What is Bereavement?

Bereavement is the period of time following a loss in which grief and mourning occur. While some cultures apply fixed time windows to bereavement (for example, in Jewish culture, families sit shiva for seven days following a death), bereavement is different for each person and loss. It’s also worth noting that bereavement may not be a single, fixed time window. Many people return to periods of bereavement on key dates, such a the birthday of a deceased loved one or the anniversary of their death.

What to expect during bereavement

The grief experienced during bereavement can take many forms--emotional, mental, physical or social--and no two people experience grief in the same way. You may find it hard to keep from breaking down into tears throughout the day, or you may never feel the need to cry. You may feel anger toward those around you, or you may find that you’re more nurturing than usually, helping others manage their grief. Resist the urge to compare your personal reactions to the reactions of others.

How to manage a period of bereavement

Start by acknowledging to yourself that you’re experiencing grief. You may need to adjust your expectations for yourself, as well as help others adjust their expectations of you for a period. If you work, ask whether your company has a bereavement policy, as you may be able to take paid (or unpaid) leave. If you’re unable to take time off, you should still let your boss and those you work with regularly that you recently lost someone. Tell them you’re going to do your best to stay on top of everything, but you may need extra support for a period.

You should also look at where you can cut back in your personal life. Consider taking a break from regular extracurricular activities for a time. If others offer to help, be as forthright as possible with what they can do to make your life easier. This could mean running errands, picking up children, bringing over food, or just being there to talk.

Getting help during bereavement

If you’re currently experiencing grief, consider getting professional help. This could mean attending a support group, talking to a grief counselor or reading books by grief experts. Here are a few books we recommend:

February 2018