Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Loss, Grief, Bereavement and Mourning - the Terms

Loss, Grief, Bereavement and Mourning
This blog focuses on the topics of grief, loss and transitions, but people may not realize what these terms mean. In this entry, I look at the terms Loss and Grief and the related terms Bereavement and Mourning. In another entry, we'll look at the concept of Transitions.

Loss is the disappearance of something cherished, such as a person, possession or property.
  • A brief definition of Loss is the the disappearance of something cherished, such as a person, possession or property.
  • The definition of Loss also includes "the act or instance of losing; the failure to keep or get something valued; the harm or suffering caused by losing or being lost; losses a.k.a. casualties occurring during wartime; destruction; and a measurable reduction in some substance or process."
Loss is a common experience common experience that can be encountered many times during a lifetime; it does not discriminate for age, race, sex, education, economic status, religion, culture or nationality.

Most people have experienced some type of personal or professional loss at some point in their life as a byproduct of living.

Grief, Bereavement and Mourning
Grief, bereavement and mourning, are often used interchangeably, however they are not the same.

I like to think of Grief as the entire response--mind, body and spirit--to a loss.
  • A brief, short definition of Grief is "the normal reaction to loss."
  • A slightly longer definition of Grief "the normal process of reacting both internally and externally to the perception of loss."
  • A more complete definition of Grief comes from Stroeb M, Stroeb W and Shut H. Grief is "a multifaceted response to loss that includes psychological, behavioral and physical reactions combined with cognitive, emotional, behavioral, social, spiritual and somatic elements."
Bereavement is the often term used when the loss is due to the death of a loved one.
  • Bereavement is an objective state of having lost someone or something. The term is generally used to describe the state of having suffered a loss due to death.
  • Bereavement is the also considered to be the loss (by death) of someone important to you and the process caused by a loss or a death.
  • Mourning is the process by which people adapt to loss the public expression of grief, which is shaped by social and cultural expectations. It is how an person tries to incorporate the loss into life and keep living.
  • Mourning is also the behavior expected by those in the cultural group following a death or loss.
  • Mourning is often considered to be the outward expression of grief that is influenced by a person's culture, customs and gender.
Dyer KA. Loss, Grief & Bereavement on Squidoo.

Image Source: Anka Draganski.
Grieving. Royalty Free Use.

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. (2000) Houghton Mifflin Company. Definition of Loss. Bartleby.com
Childs-Gowell. E. 1992. Good Grief Rituals: Tools for Healing. Barrytown, N.Y.:Station Hill Press.

Dyer KA. 2004. Understanding the Impact of Loss & Grief on our Patient's Well Being: Learning How to Take a Loss History. MomMd.com
Dyer KA, Thompson CD. 2000. Journey of Hearts: From Idea to Reality A Website for Web-education Grief and Loss. ITCH 2000 (Information Technology in Community Health) Conference Preceedings. University of Victoria, School of Information Health Sciences.

Dyer KA. Identifying, Understanding, and Working with Grieving Parents in the NICU, Part I: Identifying and Understanding Loss and the Grief Response. Neonatal Network. May/June 2005; 24(4):35-46.
Casarett D, Kutner JS, Abrahm J. Life after Death: A Practical Approach to Grief and Bereavement. Ann Intern Med. 2001;134:208-215. 24 October, 2006.
Rando TA. 1993. Treatment of Complicated Mourning. Champaign, IL: Research Press, 22-3.
Stroeb M, Stroeb W, Shut H. Gender differences in adjustment to bereavement: an empirical and theoretical review. Rev Gen Psychol 5: 62-83.