Nursing Sample Essay on Grief



Death is among the most devastating experiences for the family and friends of the departed. It brings with it the feeling of loneliness and despair, as well as loss of hope. There are terms that can be used regarding death and the period before and after the loss of a beloved. These terms include bereavement, grief, traumatic grief, disenfranchised grief, primary loss, secondary loss, ambiguous loss and mourning. The following is an overview of these terms.


This is an experience undergone by friends and family of a loved one in the period before death, at the time of death and the adjustments made after the loss (Wimpenny, 2006). Bereavement therefore refers to the state of living with a loss.


This refers to the affective reaction of an individual after the death of a kin or friend. Grief is therefore the entire experience of losing someone close to us through the person’s demise, and the subsequent emotional condition of the bereaved following the loss (Wimpenny, 2006).

Traumatic Grief

While death may be shocking to the loved ones, it may affect others differently. When the experience of grief goes on for a long time, and is extreme, this can be referred to as traumatic grief (Wimpenny, 2006). This is particularly accurate when the death of a beloved was unexpected, and occurred through either violence or an accident.  It may also be as a result of the individual’s inability to adapt normally to the loss of the loved one. Traumatic grief usually has substantial effect on an individual, and affects the person’s life.

Disenfranchised Grief

This is the feeling caused by a loss and subsequent downplaying of the loss by society. According to Attig (2004), the society denies such individuals the right to grief, therefore causing disenfranchisement of their grief. The loss may not be acknowledged by the society, for instance the loss of a pet, home, or in some cultures, a miscarriage.

Primary Loss

This refers to the immediate loss that one feel at the demise of a beloved. The very absence of the person, pet or the relationship as a result of death refers to primary loss (Wimpenny, 2006).

Secondary loss

The passing on of a beloved sets a chain reaction and therefore a number of other losses. While the initial death of the loved one is the primary loss, what one loses as a consequence of the death of the loved one is the secondary loss. Secondary losses therefore include things such as companionship for a couple or friend, lifestyle especially if the departed was the sole breadwinner, social status and support system.

Ambiguous Loss

This is demise of a beloved that does not offer closure for the individuals that remain behind. The loss is therefore clouded with a lot of confusion, and in case of death, while the person may be physically absent; they remain emotionally and psychologically present (Attig, 2004). This can also occur to individuals whose loved ones are not dead, but are away for a number of reasons, such as an adopted child longing for his/her birth parents.


This refers to the visible act of grieving (Wimpenny, 2006). It is the external expression of bereavement and may include private or public display of such actions. In other cases, mourning may involve cultural rituals according to societal customs and traditions for the process.


Attig, T. (2004). Disenfrachised Grief Revisited: Discounting Hope and Love. OMEGA, 49(3):197-215

Wimpenny, P. (2006). Literature Review on Bereavement and Bereavement Care. Aberdeen: Robert Gordon University