What is Grief? - Some Definitions and Links to Comfort and Support . . .
What is grief?
define grief as “an emotion of great sadness associated with loss or
bereavement”, or “deep mental
anguish following a bereavement”.
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
- And grief is not just caused by the death of someone dear, as we show below. It can be caused by loss of jobs, homes and many more of life's stresses.
- 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 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 and it tends to go on for longer. Read about how to deal with it here.
See also our page of beautiful definitions of grief from our colleagues and experts.
Types of Grief
Grief can be for:
Loss of a spouse
Loss of a grandparent
Loss of a parent
Loss of a baby, child or
Miscarriage or stillbirth
Loss of a twin
Loss of a young adult
Loss of a brother, sister,
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
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
- Someone in a coma or
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.
Kenneth J Doka has this excellent definition: "I define disenfranchised grief as grief that results when a person experiences a significant loss and the resultant grief is not openly acknowledged, socially validated, or publicly mourned. In short, although the individual is experiencing a grief reaction, there is no social recognition that the person has a right to grieve or a claim for social sympathy or support." in this paper for the American Psychological Association.
Some more examples of
disenfranchised grief might be:
Divorce or separation
Infidelity and it's Effect on Children
Couple Break Up and the Grief it Causes
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 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
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
What is Traumatic Grief?
Traumatic grief occurs usually after sudden
violent loss from major natural disasters, war, major transport disasters or
See our page on 'Veterans' Grief' for how to cope.
See also Loss of a Home through Natural Disaster.
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
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.
Learn how to deal with complicated grief here.
Definitions of Grief by the Experts
Best Books on Grief
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and the 5 Stages of Grief
ARE YOU A BEREAVED MOTHER OR FATHER?
We are two bereaved parents who have teamed up with researchers at Yeshiva University and Memorial Sloan Kettering to study how the death of a child impacts parents’ lives, and the resulting ripple effects as life continues without our children. We invite you to participate in a survey which will help us develop resources to better support parents experiencing the heartbreak of child loss.
For mothers or fathers who have lost a child (or children) of any age, and would like to make a contribution to our understanding of bereaved parenthood, this is a way to make a difference.
If you would like to participate in our study, please fill out this confidential survey at https://yeshiva.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cUXcBDFIiWAg6Ng It will take about 20 minutes.
For more details, you can contact the Principal Investigator:
Kailey Roberts, PhD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology, Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Yeshiva University.
Thank you for your consideration --
Judith Kottick, LCSW and Jean Singer, PhD
IRB Approved at the Study Level, May 10, 2021. #30499052.0
Have You Considered Online Grief Counseling?
Get Private and Confidential Help in the Privacy of Your Own Home
The following information about online counseling is sponsored by 'Betterhelp' but all the opinions are our own. To be upfront, we do receive a commission when you sign up with 'Betterhelp', but we have total faith in their expertise and would never recommend something we didn't completely approve.
Do you feel alone and sad with no support and no idea how to move forward? It can be tough when you are stuck in grief to find the motivation to get the most out of your precious life.
Online counseling can help by giving you that support so you don't feel so alone. You can have someone to talk to anytime you like, a kind and understanding person who will help you to find meaning in life again, to treasure the memories of your loved one without being overwhelmed and to enjoy your activities, family and friends again.
- Simply fill out the online questionnaire and you will be assigned the expert grief counselor most suitable for you. It only takes a few minutes and you don't even have to use your name.
- Pay an affordable FLAT FEE FOR UNLIMITED SESSIONS.
- Contact your counselor whenever you like by chat, messaging, video or phone.
- You can change counselor at any time if you wish.
- Click here to find out more and get started immediately.
- Or read more about how online counseling works here.
Sales from our pages result in a small commission to us which helps us to continue our work supporting the grieving.
Memorial Jewelry to Honour a Loved One
Check out our lovely range of memorial jewelry for any lost loved one. Pendants, necklaces, rings or bracelets, we have them all in all kinds of styles. Choose for yourself or buy as a sympathy gift.
Click here to see our selection
Hypnosis for Grief - 10 Ways It Can Help You
Try a gentle hypnotherapy track to relax the mind. Learn how self-hypnosis can help you cope with grief at any time of the day or night.
Read more about it here.
Create an Online Memorial Website
Honour your loved one with their own memorial website. Share photos, videos, memories and more with your family and friends in a permanent online website. Free for basic plan with no ads.
Find out more here.
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.
NEW BONUS - Also receive a copy of our short eBook - '99 Ways to Spot a Great Grief Counselor'. Available for instant download as soon as you sign up. Never waste money on poor counseling again!