007, p. 66).

Disenfranchised Grief

Disenfranchised grief is the pain that is not recognized or accepted by others (Bryant & Peck, 2009, p. 380). Examples include those who lose a close person because he or she commits suicide (unacceptable death), a mother who has recently experienced a miscarriage, people whose loss is not an individual but a pet or a job, for instance. Naturally, such kind of society’s reaction only worsens the mental and emotional state of a bereaved person.

Primary Loss

The medical dictionary defines a primary loss as the “loss of a loved one to death by any cause” (Primary Loss, 2015, par. 1). In other words, the primary loss is what makes a person grieve because of the fact of the loss itself. However, it never comes alone since an individual immediately begins to grieve for many other things connected to this particular person.

Secondary Loss

All losses that are caused by a primary one are secondary (Secondary Loss, 2015). When a close person dies, people lose not only this particular person but also numerous other things. Examples include the loss of faith, support, communication, confidence, dreams, and so on. Secondary losses make grief even more unbearable since there are a lot of them, and each contributes to the distress and suffering.

Ambiguous Loss

Ambiguous loss is when a loved one disappears “without the finality of death” (Bryant & Peck, 2009, p. 39). Two types of ambiguous loss can be distinguished: when a person is absent physically but present physiologically and vice versa (Bryant & Peck, 2009, p. 39). An example of the first type is when a person has been kidnapped or has disappeared for unknown reasons. He or she is not dead but is not present physically either. An example of the second type is a chronic mental illness, which makes physiological presence impossible.


Mourning is how bereaved people show their grief to others. This term refers to numerous rituals, customs, and behaviors related to bereavement (Sadock et al., 2007, p. 65). The prime examples are the funerals, cremation, the tradition of wearing black clothes or covering mirrors in the house of the deceased, etc.


Bryant, C. D., & Peck, D. L. (2009). Encyclopedia of Death & Human Experience. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Grief. (2015). Web.

Lewis, S. L., Dirksen, S. R., Heitkemper, M. M., & Bucher, L. (2014). Medical-Surgical Nursing: Assessment and Management of Clinical Problems (9th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Preston, J. D., Talaga, M. C., & O’Neal, J. H. (2004). Consumer’s Guide to Psychiatric Drugs. Gretna, LA: Wellness Institute.

Primary Loss. (2015). Web.

Sadock, B. J., Kaplan, H. I., & Sadock, V. A. (2007). Kaplan & Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Sciences/Clinical Psychiatry (10th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Secondary Loss. (2015). Web.