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© 1987, The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska on behalf of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension. All rights reserved.


This guide defines loss, offers guidelines for dealing with grief and loss, presents psychological and emotional responses to loss, and describes ways to help people deal with bereavement.

Loss is defined as a "separation from, a detachment from something or someone of value." The magnitude of the loss and its meaning and value to the individual affects the intensity of a person's response. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to predict how any one person will respond to a particular loss. But it always causes some change in perception of one's self or lifestyle and some type of adaptation or adjustment is required.

Following a loss of great significance (e.g. death of spouse or child, divorce, loss of farm), a person normally moves from a period of acute emotional pain and sadness to a more comfortable emotional state. This movement through a series of adaptive stages is known as the grief process. It may take from several weeks to several years to adequately complete the process. No one can keep a person from suffering; but you do not have to suffer for the wrong reasons. We must choose what to remember of the past, cherish the joys of the present, and plan a future to which we can look forward.