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Factors Influencing the Grief Process


There are so many factors influencing the grief process that when we put them together, there are nearly infinite combinations. This is why grief seems so complex and what makes each grieving experience completely unique. For the sake of simplicity, we divide these factors into five groups.

The nature of the loss

  • What was your relationship to the person who died (parent, sibling, friend, colleague)?

  • What were the feelings between you and the person who died (close, indifferent, ambivalent, abusive)?

  • What was the amount of unfinished business?

  • What were some of the secondary losses as a result of the death (financial, social, personal)?

  • It’s important to never assume the significance of a death for an individual. For example, someone may grieve more over the death of their grandparent whom they had a very close relationship with, than over the death of their parent.

The characteristics of the mourner

  • What are your coping behaviours in general? Are you someone who faces things head on or is your tendency to withdraw and avoid things? Do you become aggressive during challenging times and/or abuse substances? Sometimes our coping strategies can become exaggerated after a loss.

  • What is your previous experience with loss?

  • What is your social, cultural, and ethnic background?

  • What are your spiritual or religious beliefs?

  • What are your family rituals and traditions around death?

  • What is the state of your emotional health?

  • What is your age and level of maturity?

The characteristics of the death

  • Was there a lengthy illness before the death or was it sudden?

  • Was the death violent in nature?

  • Did more than one person die at the same time or were there a series of deaths close together?

Social factors

  • What is your support system and if you have one are you using it? It is generally accepted that those who receive support do better than those who don’t.

  • What is your economic, occupational and educational status?

  • Was there a funeral service, memorial service or celebration of life?

  • Are there other stresses or crises currently going on in addition to the death?

Physiological factors

  • Are you getting enough rest and sleep?

  • Are you exercising? Exercise can provide a natural anti-depressant effect which is helpful during grief.

  • Are you eating well?

  • What is your current state of health?

  • Do you have any addictions? (alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, drugs, food.) The use of drugs, sedatives, and/or alcohol is not recommended as they inhibit the grief process.

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