Factors Influencing Grief Responses

In each situation in which an individual (or group) experiences a loss, the responses may differ greatly from previous responses to similar losses.

No two losses are the same. No two relationships are the same. No two points in time are the same. Many factors vary, and so our grief responses vary also.

When thinking of how a person is grieving (or how we are ourselves, grieving) consider the following factors that are in place NOW that may not have been in place in the past at a time of significant loss.

  • Current health situation
  • Relationship with person who has died/thing which has been lost
  • Age of person grieving
  • Previous experience of grief
  • Cultural background
  • Belief system
  • Financial situation
  • Knowledge around cause of loss/death
  • Personality
  • Concurrent losses/changes occurring
  • Support systems – family/friends/community
  • Cause of death (i.e. expected or not expected)
  • Expectation of death
  • Recognition of loss by others (i.e. disenfranchised grief)
  • Social ‘acceptability’ of cause of death
  • Social ‘acceptability’ of relationship of bereaved to deceased
  • Ability to communicate feelings
  • Language levels

There are many other factors also. It can assist us, when supporting others, to recognise the cumulative effect of changes and transitions in a person’s life journey.

A major loss rarely occurs in isolation, and to be capable of assessing the overall impact of grief on an individual is one of the first steps to appropriate support.