Difference Between Bereavement and Grief

By: | Updated: Jul-10, 2022
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Bereavement and grief are terms used to describe the same process: a state of sadness that follows an unexpected death. When a person dies, it has the effect of destroying their sense of self. They previously had meaning to themselves, but because they are no longer here, they cease to have any meaning or importance to anyone else. Let’s take a loot at the differences between bereavement and grief.

Summary Table

Bereavement Grief
First stages of grief May last for years
The experience of loss The experience and emotions response to loss
More of a clinical phenomenon State of emotion

Difference Between Bereavement and Grief


Bereavement is the first period of sadness, shock, or despair that follows a loss of someone. It typically begins within one hour after the death and can last for several months. The emotions of grief include guilt, anger, depression, coping mechanisms to reduce pain and promote wellbeing. This often includes denial and making excuses for the person who died.

Grief is a longer, more intense period of sadness that can last for several years. It is marked by depression and guilt. Grief, unlike bereavement does not include denial or making excuses for the person who died. The events surrounding the death are often all that’s left to focus on.

Bereavement vs Grief

Bereavement is from the Latin word berephagia, which means ‘to eat away’. Grief comes from the Latin word gravis, meaning ‘heavy’.

Bereavement can be defined as a period that people may need to go through in order to come to terms with their loss and learn how to live without their loved one. Bereavement is often described as a state of grief or mourning. The different levels include denial, anger, bargaining and depression.

Grief is the reaction to a loss. It may be described as the symptoms that we feel when we are experiencing traumatic event (i.e. death), or it can be described as the emotions that we feel after a loss.

Another difference between bereavement and grief is that the first one is more of a clinical phenomenon whereas the latter is less clinical and more of an emotional experience. In other words, grief is more of an emotion whereas bereavement is more a clinical phenomenon.

Bereavement is a loss that deprives the bereaved of something important, while grief is an emotion that they are experiencing when they have lost something. Bereavement differs from grief in its intensity and duration, whereas grief can range from mild to intense depending on how much a person has lost.

Bereavement often comes after a death, but this is not always the case. Grief can come before or after a loss, although it is more common for it to come after.

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