Grief and bereavement both involve feelings of loss, however bereavement refers specifically to the process of recovering from the death of a loved one, while grief is a reaction to any form of loss. Both encompass a wide range of feelings and the process of learning to cope with significant loss. Both can vary dramatically from one person to another
Many people have strong grief reactions to the loss of a pet or friendship, or from issues that arise with aging or illness including a loss of independence or ability such as mobility, hearing or sight. Emotions are often surprising in their strength and they can also be confusing. Both grief and bereavement can be soothed and better understood through the process of therapy.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) does not define grief or bereavement as a disorder, but preexisting conditions like major depression, can complicate grief and bereavement. Normal symptoms of can mimic those of depression, but these symptoms typically pass within two months of the loss. For those who may be vulnerable to depression, grief and bereavement have the potential to precipitate a depressive episode, and for those who already experience depression, the grief and bereavement process can be prolonged and worsened by the depression. What distinguishes grief and bereavement from depression is that the feelings are specifically related to the loss or death, and depression is characterized by a general sense of hopelessness or worthlessness, despair, and lack of joy.