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Understanding Grief and Bereavement

Grieving the loss of someone we love is one of the most profound experiences of life. It is important to know that there is no right way of coping and there is no correct timeframe for grieving as each person deals with the death of a loved one in their own special way.

Grief doesn’t follow a linear pattern for it seems to be more wavelike with its ups and downs. While there is no “getting over” grief, ultimately people manage to integrate their emotional shifts so that even though the loss remains, the intensity and depth of the sadness is not so overwhelming or disabling. To heal the emotional pain of loss, one must journey through the grief.

Although the terms grief, bereavement, and mourning are often used interchangeably, each has a different meaning.

Grief is the normal process of reacting to the loss. Each type of loss means that something has been taken away. As a family goes through the journey of a terminal disease, many losses occur and each triggers its own grief reaction. Grief may be experienced as a mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual reaction and often times a combination of these. Mental reactions can include anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and despair. Physical reactions can include sleeping problems, changes in appetite, and even illness. Grief can be described as the presence of physical problems, constant thoughts of the person who died, guilt, hostility, and a change in the way one usually behaves.

Bereavement is the period after a loss during which time grief is experienced and mourning occurs.

Mourning is the process by which people adapt to a loss. This is influenced by cultural rituals and customs.

Grief work includes the processes that one who is mourning needs to complete before resuming daily routines. These processes include emotionally separating from the person who died, readjusting to a world without the departed, and beginning to develop new relationships. This experience is often a matter of redirecting one’s emotional energy. However, it does not mean that one forgets or no longer thinks about the loved one who has passed.

Phases of Grief





The process of bereavement can be defined in terms of 4 phases

  1. Shock and numbness: Loved ones find it difficult to believe the death has occurred.
  2. Yearning and searching: Survivors experience separation anxiety and cannot accept the reality of the loss.
  3. Disorganization and despair: Family members feel depressed and are easily distracted and have difficulty concentrating and focusing.
  4. Reorganization: It is important to know that each of these phases is quite a normal response to the loss of a loved one.

Hospice Support

Bereavement support is offered by the hospice for up to 13 months following the death of the hospice patient. This continuous support may include: one-on-one sessions, check-in phone calls, articles and newsletters, and support group meetings. Although no one can take away grief, using support systems can make it less difficult to live with loss.