Lesson 1: Definition of Terms


The terms “bereavement” (or “bereaved”), “grief” and “mourning” are sometimes used interchangeably, and sometimes more widely than in the context of death. There are even other words used as synonyms for “death” or “dead”, such as “passed” or “gone”. For the purpose of this course we define some of these terms more specifically.

Loss: The absence of someone (or something) significant to a person. In the case of death the physical loss is permanent and irrevocable.

Bereavement: The state of being resulting from the loss of a loved one by death. When a loved one dies, one is bereaved (originally meant “deprived of”).

Grief: The natural, personal, internal experience of bereavement. It is a traumatic occurrence experienced uniquely by each person.

Mourning: The external, outward expression of grief; also the process of or adapting to the new reality of living without the physical presence of the loved one.

The concepts of Grief and Mourning will each be discussed in future lessons.


Take some quiet time to reflect on the following questions and write down your responses.

  1. Did you know that grief and mourning are not the same thing? How does knowing this affect your experience of bereavement?
  2. In what ways have you mourned, i.e. expressed your grief externally?
  3. How has your mourning affected your grief experience?