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It is important to differentiate between issues around bereavement because the experience is such a personal and subjective one. For example, not every bereavement will result in grief. Distant members of a family may not feel as sad as close ones on hearing about a relative’s death, yet they too have been bereaved. A neglected child may have confused feelings about bereavement relating to a loved parent who mistreated them - they may feel guilty because their sadness is mixed with relief. So bereavement is a loss of a person we know and the other terms refer to our feelings about that loss. Grief is also a very mixed bag. We humans are complex creatures and even love is complicated emotion. We can adore our parents for example and yet also feel frustrated and hemmed in by them. Similarly, we can be in love with a person, yet also angry when we think they are paying too much attention to someone else. How much more complicated it is then, when that emotion of love is transformed into grief when a dearly beloved person dies. Grief can comprise many other emotions and issues, depending on the mix of feelings attached to the person when they were alive. For example, among the many stages of grief are shock, distress, anger, denial, numbness and also ‘unreasonable’ feelings such as inappropriate jubilation or elation. Sometimes, emotions are inhibited or repressed for many years and emerge only very slowly, coloured and layered by new experiences and new people we meet. Therefore it is important not to make assumptions around bereavement issues, or tell people ‘I know how you feel’ because we probably don’t - not exactly anyway!
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