Updated: July 23, 2022

Bereavement is a time and state of mourning and grief when we experience deep loss.  It is a natural, inevitable, and often very painful part of life, which occurs in response to the deprivation of someone or something.  When we process loss, we experience grief on multiple levels, including mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally. Emotional responses include anxiety, guilt, anger, sadness, and despair.

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What Is Bereavement?

Bereavement is the time after a loss.  It is also a state of grief and mourning and impacts people in different ways.  Some appear to experience a range of emotions, whilst others appear emotionally numb, and some will seem to adjust to the loss sooner than others.  It is important to realise that there is no right way to mourn, and there is no time limit.  Losing someone or something important, can create devastation and a gamut of reactions as we process and come to terms with the loss.


This can occur on multiple dimensions, including psychological, behavioural, emotional, social, cultural, philosophical, and social.  There are also different types of grief throughout the process of bereavement, including: anticipatory grief (when we expect loss), secondary loss (the loss of future events with the loved one), complicated grief (when grief is intense and/or prolonged, delayed, or absent), and disenfranchised grief (when people cannot grieve openly because of social stigma).

What Are The Symptoms?


One stage of grief is anger.  During this time, individuals will experience anger about their loss, wondering why it happened to them, they may lash out at inanimate objects, strangers, people they know, and feel angry at life itself.

Appetite Changes

Grief can affect appetite in different ways for different people, depending on how they relate to food emotionally.  Some people may lose all interest in food and not experience hunger, or feel too preoccupied by their grief, while others may eat more due to the stress they feel.  


An example of bargaining is when we ask a higher power to bring back our loved one in exchange for something.  Bereavement brings about feelings of helplessness.  Bargaining is an attempt at defending ourselves from the threat of loss as we struggle to reconcile what has happened, and accept the limits of our control in the situation.

Crying & Feeling Overwhelmed

Grief can hit people very fast and hard, they may experience lots of crying which makes them feel as if they can’t cope.  This can lead to the feeling of overwhelm, whereby individuals worry they will never be able to live with how they feel.


Although the stages of grief are thought not to be chronological and linear, denial is often one of the first stages experienced.  When people are in denial, they attempt to minimize the overwhelming and all encompassing experience of loss, to survive the emotional pain.


It is quite normal to experience guilt when someone dies.  This can happen for many reasons, for example, you may wish you had done or said things differently when the loved one was alive, possibly believing you could have prevented their death, or feel guilty because you believe you should not have outlived your loved one (for example, when losing a child).

Inability To Concentrate

People can feel consumed with thoughts and feelings of loss, sadness, grief, and loneliness.  This focus on bereavement means the brain is overloaded and unable to function as normal.  This can result in issues with cognition, memory, and concentration.


Some people can experience an emotional numbness due to ‘inhibited grief’.  This is when emotions are suppressed, possibly to protect oneself.  Sometimes people can be (mis)judged when they grieve in this way because it does not ‘look’ like grief ‘should’.

Sadness & Depression

One of the most common stages of grief is depression.  It is also one of the most difficult and prolonged stages of the process of grieving.


The loss of someone or something can feel shocking due to the finality of it.  And because we often don’t think about life without them.  Even if we do think about it (for example, in anticipatory grief), the reality can be very different from what was expected.

Sleep Problems

Sleep becomes problematic when we experience grief.  You may find it difficult to fall asleep easily, or you might wake up throughout the night, or wake up early in the morning.  You may even wish to sleep more because this is the only time you feel you can rest from your grief.

Withdrawal & Isolation

When people feel intense grief because of the loss of a cherished loved one, they might need space and time for themselves to process their feelings and heal.  But, they may also wish to avoid life and people because they do not feel understood.

What Causes Bereavement?

Bereavement is how we respond to loss.  How close we were to the lost one, and how they left can impact the intensity of the grief we feel.

One of the most difficult causes of bereavement is the end of a close relationship, which can initiate intense feelings of shock, denial, sadness and grief.

If we know someone who is suffering with a terminal illness, we may experience anticipatory grief.  Even though the person is still alive, we can still feel grief because of their suffering and the knowledge that they are dying.  This can bring about sadness and anger as one prepares for the loss.

Many people suffer bereavement after the loss of a pet companion.  This can bring about feelings of deep sadness as individuals attempt to adjust without the presence of their beloved pet.

Suffering a miscarriage and no longer being pregnant can cause feelings of sadness and grief.

Losing someone to suicide often brings feelings of guilt and shock, as well as isolation due to the stigma that sometimes accompanies suicide.

A sudden change in health that results in a diagnosis and illness to manage, can cause feelings of bereavement as people experience anger, fear, anxiety, regret, and mourning.


Bereavement can happen in response to all kinds of loss.  This includes the loss of a spouse, family member, friend, or pet.  It can also occur when we experience the loss of a relationship, job, health, sense of purpose, or identity.

How Phinity Therapy Can Help

We have experience in providing grief counselling, otherwise known as bereavement therapy.  We aim to support you in learning how to cope with your loss, as we help you to explore the circumstances surrounding your loss, how you feel about it, and how you can adjust to your new reality.
Depending on how you are impacted by your grief, we can suggest a number of ways of working and make recommendations based on your needs.  Therapies we may recommend include person centred therapy (PCT), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), grief-specific cognitive behavioural therapy, interpersonal therapy, or complicated grief treatment (CGT), to name just a few options.
What Causes Bereavement?How Phinity Therapy Can Help


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