Bereavement describes the specific experiences people go through in the aftermath of the demise of a loved one (Walsh & McGoldrick, 2004). It is the grief or intense sorrow experienced following the loss of a loved one by death. Bereaved people experience different emotional reactions, including sadness, desperation, insomnia, crying, and hallucinations of the deceased, among others. It also engenders feelings of despair and anxiety, leading to psychological distress (Walsh & McGoldrick, 2004).
Grief is the internal reaction to a personal or interpersonal loss. Individuals often experience grief after a physical loss, e.g., the death of a loved one, or social loss, e.g., divorce, retrenchment, or permanent disfiguration. Walsh and McGoldrick (2004) write that people’s reactions to a loss vary depending on their “personality, relationships, past experiences, and cultural and religious backgrounds” (p. 31). The feelings of loss become intense when someone feels that he or she has lost someone or something dear to him or her. The emotional, social, mental, or psychological reactions are due to the lost attachment relationship.
Complicated grief is characterized by grief complications lasting for several days or even months (Walsh & McGoldrick, 2004). In this case, complete healing fails to happen due to complications that hamper the mourning process. Lack of support during bereavement may affect an individual’s ability to recognize the finality of death or visualize life without the loved one. It may lead to a condition called complicated grief disorder (CGD), which is characterized by functional impairment (Walsh & McGoldrick, 2004). The complicating process is characterized by dysfunctional behaviors, including avoidance, drug abuse, aggression, socio-environmental neglect, and counterfactual thinking.
Prolonged grief describes the persistent grief symptoms that fail to abate even after months of mourning. According to Abrams (2001), traumatic experiences, mood/anxiety disorders, violent death, and strong attachment may predispose a person to prolonged grief. Individuals develop feelings of intense longing for the departed, blocking any process that may restore normal functioning and resolve the grief. The bereaved become withdrawn from the social life by focusing on the past and the intimate memories of the deceased.
Traumatic grief borrows from the concepts of trauma and grief following the death of a loved one. It describes the feelings of grief stemming from both the death of a loved one and traumatic distress (Boss, 2010). Grieving persons experience anxiety symptoms, such as “yearning, searching, and loneliness” (Boss, 2010, p. 141). Their grief may be compounded by traumatic distress, leading to feelings of disbelief, irritability, despair, and purposelessness (Boss, 2010). An unexpected death, violent death, and unresolved trauma often predispose a person to traumatic grief.
Disenfranchised grief occurs when a person grieves a loss that is not socially acknowledged (Doka, 2011). Its dimensions include sociologic, intrapsychic, political, and interactional. The socio-political dimension concurs with cultural norms that accord sympathy to people of high social standing. In this case, grief may depend on the class or race of the victim. In disenfranchised grief, the relationship and the loss are not acknowledged (Doka, 2011). It usually accompanies the death of persons with developmental challenges or terminal illnesses, suicide, and homicide, among others.
‘Loss’ is the deprivation, through death or otherwise, of a beloved person or item. Abrams (2001) defines primary loss as a “significant loss event” like the death of a spouse, parent, sibling, relative, or friend (p. 72). The deprivation causes intense grief and sorrow to the bereaved.
A secondary loss describes the effects of a primary loss. It entails the domino effect of primary loss. For example, the death of a partner may lead to loss of financial stability, intimacy, and parental roles, among others. In addition, a job loss can lead to financial insecurity and low self-esteem.
Ambiguous loss (AL) is characterized by uncertainty, which affects loss adaptation and coping. It is categorized into two types: (1) physically absent/psychologically present loss, e.g., child abduction, and (2) physically present/psychologically absent, e.g., drug addiction or neurodegenerative disorders (Boss, 2010).
Mourning is a process of loss or death adaptation. It is the external expression of grief that helps the bereaved cope with the loss or death of a loved one (Boss, 2010). It entails holding ritualized services and funeral ceremonies to remember the departed and come to terms with the reality of the loss. It also helps the bereaved accept their feelings and adapt to the reality of living without a loved one. Therefore, mourning is an important part of the healing process.
Abrams, M. S. (2001). Resilience in Ambiguous Loss. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 55(2), 283-291
Boss, P. (2010). Trauma and Complicated Grief of Ambiguous Loss. Pastoral Psychology, 59,137- 145.
Costanzo, L., & Mackay, R. (2010). Handbook of Research on Strategy and Foresight. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Doka, K. (2011). Disenfranchised Grief: Recognizing Hidden Sorrow. Web.
Walsh, F., & McGoldrick, M. (2004). Living Beyond Loss: Death in the Family. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.