Loss is an unavoidable part of life, and with it comes a wave of emotions that can be hard to understand and navigate. Knowing the difference between grief and bereavement is essential during these trying times. 

This article sheds light on five key aspects that distinguish these experiences. We aim to provide clarity and support as you move through these challenging periods. 

As you read on, you’ll discover the differences that separate the personal journey of grief from the more structured path of bereavement.

The 5 Key Differences Between Grief And Bereavement

Though the terms grief and bereavement are often used as if they mean the same thing, they actually refer to different aspects of losing someone or something precious. Here, we’ll explain these key differences so you can better understand the journey you or a loved one might be on.

1. Grief Vs. Bereavement: Defining The Terms

Grief is the personal feelings accompanying the loss of someone or something significant. It is the internal emotional response to loss and includes a wide range of emotions such as sadness, anger, confusion, and yearning.

Examples of Grief:

  • Feeling overwhelmed at a social gathering because it reminds you of the one you lost.
  • Struggling to concentrate at work due to recurring thoughts of the deceased.
  • Crying when hearing a particular song that was meaningful to the person who died.
  • Experiencing sudden anger at minor inconveniences.
  • Yearning for one more conversation with the loved one who passed away.

Meanwhile, bereavement is the state of having suffered a loss. It is the objective situation of having had someone die or having experienced some other type of significant loss (like a job, relationship, or health).

Examples of Bereavement:

  • Receiving condolence messages and visitors at home after a family member passes away.
  • Sorting through the belongings of the deceased.
  • Going through the legal processes of wills and estates.
  • Observing memorial rituals according to one’s faith or family traditions.

2. Cultural Grief Expressions Vs. Bereavement Rituals

Cultural expressions of grief are the deeply personal emotional responses that manifest after a loss. These expressions are influenced by cultural norms, but they vary widely among individuals. For instance, in some cultures, it’s common to openly display emotions such as crying or wailing, while in others, stoicism and quiet reflection are more the norm. 

In addition, an individual’s grief might manifest through a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, guilt, or numbness. It can be expressed in various ways, such as crying, writing, or talking about the deceased. 

Meanwhile, bereavement rituals are the structured, communal activities that cultures practice in response to death. These rituals, often steeped in tradition, provide a way for communities to come together, acknowledge the loss, and offer support to those who are grieving.

It often involves recognised rituals and customs, such as wearing black clothing, receiving visitors during a wake, or other cultural or religious practices. There is a social acknowledgement of one’s loss and often a community response to support the bereaved during the initial period following a loss.

In Singapore, where Buddhist and Taoist practices are prominent, these rituals take on specific forms. Buddhist funerals in Singapore often last for about 3 to 5 days, focusing on rituals that facilitate the transition of the soul. 

Chanting of sutras, meditation, and merit-making ceremonies are also common in Buddhist funerals. These practices are believed to help the deceased in their rebirth cycle and provide comfort to the bereaved, emphasising the impermanence of life and the importance of detachment and compassion.

Taoist funerals can be elaborate, sometimes lasting up to 7 days. They include rituals to appease spirits, offerings to ancestors, and practices to maintain cosmic balance. The Taoist approach to bereavement involves a series of complex rituals, including the burning of joss paper and food offerings, to ensure a peaceful transition for the deceased and to protect the living from misfortune. These rituals reflect a deep respect for the afterlife and the interconnectivity of the living and the dead.

3. Stages Of Grief Vs. Bereavement Processes

Grief is often described in stages or phases, with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) being the most well-known m odel. 

However, not everyone goes through all these stages, nor do they necessarily experience them in order. It’s more of a non-linear experience with individuals moving in and out of different emotions. 

What Are The Typical Grief Reactions?

Grief manifests in various mental, physical, emotional, and social reactions that are deeply personal and unique to each individual. Typical grief reactions may include the following:

  • Crying at unexpected times
  • Feeling mad at the person who died, yourself, or just at the world
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Not wanting to eat or eating too much
  • Pulling away from people and wanting to be alone

Although intense, these symptoms generally begin to ease within 6 to 10 weeks (Youdin, 2016), distinguishing them from the more enduring symptoms of complicated grief.

What Is Complicated Grief?

After the loss of a loved one, some individuals experience complicated grief. Complicated grief is when the hurt of losing someone doesn’t get any easier to bear as time goes by. It’s like being stuck in the darkest part of grief without moving forward.

Symptoms of complicated grief include the following: 

  • An intense longing for the deceased that doesn’t fade
  • Trouble accepting the death
  • Numbness or detachment
  • Anger and bitterness about the loss
  • Intrusive thoughts related to the death
  • Pronounced avoidance of reminders of the painful loss

Moreover, these symptoms can persist for six months or more, reflecting those commonly associated with major depressive disorder (Youdin, 2016). In such instances, it’s important for you or your loved one to seek professional help.

On the other hand, bereavement refers to the entire process of grieving and mourning after a death. It is a broader term that encompasses not just the emotional responses highlighted in the stages of grief but also the practical and social adjustments that come with a loss. 

This process includes adjusting to life without the deceased, handling logistical matters such as funerals or wills, and navigating changes in social and family dynamics. 

4. Emotional Vs. Practical Support In Grief And Bereavement

Grief support and intervention primarily concentrate on aiding individuals through the emotional journey that follows a loss, providing a safe space to navigate the complex feelings that arise. 

Below are specific therapy types that offer solace and understanding, each designed to foster healing and facilitate the grieving process.

How To Support A Grieving Person

There are different ways to help someone through grief:

  • Grief Counselling: Talking to a professional can help you understand and live with your grief.
  • Support Groups: Sharing your story with others who have similar experiences can be comforting.
  • Art Therapy: Sometimes, creating something can be a way to express feelings that are hard to put into words.

How To Support A Bereaved Person

Bereavement support is more about the practical things – helping with the funeral, making sure the person has food, and handling the paperwork that comes when someone dies.

Funeral service providers are crucial in supporting the bereaved by handling the practicalities of loss, allowing them to focus on their emotional healing. They have funeral directors who can assist with organising the funeral arrangements, ensure that the necessary documentation is completed, and even coordinate meals and other forms of practical support. 

Engaging with a funeral service provider not only eases the logistical burden but also offers a sense of security and comfort to those navigating the challenges of bereavement.

5. Grieving Vs. Mourning

It’s not uncommon for the terms grief and mourning to be used interchangeably in everyday conversation. While closely related in the context of loss and coping, each term carries its own distinct meaning, contributing to a deeper understanding of the emotional journey following a loss. 

Mourning can be seen as the outward expression of the internal experiences of grief and bereavement. It involves the rituals, customs, and behaviours that are socially and culturally prescribed for dealing with loss, such as funerals, memorial services, and other traditions. 

Unlike grief, which is a deeply personal and subjective experience, mourning is influenced and shaped by societal norms and expectations. It provides a framework through which individuals can externalise and process their grief in a socially recognised manner.

For those seeking to explore the differences and connections between grieving and mourning, this in-depth article on Grieving vs Mourning offers valuable insights. It delves into the nuances of each, providing a more detailed understanding of how we confront and move through the profound experience of loss.

 

Conclusion About The Difference Between Grief And Bereavement

Remember, grief is the tangle of feelings we deal with when someone important to us is gone, while bereavement is the state of having experienced that loss. Grief can last a long time and change in shape, while bereavement is more about the social side of losing someone.

If you’re walking through a time of grief or bereavement, know that you don’t have to do it alone. At Casket Fairprice, we understand these challenges deeply. We offer both funeral services and grief counselling, ready to stand by you in these challenging moments. 

We’re here to support you every step of the way, so feel free to contact us

 

Frequently Asked Questions About The Difference Between Grief And Bereavement

What Is Anticipatory And Disenfranchised Grief?

Anticipatory grief occurs when one experiences feelings of grief in anticipation of death or significant loss. At the same time, disenfranchised grief refers to grief that is not acknowledged by society, such as the loss of an ex-partner or a miscarriage.

What Is Uncomplicated/Normal Grief?

Uncomplicated or normal grief is the natural response to loss, involving a range of emotions and behaviours that typically diminish in intensity over time as one adjusts to life without a loved one.

What Are The Steps To Manage A Deceased Person's Funeral Service?

To manage a deceased person’s funeral service, one should contact a professional funeral service provider who can guide them through the necessary arrangements and logistics. 

Casket Fairprice Funeral Services offers comprehensive support and services to cater to your needs during this difficult time.

Where Can I Find Grief Support Groups In Singapore?

Grief support groups in Singapore can be found through hospitals, religious organisations, and community centres, such as the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH), which offers various support services and groups.

How Does Grief Affect A Person’s Mental Health?

Grief can significantly impact mental health, leading to conditions like depression and anxiety. Seeking support from mental health professionals and joining support groups is encouraged to manage these effects.

References:

Youdin, R. (2016). Psychology of Aging 101. New York: Springer Publishing Company.

Casket Fairprice Team

Casket Fairprice Team