What is bereavement?

What is bereavement?

Bereavement refers to the state of experiencing the loss of a loved one. It usually refers to the most emotional time after loss. This time it was marked by intense grief and great grief.

This word is sometimes used as a synonym for sadness and mourning. How people experience this sad time varies from person to person.

Although bereavement is usually related to death, it can also occur after other major losses. For example, the end of an important relationship or a major change in a person’s health can also cause bereavement.


People may experience a variety of symptoms during bereavement, including:

  • Shock
  • numbness
  • guilty
  • sad
  • cry
  • Frustrated
  • anger
  • Changes in appetite
  • hard to fall asleep
  • Inattention


Bereavement is a normal response to loss and is not itself a diagnosable condition recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). However, it can sometimes cause other illnesses such as depression or anxiety.

The latest version of DSM-5 removes the so-called “bereavement exclusion” from the diagnosis of major depression. This change clearly shows that although bereavement and depression are different, depression may occur in the context of bereavement.

“[The] DSM-5 recognizes that bereavement does not make patients immune to major depression, and it often induces major depression. In fact, sadness and depression-despite some overlapping symptoms, such as sadness, sleep disturbances and decreased appetite-are different structures, and one does not exclude the other,” psychiatrist Ronald Pais published in Explained in an article in the magazine. Innovations in clinical neuroscience.

Press Play for advice on dealing with grief

Hosted by LCSW’s editor-in-chief and therapist Amy Morin, this episode of The VigorTip Mind podcast shares tips for staying strong when you experience grief. Click below to listen now.

Follow now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts / RSS


Bereavement is a response to loss. The circumstances surrounding the loss and the intimacy of the relationship can play a role in the grief and bereavement that people experience. Some types of losses that may cause this situation include:

  • Death of a loved one: Losing a family member or close friend can be one of the hardest losses a person will face. In many cases, people also have to deal with many different types of decisions related to loss, including arranging a funeral and dealing with financial issues, because they have to deal with intense sadness and sadness.
  • Expected grief: This type of bereavement may occur when a loved one dies. Although the person has not left yet, the loved one may still feel sad and angry when preparing for the loss of the loved one.
  • Losing a beloved pet: Losing an animal companion can also cause a period of bereavement. This may be a difficult transition, and many people may struggle with deep grief.
  • Miscarriage: Losing pregnancy can also lead to grief and bereavement.
  • Loss caused by suicide: Sometimes when a suicide dies, relatives may struggle with shock and guilt. Since suicide is sometimes accompanied by stigma, a grieving person may feel particularly isolated and unsupported.
  • Changes in health: The onset of chronic diseases or sudden changes in a person’s health can also cause bereavement. When people face new challenges brought about by their own situation, they may feel fear, anger, anxiety, regret and mourning.

It is important to note that sometimes people cannot experience bereavement and grief publicly, which is usually due to social stigma. This is called the grief of being deprived of rights.

This happens when the loss is not clear, when the loss is socially stigmatized, or when the relationship between a person and the deceased is not recognized or valued by others.


Everyone experiences different bereavement and grief. However, it usually follows a predictable pattern and is often described as a normal response to loss. In other cases, people may experience longer-lasting symptoms that continue to interfere with their ability to function normally for a longer period of time.

Normal bereavement

The feeling of grief and bereavement usually occurs in five stages:

  • Denial: This stage is characterized by numbness, shock, and doubt. People may refuse to accept the reality of loss.
  • Anger: At this stage, people may feel angry because of the loss. These feelings may be directed at other people, themselves, or even the dead.
  • Bargaining: The hallmark of this stage is usually to resort to higher powers to seek relief or change the outcome.
  • Depression: At this stage, people often experience great feelings of sadness and depression. They often turn introverted and withdraw socially.
  • Acceptance: In the final stage of the bereavement process, people reach the point where they can accept the reality of loss.

The psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross introduced this stage model in 1969 to describe the bereavement process after the loss of a loved one. However, she later adjusted these stages to apply to other types of grief.

Although it usually manifests as a series of discrete stages, it is important to note that people may cycle through these stages at different points in time, and sometimes may even return to an earlier state several years after the loss.

Complex sadness

Bereavement is painful and can be exhausting. Although people will not “overcome” this, the intensity of these feelings of sadness will usually gradually diminish over time. However, some people experience a more permanent form of bereavement called complex grief.

This form of bereavement is characterized by intense grief and pain that lasts for a long time. People who are experiencing complex grief may experience the following symptoms:

  • despair
  • Obsession with death
  • Feeling apart
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • lose interest
  • Loss of self-awareness

Research shows that approximately 7% of people who have lost a loved one experience complex grief.

Although the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association does not consider it to be an official diagnosis, medical experts believe that complex grief is characterized by persistent acute grief symptoms that last six months or more. A proposed condition called “persistent complex bereavement” is listed as requiring further research.


Bereavement is a natural and unavoidable part of life, albeit incredibly painful. It usually temporarily affects a person’s ability to function normally, and can affect almost every aspect of a person’s life. During the bereavement, continuing normal daily tasks, work, school, and interpersonal relationships may seem difficult or even impossible.

For those who are struggling to cope, professional help may be beneficial. Grief counseling can support people through the normal grief process under the guidance of a therapist. Support groups can also be useful places to explore difficult emotions and seek social support from people with similar experiences.

For longer bereavements, treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), complex grief therapy (CGT), or bereavement therapy may be beneficial.

  • The role of CBT is to help people identify and change negative thoughts that affect their mental health.
  • CBT helps people learn how to plan for the future, set goals for their recovery, and respond to their feelings about the death of a loved one.
  • Bereavement treatment, also called grief counseling, is a treatment designed to help those who are dealing with loss.

The American Psychological Association reports that with time, support, and healthy habits, most people can recover from bereavement.


When you lose a loved one, some of the things you can do include:

  • Show acceptance when dealing with strong or difficult emotions
  • Talk to others about the loss
  • Seek support from friends, family, and others
  • Take care of yourself through adequate rest, healthy eating, and physical activity
  • Celebrate and remember the one you love

There are many different factors that affect how people deal with bereavement. The opportunity to receive support, the level of maturity, the experience of past losses, and the nature of the relationship all affect the way a person manages losses.

Your own beliefs about death, religious upbringing, and cultural factors may also affect the process of bereavement and grief. Sudden, accidental or traumatic losses can also affect how people cope after the event.

In this case, seeking professional help may be a way to obtain additional support, and you need to deal with losses and emotions in this way.