Grief: Coping With The Loss Of A Loved One

What is grief and why do we need to go through an adjustment process when we lose someone?

The duel is a process that is performed after a loss either of a loved one, a job of  a relationship, an object etc. Grief affects psychologically although it also affects the behavior and physique of the person who suffers it. It is a necessary, universal and painful process. The important thing is to integrate it into life and reestablish a relationship with it.

Human beings establish relationships by nature. We are constantly interacting with those around us: we build bonds throughout our existence to meet our needs for safety and security as children, to develop our identity as adolescents, and to give and receive love as adults. This impulse to connect with the outside arises from the moment the baby is born and begins to relate to its mother.

Characteristics of the duel

It is a process, it evolves through time and space, it is normal (everyone can be the victim of a significant loss), it is dynamic, it depends on social recognition, it is intimate (each person carries it differently) but it is also social as it involves cultural rituals and, finally, it is active, the person will make their own decisions and give them meaning. Their role is to work out the impact of the loss and adapt to the new situation.

The normal duel

The grieving process is a mechanism to adapt to a loss, it is normalized since its characteristics are present in most duels. In normal grief there are about six behaviors that occur normally:  somatic or bodily discomfort, concern for the image of the deceased, guilt related to the deceased or the circumstances of death, hostile reactions, inability to act normally and, finally , many patients developed some traits of the deceased in their own behavior.

How long does the normal grieving process take?

The duration of the mourning is between two and three years (if it is a significant person), it begins from the moment the person begins to show the separation and ends when he accepts it definitively.

It is also normal that some people affected by a traumatic event may, as a consequence of their coping, experience positive changes in their lives. There  are personality factors that can predict this post-traumatic growth that includes changes in oneself, in interpersonal relationships and in the philosophy or meaning of life. Post-traumatic growth can coexist with suffering. In fact, difficult emotions may be necessary for these changes to occur.

Phases of grief

Normal grief is usually structured in stages that occur successively:

1. Emotional denial

It is a way of emotionally distancing oneself from the fact, it is the absence of reactions that ends when it occurs, it should last between 2 weeks and 3 months.

2. Protest

It is done with the closest people, although the real anger is with the lost person, it is very necessary to express this stage.

3. Sadness

It is where there is more danger of stagnation, there is an isolation from the world, it is necessary to have 3 to 5 relationships with whom to talk about the loss.

4. Intellectual and global acceptance

The fact begins to be accepted, it begins with difficulty to talk about it and ends with small comments about the loss.

5. Search for global meaning

It consists of talking about everything that this relationship has implied in the person’s life.

6. Elaboration and new attachments

Being able to link to other relationships without being a replacement for the lost person.

Abnormal types of duels

Apart from normal grief, there are other types of more complicated or pathological grief:

  • Chronic grief → of excessive duration, the person cannot turn the page.
  • Delayed grief → the emotional reaction was not enough and it manifests itself some time later, being triggered, for example, through memories.
  • Exaggerated grief or → symptoms of excessive intensity and incapacitating.
  • Masked grief → the person is not aware of the effects of the loss.
  • Unauthorized grief → the mourner is not socially recognized and his pain cannot be publicly expressed.

In the latter case, the absence of supportive contact at the time of the traumatic event and in the time after is itself another cumulative loss or trauma.

Coping with grief

In the grieving process, there are two types of coping mechanisms: those oriented towards loss and those oriented towards restoration.

For grief to be adjusted, these two mechanisms must occur in an oscillatory way, although as the process advances over time, mechanisms aimed at restoration predominate.

The emotional needs of people who have suffered a loss

Bereaved people have certain needs that must be met in order to successfully overcome the loss.

  • They need to be heard and believed in their entire story of loss.
  • They need to be protected and have permission to express emotions.
  • They need to be validated in the way they face grief (knowing that what happens to them is natural, it is well done and it is not bad to feel that way).
  • They need to be in a supportive relationship from reciprocity (that the other person understands them thanks to a similar experience or that the other person “knows” what the affected person is talking about).
  • They need to define themselves in the individual and unique way of living the grief (that other people support their way of coping with it).
  • They need to feel that their experience of grief has an impact on other people (that their pain or their explanation of what they are suffering marks others).
  • They need to be in a relationship where the other takes the initiative since they are not able to, for example, start talking about it.
  • And lastly, they need to be able to express love and vulnerability in front of other people.

Elaboration of special types of losses

There are certain ways of dying and certain circumstances that require special treatments that go beyond the usual processes. We review them below.


Those affected not only are left with a sense of loss, but also with a legacy of shame, fear, rejection, anger and guilt. It is possible that a suicide bereavement can be more intense and last longer than bereavement due to another type of loss. 

The most notable feeling is shame, which affects both individually and the nucleus or family unit and guilt, the relatives assume responsibility for the action of the deceased and have the feeling that they could have done something to prevent that death or, for the On the contrary, guilt is manifested by blaming other people for that death.

Sudden death

They occur without warning. In this type of death, the loss is perceived as if it were not real, the mind does not assimilate such an abrupt change, which is why a specific treatment is necessary to help accept it.

Perinatal death

In this case, it is necessary to give importance to the mourning of the deceased baby since, if it is underestimated, it can incite the parents to produce another pregnancy that would only serve as a replacement for the previous one and later problems could arise.


It is usually a masked grief that manifests itself through other events or events, without the patient knowing that they are due to the previously induced abortion, as it is a provoked loss, it is not usually talked about and it tries to be quickly forgotten, however, a woman who does not work out this loss well may see subsequent losses intensified.

Anticipated grief

In anticipated grief, death is known in advance so the process or emotional responses are started before the loss takes place. Prolonged grief can produce resentment and, in turn, lead to guilt. Early grief does not have to shorten or reduce the intensity of the post-death grief process


Due to the stigma of AIDS, it is really difficult to find social support for this grief since there is fear of rejection or of being judged if the cause of death is discovered. Because of these fears, isolation towards the patient is likely  . An affective way to cope with this type of grief is the support in social groups that are in the same situation.


In short, grief is a process with which everyone can be affected or involved at some point in life. It is a difficult but solvable process in which the support of others is very necessary to overcome it. In grief, the presence of a psychologist is not necessary to help us cope, but  sometimes the service that he can offer us is of great help.

There are many types of duels and many ways to cope with it, but they all have common bases or principles that will help us when it comes to identifying it.

Grief is a serious process that can cause many problems if it is not treated properly, so it is vitally important to know about it and be prepared to offer help to victims both from a professional perspective and from a closer perspective as it may be. help a family member or friend cope.

Bibliographic references:

  • AMELA, Víctor-M. “Who is killed I do not see cap altra sortida, I did not choose you”, La Vanguardia, December 25-26, 2012, p. 56 (back cover)
  • CONANGLA, Maria Mercè. Lexis and affections, Abandonment. CONANGLA, Maria Mercè. Emotional crisis. Barcelona: RBA Pocket, 2007, p. 189-190.
  • NEIMEYER, Robert A. Learning from loss. Barcelona: pocket paidós, 2007. ISBN 8449311799.
  • NOMEN MARTÍN, Leila. The duel and death. The treatment of loss. Madrid: Pirámide, 2007. ISBN 9788436821420.
  • PAYÁS PUIGARNAU, Alba. The tasks of mourning. Grief psychotherapy from an integrative-relational model. Madrid: Paidós, 2010. ISBN  9788449324239.
  • WORDEN, William J. The treatment of grief: psychological counseling and therapy. Barcelona: Paidós, 2004.ISBN 9788449316562.

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