We’ve come to describe the experience of loss using the term grief, the descriptor that highlights the emotions associated with loss. Thus, the terms bereavement, grief, and mourning might be used interchangeably to discuss an experience of loss. However, each word reflects a different aspect of the loss experience.
According to Kathleen A. Egan and Robert L. Arnold, in their article “Grief and Bereavement Care:”*
- “Bereavement, encompassing grief and mourning, denotes the emotions and behavior of a person who has suffered a loss, especially the death of another.” (42)
- “Grief signifies the emotional responses…caused by loss, including an approaching death and the death itself.” (43)
- “Mourning refers to actions customarily associated with grief (such as wailing).” (43)
That is, bereavement refers to the time it takes to adjust to life without the person and to grieve their loss. Grief is the emotional response, and mourning addresses the behaviors practiced after loss.
Examples of mourning include: preparing bodies for burial, customs concerning where and when the deceased must be buried, funerals, and wearing specific clothing for a set period of time.
*Egan, Kathleen A., and Robert L. Arnold. “Grief and Bereavement Care.” The American Journal of Nursing 103, no. 9 (2003): 42-53. Accessed July 29, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/29745361.