"Variables in Grief"
Just as no two people are exactly alike, no two people handle grief and loss in exactly the same way.
Each person who
experiences a particular death or loss may do so through a completely
different "filter". We will look at some of the more common
variables. (This short list is by no means all inclusive.)
Variable 1: Who was the person that died?
Most likely, each person mourning a death had a different relationship to the deceased person.
A. Those who were in a close relationship to the deceased
will usually have deeper feelings of grief.
B. A child that died will be grieved very differently than a
parent that died.
C. Grief will be different for an elderly grandparent than
for a younger spouse.
D. A cousin will be grieved differently than a relatively
unknown person from where you work.
Variable 2: The "Nature" of the Attachment
A. Generally speaking, the intensity of the grief will be
determined by the intensity of the love for the one
B. How necessary was the one who died to the survival
and well being of the who is grieving?
** Losing a parent or "life partner" can cause much
financial hardship and uncertainty. These factors
can bring about a much greater intensity of grief.
C. Was there "ambivalence" in the relationship?
"Ambivalence" is defined as having both positive and
negative feelings at the same time towards a person,
thing or activity. This mix of emotions can cause a
great deal of stress and make grieving a loss more
D. Were there conflicts with the deceased?
1) Not just before the death, but it could also
be a long-standing conflict or difficult
2) Was there a history of abuse earlier in life?
3) Did a co-dependent relationship exist with the
In these cases, there is a real possibility of "unfinished business" with the deceased (or a need for closure) that may require Grief Therapy at some point in time.
Variable 3: How did the person die?
The way a person dies will usually have a direct bearing on how the death is grieved.
The sudden death of child will be grieved very differently than the natural death of an elderly person.
A. Sudden or unexpected? - such as a car accident.
B. Violent or Traumatic?- victim of a crime, war, etc...
C. Near by or far away? - where did the death occur?
D. Preventable or negligent? - such as a drunk driver or
a careless act, or medical mistake, etc...
E. Ambiguous Death - no body due to violence of death,
such as an airplane crash or explosion.
F. Multiple Losses - house fire or auto accident that
claims multiple victims.
Variable 4: Personality Differences
A. Age and Gender of those mourning a loss.
Young children grieve very differently than teens
Also, many boys are raised to not cry or show
emotions. They may grieve very differently than their
B. Personal Coping Styles: each person has different
ways of coping with stress and problems. These
differences will also be seen in how each
C. Attachment Style: some people are very open to talk,
hug and show affection, others are much more
reserved with their show of feelings and reactions.
D. Optimistic or Pessimistic: those who are more
optimistic tend to find positive things even in
E. Ego Strength: generally speaking, those who have a
more healthy "sense of self" and self-confidence,
tend to handle the death of a loved one differently
than someone with low self-esteem, or someone
who is very co-dependent.
F. Individual Beliefs and Cultural Values: how someone
looks at life and the world in general also affects
their response to loss.
(1) Persons of faith often, but not always, look at
death as a transition from earth to Heaven or
at least to a "better place".
Faith also allows for hope of seeing the loved
(2) Persons with different beliefs about life will
naturally look at death differently too.
(3) Senseless tragedies such as a death caused by
a drunk driver, a violent crime or war, can
cause people to question their own faith
Variable 5: Social Support
The availability and quality of support after a loss is a very important factor.
Studies have shown that people with a good base of support from family, friends, and religious or cultural sources tend to handle grief and mourning better than those with less support.
Variable 6: Concurrent Stress
A. Financial Hardship - caused by the death of the
"bread-winner" adds to overall grief and uncertainty.
B. Displacement - from fire, flood or war adds a great deal
of hardship to normal grief and loss.
C. Death of several family members at once, can cause an
overload of grief and force the person to "shut