What is Grief?  - Some Definitions and Links to Comfort and Support . . .

What is grief?

  • Dictionaries define grief as “an emotion of great sadness associated with loss or bereavement”, or “deep mental anguish following a bereavement”.
  • Another grief definition might be: “keen distress or suffering especially at the death of someone”.
  • But grief is not just deep sadness. It can involve many other emotions of grief, such as denial, pain, guilt, anger, resentment, jealousy, depression, but finally acceptance.
  • Some people use the '5 stages of grief' to define the process.  These are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.  Read more about the origin of these stages here. 

See below for definitions for complicated, traumatic, anticipatory, and disenfranchised grief.  

Grief deep as life or thought - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Grief may also include physical symptoms such as shock, numbness, loss of appetite, nausea, sleep disturbances, loss of libido, and many general aches and pains.

In complicated grief there may be more severe symptoms such as those that occur in post traumatic stress disorder.

In my experience, grief is the pain caused by the lack of the physical presence of the loved one, and not being able to see or talk to them again. For me, having lots of photographs of the loved one around helps, as that way you can still talk to them. Some people need a memorial or a grave to visit as a way of connecting with the loved one.

See also our page of beautiful definitions of grief from our colleagues and experts. 

Types of Grief

Grief can be for:

Loss of a grandparent

Loss of a parent

Loss of a baby, child or teenager

Miscarriage or stillbirth

Loss of a twin

Loss of a young adult

Loss of a brother, sister, best friend

No one bereavement is ever like another. There can be death after a long illness, sudden death, accidents, suicide, overdose or self-harm. Loved ones are lost after a murder, or they can just disappear and no-one knows whether they are alive or dead.

Read more about bereavement and mourning

Learn about the causes and how to prevent and cope with suicide

Grief is to man as certain as the grave George Crabbe

What is Anticipatory Grief?

Anticipatory grief is for the loss of someone who hasn't died yet, or it can be for yourself if you have a terminal illness.  

Examples of anticipatory grief are for: 

  • Someone with a terminal illness
  • Missing persons

  • Someone in a coma or vegetative state

Read more about anticipatory grief.

If you have a loved one with Alzheimer's disease, you might find my book useful.  Click on the image for more information. 

What is Disenfranchised Grief?

As well as grief for someone who has died or disappeared, there are many other losses in life which can cause serious emotions of grief. People often don’t realise that you are suffering from grief in these situations, and this is sometimes referred to as disenfranchised grief.

Disenfranchised grief can be caused by losing a limb, becoming wheelchair bound, and by many other health issues and the financial worry that a disability can bring.

Lifestyle changes can cause grief, for example, losing a job. The grief is major and is often not recognised as grief in these circumstances. The shock, pain and anxiety can be as severe as any bereavement.

Some more examples of disenfranchised grief might be:

Divorce or separation

Lack of fertility

Birth Mother Grief - When You Have to Give up a Child for Adoption

Adoption Discovery - When You Discover You Were Adopted



Empty Nest Syndrome - When the Children Leave Home

Empty Nest Divorce

Job Loss

Job loss due to disability or illness

Coping with Chronic Illness - see this uplifting story by Sarah, recently diagnosed with MS

Having a disabled child

Loss of health or loss of a limb

Loss of a pet

Loss of first love

Celebrity deaths - grieving over a famous person

Major disasters – even if we didn’t know anyone involved – such as the 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attack.

What is Traumatic Grief?

Traumatic grief occurs usually after sudden violent loss from major natural disasters, major transport disasters or terrorist attacks.

It also occurs after violent deaths by murder, which can evoke many complicated emotions of bitterness, hate and revenge towards the murderer as well as the normal emotions of grief.

What is Complicated Grief?

This is grief that does not resolve itself naturally but seriously affects the person’s ability to function. It usually requires treatment.

Complicated grief may often be associated with traumatic grief, but often occurs in situations where the person is not able to acknowledge or seek support for their grief.

RElated Pages: 

Definitions of Grief by the Experts

Best Books on Grief

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and the 5 Stages of Grief

> What is Grief?

Sales from our pages result in a small commission to us which helps us to continue our work supporting the grieving.  

Memorial Magnolia Tree

The Magnolia is one of the earth's oldest plants, with a spectacular flower which dates back 95 million years.  What a beautiful specimen to commemorate a life. 

These trees are grown by the foremost magnolia nursery in the country and they will send a variety most suited to the recipient's climate. 

The flowers in spring will bring joy to the bereaved and help to heal their heart.

Please Support this Site with a Donation

If you have found our site helpful, please consider a small donation towards our running costs.  It is expensive in time and money to maintain the site and we try to keep it as ad free as we can! 

If everyone were to donate just one dollar, it would cover our costs.  A little more will help us to expand and reach even more people. 

Please note we are not a not-for-profit organisation, so you won't be able to claim this donation against your tax!  But we do need to eat and pay the phone bill!

You can use your paypal account but you don't need to belong to paypal to use this secure payment button, it accepts all major debit and credit cards. We do not collect any of your personal information when you make a payment. 

We thank you and all our readers thank you for whatever you can afford. 

Join us on Facebook for articles, support, discussion and more.  Click 'Like' below.

Sign up for our newsletter and receive:

"The 10 Most Important Things You Can Do
To Survive Your Grief And Get On With Life"

Our free downloadable and printable document "The 10 Most Important Things You Can Do To Survive Your Grief And Get On With Life" will help you to be positive day to day.  

The 10 points are laid out like a poem on two pretty pages which you can pin on your fridge door to help you every day! 

All you have to do to receive this free document is fill in your email address below. 

You will also receive our newsletter which we send out from time to time with our newest comforting and helpful information.   You can unsubscribe any time you like, and don't worry, your email address is totally safe with us. 

Enter Your E-mail Address
Enter Your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Grief and Sympathy News.