Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 131
  • Print publication year: 1993
  • Online publication date: May 2010

2 - The course of normal grief


Writing an essay on the course of normal grief is more difficult than immediately meets the eye. Grief is a natural phenomenon that occurs after the loss of a loved one. If grief is normal, what, then, is “normal” grief? In our experience, grief is such an individualized process - one that varies from person to person and moment to moment and encompasses simultaneously so many facets of the bereaved's being - that attempts to limit its scope or demarcate its boundaries by arbitrarily defining normal grief are bound to fail. With this in mind, the rest of this chapter should be read not so much as prescriptive of how the normal course of grief should run but, rather, descriptive of the many and varied ways people grieve the death of a significant other.

We begin with a brief review of the stages of grief, its expected duration, and definitions and purported determinants of grief's resolution. Following a discussion of the limitations of the approach, we outline a multidimensional approach to understanding the phenomena and course of grief and supplement the discussion with data from our own work on the multidimensional assessment of widowhood.

The stages of grief

In a similar manner to Kubler-Ross's conceptualization of staging death and dying (1969), many investigators of the process of grief and bereavement have proposed stages of normal grief (Bowlby, 1980/1981; Glick, Weiss, & Parkes, 1974; Pollock, 1987).