On loss and grief

Grief and loss counseling can deal with a variety of situations. Some of these are:

–       death of a loved one

–       separation/divorce

–       loss of health/disabilities (cancer, HIV, AIDS, etc.)images

–       pregnancy loss and fertility issues

–       work loss

–       personal life changes (career, work, organizational changes, home)

–       caregiver issues

–       loss due to life changes

–       abuse (sexual, physical or emotional)

–       compassion fatigue/burnout

–       emotional distress

–       accidents

–       adoption and foster care issues

–       violent crimes, victimization

–       children affected by grief and loss

(from Living Through Loss Counseling Society of BC)


I have focused my research on dealing with the loss of a loved one, either by death or by the end of a relationship. These are the most common reasons for people to come to my therapy practice.


Bereavement – Bereavement is defined as the objective situation one faces after having lost an important person via death.


Mourning – Mourning is defined as the public display of grief.(1) While grief focuses more on the internal or intra-psychic experience of loss, mourning emphasizes the external or public expressions of grief. Consequently, mourning is influenced by one’s beliefs, religious practices, and cultural context.

There is obvious overlap between grief and mourning, with each influencing the other; it is often difficult to distinguish between the two. One’s public expression (i.e., mourning) of the emotional distress over the loss of a loved one (i.e., grief) is influenced by culturally determined beliefs, mores, and values.


Grief – Grief is defined as the primarily emotional/affective process of reacting to the loss of a loved one through death.(1) The focus is on the internal, intra-psychic process of the individual. Normal or common grief reactions may include components such as the following:(2)

  • Numbness and disbelief.
  • Anxiety from the distress of separation.
  • A process of mourning often accompanied by symptoms of depression.
  • Eventual recovery.
  • Grief reactions can also be viewed as abnormal, traumatic, pathologic, or complicated. Although no consensus has been reached, diagnostic criteria for complicated grief have been proposed.(3)
  • Anticipatory Grief – Anticipatory grief refers to a grief reaction that occurs in anticipation of an impending loss.




  • 1.

    Stroebe MS, Hansson RO, Schut H, et al., eds.: Handbook of Bereavement Research and Practice: Advances in Theory and Intervention. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2008.


    Jacobs S: Pathologic Grief: Maladaptation to Loss. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, Inc., 1993.


    Prigerson HG, Jacobs SC: Perspectives on care at the close of life. Caring for bereaved patients: “all the doctors just suddenly go”. JAMA 286 (11): 1369-76, 2001.

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