Although the word can encompass any aspect of being deprived of something, the term bereavement finds its most stinging reality in the loss felt following a death. We tend to want to limit the time parameters to the days immediately surrounding the funeral and burial, the pains of bereavement usually continue for a much longer period of time.
Condolences are words of sympathy that are offered as an expression of compassion toward the one who has suffered an intense loss. Expressions of true condolence first attempt to put words where words are not easily found. When the pain of loss is overwhelming, no words will lessen the emotions, let alone remove them. Condolences acknowledge that words are not enough.
Coping is spending a conscious effort to handle personal and interpersonal problems minimizing their levels of stress and conflict. The tools that are used to accomplish this task are often called “coping skills” or “coping tools.” With regard to the death of a loved one, one speaks of the ability to cope with – deal with – the effects and consequences of the loss.
Epitaphs are known for spinning plays on words, attempting to capture the essence of life in a handful of thoughts. They may be clever, funny, or poignant. Gregory Nunn, former athlete and now an agent for several NBA players, once said that “the most touching epitaph I ever encountered was on the tombstone of the printer of Edinburgh. It said simply: He kept down the cost and set the type right.”
Above all else, grief is a response to loss. It may take several shapes and forms – from painful and passionate tears to striking outbursts of anger. Grief is experienced on physical, mental, emotional, social and philosophical levels. Though the terms are often used interchangeably, bereavement is the state of loss; grief is the response to the loss.