Coping with Grief and Bereavement


Humans experience grief and bereavement in certain situations. In psychology and psychiatric work, these terms are important in helping individuals cope with sad occurrences. Several studies have shown that grief and bereavement are responsible for a number of impacts on human life (American Psychiatric Association, 2010). In addition, the degree of bereavement and grief differs from one person to another. It has been shown that severe grief can be managed through treatment to avoid going to the extremities (American Psychiatric Association, 2010). In the modern context, the tendency towards increasing the available knowledge on bereavement and grief has increased significantly. In particular, there is an increased tendency towards determining the impact of grief and bereavement on employees’ life and performance at the workplace (American Psychiatric Association, 2010). Therefore, the need to study grief and bereavement goes beyond psychology and sociology to include business and management.


According to Bonanno (2008), bereavement is a state of sadness caused by a loss of a person, especially a member of the family or a close person, through death. Researchers argue that bereavement is a state caused by the understanding that an individual has been deprived of the dead person.

Uncomplicated bereavement

Studies in psychology and human behavior reveal that bereavement and grief occur in various stages depending on the extent of loss, frequency of events and an individual’s personalized ability to withstand these events. According to Kersting (2008), uncomplicated bereavement is a term used in psychology and attempts to describe “normal grief” or a state of bereavement in which the person has a high capacity to endure loss, accept the facts but still tend to deny that loss has taken place. In addition, the degree of sadness or grief is relatively low due to prior experience. Presence of prior information regarding the possible demise of an individual and an individual’s ability to withstand the loss reduces the degree of sadness (American Psychiatric Association, 2010).


A number of researchers have attempted to define grief in various ways. However, the most acceptable definition asserts that grief is a state of response to loss of a person, which is multifaceted. It has physical, behavioral, spiritual, cognitive and social dimensions (American Psychiatric Association, 2010). It is agreed that grief is a natural response to a loss of an individual, especially a person who had a close relationship or a strong bond with the bereaving persons. However, it has been shown that the feeling or state of sadness due to loss of an object or something other than a person amounts to grief.

Complicated grief

Complicated grief occurs when an individual experiences high and prolonged intensities of grief that exceeds the expected time. Psychologists attempts to determine if the state of prolonged grief interferes with the individual’s ability to function mentally and physically. When this state occurs, psychiatrists consider is as “complicated grief” (American Psychiatric Association, 2010). The individual progresses towards depression and anxiety, which are prolonged beyond the expected time. This state also causes a number of secondary symptoms. It is also known as chronic, traumatic or complex grief because it causes disturbances due to progression towards extremities (American Psychiatric Association, 2010). It is known to affect an individual’s daily activities, including education, employment and performance of personal tasks. In particular, it occurs in cases where children fight to cope with sadness caused by death of their parents, siblings or close relatives (American Psychiatric Association, 2010). It is also common among the dependent individual, including the old people.

Prolonged grief is similar to complicated grief. In fact, it is the main cause of complicated grief. However, it is not necessary to look at the state of a person’s inability to function. A prolonged grief that does not produce a state of inability to function does not amount to complicated grief.

Disenfranchised Grief

This form of grief occurs in cases where an individual’s encounter with loss is evident but the person fails to openly acknowledge these feelings (American Psychiatric Association, 2010). An individual refuses to share the feelings with other persons, whether socially or publicly. It is difficult for other individuals to recognize the grieving person’s state.

Primary and secondary loss

This is the initial state that an individual undergoes immediately after the loss of an individual or something. In cases of death, the feeling that someone has lost a friend, relative or colleague is the primary loss. However, this leads to a number of other forms of loss. For instance, a child feels that he or she has lost such things as love and care that a dead parent was providing before death (American Psychiatric Association, 2010).

Ambiguous loss

In this type of loss, a person does not have an understanding of the state. However, one is left searching for answers to the mystery of loss. This state causes complication or delay in the entire grieving and healing processes (American Psychiatric Association, 2010). In most cases, it leads to unresolved grief.


American Psychiatric Association. (2010). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association,

Bonanno, George A. (2004). Loss, Trauma, and Human Resilience: Have We Underestimated the Human Capacity to Thrive After Extremely Aversive Events? American Psychologist 59(1), 20–8.

Kersting, K. (2008). A New Approach to Complicated Grief. Monitor on Psychology 35(2), 239-247.

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