Loss and Bereavement

Understanding and coping with the feelings, emotions, and stress that characterize the grieving process

Many types of change may result in a sense of loss, such as the break-up of a relationship, children leaving home, loss of job, or sudden disability. The loss felt after the death of a partner, relative, close friend, or a pet is called bereavement.

The grieving process

The grieving process has several elements. Throughout the process, you may find that you oscillate between focusing on your loss and distracting yourself with work or future plans.

Initial reactions

At first, you may be overcome by shock or feel detached. You may even act as though nothing has happened. You are likely to experience signs of stress.


After the initial shock, you may feel overcome with intense emotions, such as sadness, anger, guilt, or fear. The emotional pain may be interspersed with feelings of emptiness.


As your mind accepts the reality of the loss, you may feel bleakness, apathy, and confusion and have no hope in the future. You may even feel suicidal.


As time passes, you accept the loss and achieve a new normality. You may feel stronger as a result of coping. You can remember happy times and hope to be happy again.

How to cope with grief

It is important for you to acknowledge the loss, such as by viewing the dead body of a loved person and attending the funeral service if you feel you can.

There is a difference between normal and abnormal responses. The most common abnormal reactions are very intense emotions that last for a long time; inability to stop grieving, even after several years; and the inability to grieve at all. To cope with any of these reactions, it may be helpful to contact an organization for support.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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