Skip to content

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Grief, Bereavement, and Coping With Loss (PDQ®): Supportive care - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Definitions of Terms

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, intrapsychic process of the individual. Normal or common grief reactions may include components such as the following:[2]

Recommended Related to Cancer

Current Clinical Trials

Check NCI's list of cancer clinical trials for cancer CAM clinical trials on marijuana, nabilone, dronabinol and nabiximols that are actively enrolling patients. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

Read the Current Clinical Trials article > >

  • 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] (Refer to the Prolonged or Complicated Grief as a Mental Disorder section of this summary for more information.)

Bereavement

Bereavement is defined as the objective situation one faces after having lost an important person via death.[1] Bereavement is conceptualized as the broadest of the three terms and a statement of the objective reality of a situation of loss via death.

Mourning

Mourning is defined as the public display of grief.[1] While grief focuses more on the internal or intrapsychic 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.

References:

  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.
  2. Jacobs S: Pathologic Grief: Maladaptation to Loss. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, Inc., 1993.
  3. 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.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: September 04, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    Colorectal cancer cells
    A common one in both men and women.
    Lung cancer xray
    See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
     
    sauteed cherry tomatoes
    Fight cancer one plate at a time.
    Ovarian cancer illustration
    Do you know the symptoms?
     
    Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
    Blog
    what is your cancer risk
    HEALTH CHECK
     
    colorectal cancer treatment advances
    Video
    breast cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
     
    prostate cancer overview
    SLIDESHOW
    lung cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
     
    ovarian cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
    Actor Michael Douglas
    Article