Chapter 3: Grief and bereavement


The grief expert says
Dr. Chris MacKinnon explains how grief and bereavement are misunderstood. (3:22)Video transcript
Dr. Ken Doka explains that anticipatory grief often accompanies serious illness.(3:22)

The serious illness, dying and death of someone close to us may be one of life’s most difficult experiences. Bereavement refers to the death of someone significant. Grief is the emotional, physical, behavioural and cognitive responses to the death. The grief that is experienced prior to the death is called anticipatory grief. 

The patient may be grieving losses they experience as the illness progresses while also anticipating the loss of their future with the people they care about. The family may be grieving the impending death of someone important in their lives and the changes the death will bring.

Grief and anticipatory grief responses can be very similar and can range in severity from mild to intense distress. Generally, the closer to death the more pronounced the emotional reaction. 

Common responses to grief

  • Emotions such as sadness, guilt, anger and hopelessness.
  • A loss of connection to one’s social network.
  • Changes in behaviour.
  • Changes in the way we think and perceive the world.