Bereavement usually refers to the grief associated with losing a loved one. Losing friends, family, and even pets to death is a universal human experience, but remains one of the most difficult and murky processes for humans to understand. There are hundreds of different strategies for coping with bereavement, from blocking out the emotions through distraction or work, to confronting grief head-on and managing it daily. The best strategy for coping with bereavement will depend largely on the situation; for many people, coping with bereavement is an intensely personal process that may be unique to the individual.
One very difficult situation is coping with bereavement in children. Young children may not have the vocabulary or comprehension to understand the process of death and loss, and may be confused, frightened, or simply unable to understand the idea of a permanent loss. Some experts suggest that parents and other guardians should be honest about death, and answer a child's questions on a level that he or she can comprehend. One of the most important issues to reiterate with children is that death is final; this may be difficult to get across to very young children.
There are many stages of bereavement; a grieving person may experience few, some, most, or all of them in an infinite variety of forms and patterns. Some experts suggest that there are four main stages of bereavement: the realization of a loss, experiencing the major emotions of grief, adapting to an altered world, and diverting energy away from grieving. People may experience these stages for different periods of time, and may move back and forth across stages. According to experts, there is no correct manner or length of time for grieving.
Many strategies for coping with bereavement stress the importance of finding a supportive community. Friends and family can be excellent sources of comfort and aid in some cases, but may not always be available or even sympathetic in all cases. If a family or social circle is not supportive of grief, experts often recommend seeking out a therapist or bereavement group. Therapists can be beneficial even for those with a strong family support system, because they represent an objective viewpoint on the situation and are not experiencing their own feelings of grief in the matter. Grief support groups can provide a bereaved person with a circle of acquaintances going through similar situations; this may combat feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Grieving for a loved one may fade with time, but may never entirely disappear. Some experts warn that people should prepare themselves for relapses into grief around significant dates, such as holidays, birthdays, or the anniversary of a death. It is natural to feel a resurgence of sadness around these times, and it may help to ask for support from friends and family members on important dates. Some people may find comfort in visiting their loved one's grave on important dates, while others may prefer to try and get through the day by distracting themselves with work or a project. Coping with grief brought on by important dates may also involve making a small tribute to the deceased in some way, as a means of honoring his or her memory.