Personal Loss: Bereavement and Grief


People have varied reactions to the loss of loved ones. Diverse terms are used to describe the kind of conditions that people experience after losing their relatives. Some conditions include bereavement, uncomplicated bereavement, grief, complicated grief, and prolonged pain. Other conditions include traumatic grief, disenfranchised grief, primary loss, secondary loss, ambiguous loss, and mourning. This article will describe each of the above conditions.


According to Bonanno (2004), bereavement means to “be deprived of someone by death” (p. 22). The demise of a person who is close to you is among the utmost losses that one can suffer. Nevertheless, the feelings of bereavement may result in other losses. To some people, bereavement marks the end of a meaningful relationship. Bonanno (2004) claims that different people exhibit varied reactions in the event of a loss. Hence, bereavement cannot be attributed to any distinct emotions.

Uncomplicated Bereavement

When people lose their loved ones, they go through different forms of bereavement. They include complicated and uncomplicated bereavement. Uncomplicated bereavement refers to the typical anguish that people experience upon losing their loved ones (Bonanno, 2004). Periods of immense distress characterize uncomplicated bereavement. Individuals suffering from uncomplicated bereavement can go on with their regular activities.


Grief refers to a multidimensional reaction to a loss, especially to the death of a loved one. Grief is interpreted based on the emotional response. However, it can also have cognitive, social, physical, philosophical and behavioral dimensions. Boelen and Van Den Bout (2005) claim that bereavement and grief can be used interchangeably. However, grief refers to the emotional distress that one experiences when they lose someone or something they adore. Grief is not only associated with death, but also ill health, divorce, and loss of a job.

Complicated Grief

Complicated grief is an immobilizing condition that renders individuals unable to discharge their daily duties. Boelen and Van Den Bout (2005) maintain that it is hard for mental health professionals to tell if a person is suffering from complicated grief. People are said to suffer from complicated grief if they continue to exhibit heartache for at least “one month after six months of bereavement” (Boelen & Van Den Bout, 2005, p. 2176). Some symptoms of complicated grief include continuous emotional dysregulation and maladaptive characteristics associated with the demise or the departed.

Prolonged Grief

Prolonged grief is a condition that comprises a unique set of signs, which arise due to the demise of a loved one. The symptoms are intense and protracted. Moreover, they go beyond the estimated range of intellectual and individual inconsistency. Prolonged grief does not end naturally and may have adverse effects on one’s life (Boelen & Van Den Bout, 2005). The affected person is engrossed in suffering and cannot attend to essential obligations. Prolonged grief is identified based on its signs, intensity and extent. One may suffer from identity confusion, emotional numbness, and bitterness.

Traumatic Grief

Jacobs (2007) defines traumatic grief as a condition where one suffers from misery due to death and harrowing distress. For one to suffer from traumatic grief, one have to be subjected to horrifying events. According to Jacobs (2007), traumatic grief entails invasive and stressful concerns with the departed. Other symptoms include the occasional effort to forget the incident and hopelessness. Besides, individuals suffering from traumatic grief find it hard to admit death.

Disenfranchised Grief

Disenfranchised grief refers to the anguish that is not recognized by the public. It arises due to the loss of a friend, place of residence, pet, or miscarriage (McNutt & Yakushko, 2013). Disenfranchised grief is prevalent among American children who hail from military families. The children frequently relocate forcing them to leave their places of residence. Disenfranchised grief can also arise due to marriage breakups or failed ornamental surgery procedures.

Primary Loss

Primary loss refers to the death of an individual due to a natural cause. It also refers to changes in behavior and physical and cognitive shortfalls that may arise as a result of brain injury (McNutt & Yakushko, 2013). Primary loss may also arise due to sickness. For instance, a person with Parkinson’s disease may be said to suffer from primary loss due to their health condition.

Secondary Loss

A secondary loss emanates from the primary loss. According to McNutt and Yakushko (2013), primary loss degenerates into numerous challenges. For instance, Parkinson’s disease may deteriorate into other problems like loss of job and disability. It may also affect one’s ability to function properly. All these consequences are referred to as secondary losses.

Ambiguous Loss

Ambiguous loss refers to a setback that is hard to decipher (Boss, 2000). It leaves an individual looking for answers. Ambiguous loss impedes and obscures the process of mourning. It may also lead to unsettled grief. Ambiguous loss can be classified into types. They are physical loss and psychological loss (Boss, 2000). The physical loss arises when it is hard to find the body of a missing person. The affected family is unable to understand what happened to their loved one and lives with the hope of seeing them again. On the other hand, psychological loss occurs when a loved one suffers from brain damage that alters their behavior (Boss, 2000). A person suffering from an identity crisis is said to be experiencing psychological loss.


Mourning is synonymous with sorrow that arises due to the death of a loved one. In some cultures, people dress in black to signify that they are morning. They also withdraw from social activities and focus on the loss (Boss, 2000). Some individuals also observe certain religious cultures when mourning.


Boelen, P., & Van Den Bout, J. (2005). Complicated grief, depression, and anxiety as distinct post loss syndromes: A confirmatory factor analysis study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 162(11), 2175-2177.

Bonanno, G. (2004). Loss, trauma, and human resilience: Have we underestimated the human capacity to thrive after extremely aversive events? American Psychologist, 59(1), 20-28.

Boss, P. (2000). Ambiguous Loss: Learning to live with unresolved grief. Harvard: Harvard University Press.

Jacobs, S. (2007). Traumatic grief: Diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. New York: Bruner.

McNutt, B., & Yakushko, O. (2013). Disenfranchised grief among lesbian and gay bereaved individuals. Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 7(1), 87-116.

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PsychologyWriting. "Personal Loss: Bereavement and Grief." October 8, 2023.