from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Grief is a mood of feeling caused by a serious loss , for example caused by the loss of a loved or adored person, by an ideal loss or the memory of such losses.

Grief from a psychological point of view


Mourning or mourning denotes

  • an emotional state. It is a feeling of dejection , an emotional numbness or freezing or the onset of violent emotions such as pain , panic , sadness , anger , feelings of guilt , a lack of zest for life (short or long-term) or a spiritual withdrawal , a severe offense ;
  • a process in coping with separation, illness , dying and in particular as a reaction after the death or other loss of a loved one or in the event of any other severe loss (vital or symbiotic people, skills, possibilities, perspectives, visions, animals, plants and objects);
  • a special type of clothing that is worn as an expression of the pain at the loss of a loved one (" wearing mourning "). Nowadays in Central Europe it is only customary for the funeral itself. Previously there were detailed regulations on the duration of full mourning and half mourning, which varied depending on the degree of relationship to the deceased. So the widow wore black for a year ;
  • an official state that can be prescribed by the government in the event of an accident or after the death of a high-ranking person; see also state mourning .

In a broader sense, one differentiates between the following types of grief: exaggerated, chronic, masked and belated grief (English: complicated grief, traumatic grief).

Grief and grief

The mourning process , the mourning itself, has different aspects. (See also sadness , pain .) In humans, the state of grief has, in addition to the emotional aspect (such as depression), a behavioral aspect, which is about coping with and processing the emotional pain, which is caused by the loss of a loved one or Animal caused. Triggers can be the death of friends, relatives or pets, but also separations of other kinds (house, home), which mean the "spatial loss" of loved ones or loved ones.

Overcoming grief

Physical activity or distraction can suppress grief or relieve it in the short term. You can also try to make up for the loss. Funeral customs or rituals and funeral ceremonies are considered part of culture and cultural history; some have been practiced for centuries. Such possibilities are played out through memory and symbolically repeated retrieval and renewed giving away of the mourned person, an exposure to the extreme situation of loss and can facilitate gradual acceptance and detachment. This so-called grief work can help. The lawsuit and conversations are constitutive . The place of grief and / or the associated situation can also be significant .

The grief usually comes in several phases.

  1. Most of those affected experience an acute stress reaction ("shock") at times ; they cannot admit that a person or animal has died or that a grave loss is to be expected.
  2. You experience a period of dejection . Mindlessness, fear of the future and / or strife with fate dominate the thoughts. Disorientation, forgetfulness and / or physical reactions (such as loss of concentration, sleep disturbances , loss of appetite or weight loss ) often occur . It is difficult to pay attention in contact with others and for everyday tasks. Mourners experience feelings of abandonment, guilt, and other symptoms of malaise and fatigue .
  3. In a further phase, wounds “heal”. The thought of the deceased or lost person (including animals, house, home, work) makes you less desperate. The mourners manage to concentrate better again, to adequately perceive the here and now and to focus on the future. Ideally, the mourner will regain emotional equilibrium and feel happiness and other positive emotions. He can find new meaning .

During or after dealing with the grief, new perspectives can open up that are independent of the bereavement: new relationships, changes in behavior. In this way, grief that has been dealt with can also set in motion or facilitate learning processes. If the grief work and / or heavy additional stress still demands too much energy, this can inhibit the learning process.

Recently there have been funeral journeys. The participants of such a trip (group) (mostly under 20) get into conversation during the mourning trip; this should encourage and facilitate their grief work.

Mourning phases (models)

Jacek Andrzej Rossakiewicz: Pietà (1990)

Phase and goal-oriented models of the grief process

In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross described five phases of dying in a model of step-by-step behavior, reflection, rebellion and acceptance of the situation, fears and desires of the dying person (the dying person is always also a mourner). The phase model includes the social environment and can also be used in the mourning process for accompanying and explaining the grief of relatives and friends.

In 1970, the British grief researchers John Bowlby and Collin Murray Parkes presented a four-phase model, which Verena Kast merged with the Kübler-Ross model in 1982 and - with the inclusion of elements of analytical psychology - processed into a four-phase model. In 1972 Yorick Spiegel had already presented a psychoanalytically oriented model of the phases of grief.

In 1982 J. William Worden presented a model that consisted of four tasks of grief work and should not be understood as a phase model. He developed this further in 1991 and 1996 and added a fifth task.

Mourning process in four phases according to Kast

This classification is based on Verena Kast and is based on recommendations by John Bowlby and Collin Murray Parkes. These theories about Verena Kast's mourning process are based strongly on Kübler-Ross's model of the phases of dying and distinguish between four phases, which usually take place successively and not strictly separated from one another.

First phase
Not wanting to believe: The loss is denied, the mourner mostly feels numb and is often rigid with horror: "It must not be true, I will wake up, this is just a bad dream!" The first phase is usually short, it lasts from a few days to a few weeks. But the more unexpected death occurs, the longer it usually takes to cope with this first phase.
Second phase
Emerging emotions: In the second phase, grief, anger , joy , anger , feelings of fear and restlessness are experienced all together , which are often associated with sleep disorders. The search for one or more “culprits” may begin (for example doctors, nursing staff). The actual course of the phase depends heavily on the relationship between the bereaved and the lost, whether, for example, problems could still be discussed or whether a lot was left open. Strong feelings of guilt about relational experiences can cause one to stop at this level. Experiencing and letting in aggressive feelings helps the bereaved not to sink into depression. Because self-control is a high value in our society and, depending on family and social characteristics, there can even be a tendency to completely suppress grief, there are often great difficulties in coping with this phase. By actually experiencing and allowing the appropriate emotions, the next phase of grief can be reached.
Third phase
search, find, separate: In the third phase of mourning, the lost person is unconsciously or consciously “sought” - mostly where he was to be found in life together (in rooms, landscapes, in photos, also in dreams or fantasies ...). Confronted with reality, the mourner has to learn again and again that the connection has changed drastically.
At best, the lost person becomes an “inner companion” with whom one can develop a relationship through inner dialogue. In the worse case, the mourner lives a kind of pseudo-life with the lost, nothing is allowed to change, the mourner becomes alienated from life and the living. But when the lost person becomes an inner person who can develop and change, the next phase of grief work is reached. It turns out to be particularly helpful if, in this phase of searching, finding and separating, unresolved problems with the lost person can also be dealt with. Sometimes there are also outbursts of anger in the third phase.
Fourth phase
New self and world reference: In the fourth phase, the loss is accepted to the extent that the lost person has become an inner figure. Opportunities in life that were achieved through the relationship and which were previously only possible within the relationship can now in part become possibilities of their own.
New relationships, new roles, new behavioral options, new lifestyles can become possible. The fact that every relationship is transient, that all involvement with life borders on death, can be integrated as an experience. Ideally, despite this knowledge, you can get involved in new bonds, because you know that it is difficult to endure losses, but possible and that there is also new life in you.

Mourning process in four phases according to Yorick Spiegel

The systematic theologian Yorick Spiegel also described four phases of mourning in his 1972 habilitation thesis; however, they differ from the phases described by Kast.

Shock phase (confronting phase)
first shock after the news of death. This first phase is quite short, it lasts from a few hours to a few days. The strength of the shock often depends on whether the relatives received the news of death unexpectedly (in the event of an accident) or whether they were prepared for this death due to a long illness. But despite the distinctions, no general statements can be made about the severity of the shock to be expected. Those affected perceive relatively little of their environment during this time, and their behavior after the news of death is very different. They are often difficult to address; Depending on the severity of the shock, signs of the collapse of their personal world appear, but this is usually kept under control by the relatives. Support from other relatives gives the person most affected the opportunity to control their own feelings: This already marks the next phase. The phase of shock is very important for triggering the grief process and for the beginning of the grief process.
Controlled phase
Control of one's own emotions through various activities (one's own and others); During this phase a twofold form of control is exercised: on the one hand, the mourner tries to control his feelings and affects, on the other hand, family members and friends intensify their efforts to prevent a possible breakdown and to take the necessary steps without major complications how to organize and conduct the funeral. These and other services of a social nature are intended to relieve the mourner as much as possible so that self-control is made easier for him. Nevertheless, the mourner experiences himself to a large extent as passive in this phase and is hardly able to make his own decisions. The strong self-control creates an inner distance to reality and the immediate environment of the mourner, and it is precisely the bustle of his environment that lets him (the mourner) feel how great the distance has become between himself and himself.
In addition, behind the controlled facade of the mourner spreads a feeling of emptiness, which the world recognizes intellectually and practically, but in a certain sense denies emotionally. - This denial or suppression of the situation is a defense mechanism that maintains self-control in many cases. The high degree of energy required for this self-control becomes clear from the fact that the strong concentration of forces on the point alone often leads to communication disorders. The mourner often only speaks the bare essentials with the people around him; Despite all efforts and consideration for him, he experiences this (controlled) phase at an unreal distance from his surroundings and from himself. The end of the controlled phase is indicated by the departure of relatives and friends after the funeral.
Regression phase
Extensive withdrawal from "normal life", dealing with grief. In this phase the mourner is completely thrown back on himself. The helpful activities of the environment have ceased, and in the gradual understanding of his situation he is confronted with the complete breakdown of the common world of existence with the deceased. He reacts to this on the one hand with greatly increased emotionality and also with aggressiveness. On the other hand, he withdraws very much and, after giving up part of the previously laboriously maintained self-control, more or less abandons himself to helplessness.
He often behaves in a dismissive manner towards accommodating or the help of friends or relatives, although at the same time he wants their help. The externally observable symptoms in this phase include anorexia , weight loss , digestive problems , insomnia, permanent fatigue, increased use of narcotics such as alcohol, nicotine and medication. In order to cope with the current crisis, the mourner tries to fall back on previous crises, but their coping and defense mechanisms usually prove to be inadequate. As a result, he abandons himself to helplessness and withdraws entirely to earlier stages of development. In the regression phase, the mourner is in a kind of “intermediate state”; That is, due to the not yet completed detachment from the deceased and the withdrawal from the living, it cannot be decided to which of the areas he belongs more. The ambivalence of this situation lends the experience and feelings of the mourner a great unreality.
In dealing with such ambivalence, the mourner tries more and more to live with the situation and to adjust to the resulting consequences, which finally initiates the adaptive phase.
Adaptation phase (adaptive phase)
slow return to life and new ability to relate. The mourner tries to slowly get back to his old life, but the loss will always stay in the heart. But the mourner cannot withdraw forever.
In this phase, coping with grief is by no means continuous: it is possible to step back briefly into previous stages of the grief process. The whole heaviness of the grief can be there again, but the sections usually subside faster.

Grief work

In Memoriam , painting by Alfred Stevens , around 1860

The process of grieving is not a passive process in which something happens to you; Rather, the mourner has to become active and solve a number of tasks, whereby support can be given to him in grieving (e.g. encouragement, guidance, psychotropic drugs and accompaniment). This “work” only guarantees a “normal” mourning process; if the mourning work is not done, the mourning process can no longer be completed. Pathological grief processing is the result.

Yorick Spiegel names the following tasks that the mourner has to solve:

  • Release of grief,
  • Structuring,
  • Recognition of reality,
  • Decision to live,
  • Expression of unacceptable feelings and desires,
  • Evaluation of the loss,
  • Incorporation of the deceased,
  • Chance of reorientation.

Incidentally, no clear statements can be made about which task should be tackled by the mourner at what point in time. The areas partially overlap and must be addressed at the same time; - but the mourner can also be fixated on the solution of just one particular problem for a long time .

Furthermore, the mourning process is individual, i.e. different for each person. Sometimes the phases mentioned are not passed through, or only barely noticeably. The phase models are therefore not to be viewed as static conditions, but as support for those affected to go through their personal mourning process.

Sigmund Freud , the founder of psychoanalysis , understood grief work to be a process by which the libido is withdrawn from the person to be mourned and thus free again for other occupations. As a result, the ego can be "free and uninhibited again after completing the mourning work".

Mute sympathy

The mourner should be given the opportunity to express his feelings. Attentions signal a bond with the mourner. Personal farewell to the dead should be made possible. Silent sympathy is expressed by postcard, mail, phone call and short visit.

Funeral manners

Discarded flowers and candles as a token of mourning after the November 13, 2015 attacks in Paris
Mourning flags - flags at half mast in front of the Vienna Parliament building

Secular mourning customs in German-speaking countries

With the secularization of the sepulchral culture , funeral customs and types of burial have also changed in German-speaking countries since the 1970s . Mourning clothing, which traditionally was often worn during the entire period of mourning, is now mostly only used on the day of the funeral. Elaborate ceremonies and even tombstones , which remind of the deceased, can be dispensed with, a professional and non-denominational orator can take the place of a priest at funeral ceremonies on the occasion of the funeral .

Newly created mourning rituals are the planting of a memory tree or the setting up of wooden crosses, bouquets of flowers or candles on the roadside after a fatal accident or an act of violence. The community of relatives of AIDS sufferers has been commemorating their deceased since the 1980s with hand-sewn quilts ( AIDS Memorial Quilt ).

Even today, it is common for mourners to announce their death in the form of a family report or by means of printed memorial letters, known in Austria as " Parten ". The spectrum of modern forms of condolence ranges from verbal expressions of condolence, condolence cards and condolence book entries to flower and wreath donations (which are often replaced by donations to charitable institutions at the request of the bereaved) to condolence entries in virtual cemeteries . The bereaved thank them in another newspaper advertisement or printed cards or letters for the condolences they received.

Today grief counseling is often provided not only by relatives, friends, acquaintances and pastors , but also by psychotherapists , self-help groups , grief networks and undertakers who train employees in special seminars.

Further mourning customs in German-speaking countries


From the point of view of the Christian faith , grief is a human condition and can include another dimension through prayer. Solidarity with those who mourn becomes a special form of charity - and everyone can contribute by not refusing to contact or talk to a grieving person out of shyness. Comforting those who mourn, burying the dead, and praying for the living and the dead are works of mercy .

Part of the Christian funeral is the request that everyone present be ready for their own death. By saying goodbye to the concrete dead, the view is widened to the fact that every human being is mortal and that parting / death is a constant motif in life.

Christians understand death as a transition to eternal life with God.

Christian rituals and forms of worship

In some places, various special forms of worship are customary during the course of the time of mourning:

  • Prayer in the house of mourning (also called blessing)
  • Death rose wreath
  • Church burial
  • Requiem (named after the opening word of the opening chant in the form of the celebration in Latin) (Eucharistic celebration in close proximity to the burial, i.e. immediately before or after the burial)
  • Word of God celebration (in the immediate vicinity of the funeral, i.e. immediately before or after the funeral)

Later in time:

  • Seventh (Eucharistic celebration seven days after the burial)
  • Thirtieth (Eucharistic celebration thirty days after burial)
  • Six weeks office (Eucharistic celebration about six weeks after the burial)
  • Annual office (Eucharistic celebration on the first day of death)

Regularly recurring celebrations:

  • annual Eucharistic celebration on All Souls Day or (for special groups) on a day in November (anniversary)

Such a ritual is offered for the mourners to mark a certain period of time and to commemorate the deceased in a worship service.

Special projects

In 2007, the Limburg diocese set up a special mourning center for the first time in the Church of St. Michael in Frankfurt-Nordend .


In Hinduism , death is not understood as an end, but as a transition into another state of being. The burial is followed by a mourning period of around 13 days. The family of the deceased is considered unclean at this time. In addition to ritual baths, it is common for male relatives (especially sons) to have their heads shaved on the tenth day. The relatives are allowed to let their feelings run free during the mourning period, but not to participate in religious ceremonies. Certain foods (sweets) are also not allowed. These measures are intended to ensure that the soul of the deceased can rise to its new form unhindered. The - actual or symbolic - donation of a cow is also common. The traditional color of mourning is white. People who are close to the deceased or relatives express their condolences personally and bring flowers that are laid at the feet of the deceased if he is laid out in the house; More distant friends send flowers and possibly a card. On the first anniversary after death, the Shraddha ceremony is performed, in which the mourners offer a sacrificial food ( pinda daan ) to the soul ( pitṛ ) of the deceased .

Traditional funeral customs in China

In imperial China there were mourning officers who supervised the funeral rites.

In China, too, death is traditionally not considered the end, but the transition of the soul into an eternal existence. The Confucianism , the Chinese thought has influenced more than any other philosophy, but designed this eternal existence not so much as immortality of the individual, but rather as a continuity of the family . The family is everything in China, and the individual without a family is nothing. In China, mourning manners are an expression of filial piety and the duty of the boys to those who preceded them, to whom they owe everything they have and what they are.

The eldest son of the deceased's family also has a key role in funeral customs because he guarantees the continuation of the family line. He goes from house to house and kneels down to deliver the news of his death to the neighbors and relatives. It is very common and expected to cry and lament loudly on receiving a death notice and during mourning, even if one is not sad. This is especially true for the oldest son. It is unusual, however, to talk about one's grief ; Talking a lot about feelings is traditionally considered unhealthy in China.

The coffin with the deceased was traditionally laid out in the house or courtyard of the relatives for at least a week's wake ; the relatives were not allowed to wear jewelry or red clothing during this time . Children and daughters-in-law - who were expected to grieve the greatest - wore black and a sackcloth hood, grandchildren wore blue and great- grandchildren wore light blue. Sons-in-law were viewed as outsiders and were allowed to wear lighter colors. Blood relatives and daughters-in-law had to weep and lament loudly throughout the wake.

Traditionally, a 100-day mourning period began after the burial. To indicate their grief, the relatives wore a piece of colored fabric on their sleeves during this time: the children black, the grandchildren blue and the great-grandchildren green. In very tradition-conscious families, the colored pieces of fabric were worn for up to three years. The deceased's descendants were not allowed to cut their hair for the first 49 days. Special rules also applied to the eldest son of the family, who was neither allowed to wear the color red nor to marry for the first six months after the funeral. A period of mourning was only required for the death of family members in the ascending line ; when a child or a wife died, the mourning period could be omitted entirely - because it was not about feelings, but about fulfilling one's duty to previous generations.

Another Chinese specialty is the annual Qingming Festival , a funeral festival where flowers and gifts are brought to the deceased.


See also


Publications in book form

Contributions to compilations and journal articles

  • Eberhard Aulbert, Friedemann Nauck, Lukas Radbruch (eds.): Mourning in palliative medicine. In: Textbook of palliative medicine. Schattauer, Stuttgart (1997) 3rd, updated edition 2012, ISBN 978-3-7945-2666-6 , pp. 1173-1194.
  • Christian Metz: The many faces of grief: Suggestions for dealing with grief and mourners , in: Palliative Care and Psychotherapy, Volume 1, Number 3, pp. 177–186. available online
  • Monika Müller: grief. Lecture as part of the event "Now it should slowly be good again ..." - dealing with grief. held on February 17th, 1995, Karl-Rahner-Akademie , Cologne 1995, DNB 946124353 .
  • Chris Paul , Monika Müller, Understanding and accompanying grief processes in: Cornelia Knipping (Ed.), Textbook Palliative Care, 2nd, revised and corrected edition, Bern 2007 (= Fachpflege - Palliative Care) ISBN 978-3-456-84460-2 , Pp. 410-419.
  • Chris Paul : Naming grief processes, in: Chris Paul (Ed.) New ways in dying and grief counseling. Background and experience reports, completely revised and supplemented new edition, Gütersloh 2011, ISBN 978-3-579-06835-0 , pp. 69–84. (As a result of a working group (2007–2009) (Christian Fleck, Christina Kudling, Susanne Kraft, Chris Paul, Dieter Steuer) of the then Federal Working Group on Trauerbegleitung (now Bundesverband Trauerbegleitung eV) the text clarifies the terms "not difficult" - "difficult" - "Complicated grief" / "prolonged grief disorder", "traumatic grief") available online (PDF; 3.5 MB) published in a short version , in: Leidfaden, 2013, issue 2. (PDF; 85 KB)

Trade journal

Web links

Wiktionary: grief  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Grief  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. James N. Butcher, Susan Mineka, Jill M. Hooley: Clinical Psychology (Pearson Studies - Psychology). Pearson Studies, 2009, ISBN 3-8273-7328-X .
  2. Udo Baer, ​​Gabriele Frick-Baer: On mourning and letting go (library of feelings). Beltz Verlag, 2016, ISBN 978-3-407-85869-6 .
  3. Carmen Stäbler: Farewell to the beloved animal - a guide for dealing with grief. 2004
  4. Anja Haegele : People always die . Impious or helpful? - Tour operators discover mourners as a target group. In: Die Zeit 19/2010 of May 6, 2010, page 66 (online at
  5. Sigmund Freud : Mourning and Melancholy . In: Collected Works . tape X , S. 428–446 ( [accessed July 22, 2020]).
  6. Volker Faust : Mental Health 156: Grief. Liebenau Foundation, Mensch - Medizin - Wirtschaft, Meckenbeuren-Liebenau, 2020. (First phase petrification, second phase emotional waves, third phase withdrawal, fourth phase devotion to the world. Help through silent sympathy).
  7. Between ritual and individuality
  8. Obituaries
  9. ↑ Grief counseling
  10. a b Memorial page of the Abbey of St. Boniface Munich for Matthias Leidenberger
  11. Memorial page of the Abbey of St. Boniface Munich for Odilo Lechner
  12. Antyeshti: Funeral Rites ( Memento of the original from November 29, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. ; Sharing in another's grief ; The Journey of a Lifebody ( Memento November 12, 2003 in the Internet Archive ); In Action - Seven days in the quake zone @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  13. Chinese Funeral Customs ( Memento of the original from November 21, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Multicultural Interview - Grief in the Chinese Culture ; Chinese Beliefs  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /