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Grief and Bereavement Definitions

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In this manual, the term “family” refers to parents, legal guardians, siblings, grandparents and other close relatives. “Parent” refers to biological parents, formal and informal adoptive parents and legal guardians.

“Bereavement” is a term that covers the experience of parents and family in the anticipation of a death, the death itself and the subsequent adjustment to living following the death of a loved one.

Bereavement includes the adaptation of parents and family members and their expressions and experience of grief and the changes in relationships and circumstances.2

“Grief” is a term that refers to the specific cognitive, emotional and social difficulties following the death of a loved one.3

It describes an individual’s feelings and behavior in response to a death or loss. Grief is a natural response to a felt loss and a way of repairing emotional damage. Parents and family members vary in their experience of grief: its duration, expression and intensity.

“Mourning” refers to the social rituals and expressions of grief that are defined by family, culture or society.

Mourning can also be understood as the process of attempting to cope or learn to live with loss and grief.4 The term “grief process” is often used to describe “mourning.”