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The duel: facing the loss of a loved one

The duel: facing the loss of a loved one

December 3, 2022

The duel it is a process that takes place after a loss, whether it be a loved one, a job, a relationship, an object, etc. Grief affects psychologically though it also affects the behavior and physique of the person who suffers it . It is a necessary, universal and painful process. The important thing is to integrate it into life and reestablish a relationship with it.

Human beings establish relationships by nature. We are constantly interacting with those around us: we build links throughout our existence to meet our security and protection needs as children, to develop our identity as teenagers and to give and receive love as adults . This urge to connect with the outside arises from the moment the baby is born and begins to relate to his mother.

Characteristics of mourning

It is a process, evolves through time and space , it is normal (everyone can be a victim of a significant loss), it is dynamic, it depends on social recognition, it is intimate (each person carries it in a different way) but it is also social since it involves cultural rituals and, finally, it is active, the person will make their own decisions and give them meaning. Its function is to elaborate the impact of the loss and adapt to the new situation.

The normal duel

The process of mourning is a mechanism to adapt to a loss, it is normalized since its characteristics are present in most duels. At normal duel There are about six behaviors that occur normally: somatic or physical discomfort, concern for the image of the deceased, guilt related to the deceased or the circumstances of death, hostile reactions, inability to act normally and, finally, many patients developed some features of the deceased in his own behavior.

How long is the normal grieving process?

The duration of the duel is between two and three years (if it is a significant person), it starts from the moment in which the person begins to show the separation and ends when he accepts it definitively.

It is also normal that some people affected by a traumatic event may, as a result of their coping, experience positive changes in their lives. There are personality factors that can predict this post-traumatic growth which includes changes in oneself, in interpersonal relationships and in the philosophy or meaning of life. Posttraumatic growth can coexist with suffering. In fact, difficult emotions may be necessary for these changes to occur.

Phases of mourning

The normal duel is usually structured in stages that occur successively:

1. Emotional denial

It is a way to emotionally distance oneself from the fact, it is the absence of reactions that end when it occurs, it must last between 2 weeks and 3 months.

2. Protest

It is done with the closest people although the real anger is with the lost person, it is very necessary to express this stage.

3. Sadness

It is where there is more danger of stagnation, there is isolation from the world, it is necessary to have 3 to 5 relationships with whom to be able to talk about the loss.

4. Intellectual and global acceptance

The fact begins to be accepted, it begins costing to speak about it and it finishes with small commentaries on the loss.

5. Search for the global meaning

It consists of talking about everything that this relationship has implied in the person's life.

6. Elaboration and new attachments

Be able to link to other relationships without it being a replacement for the lost person.

Abnormal types of duels

Apart from the normal duel, there are other types of more complicated or pathological duels:

  • Chronic grief → of excessive duration, the person can not turn the page.
  • Delayed grief → the emotional reaction was not enough and manifests itself later, triggered for example, through memories.
  • Exaggerated grief or → symptoms of excessive and disabling intensity.
  • Masked duel → the person is not aware of the effects of the loss.
  • Unauthorized mourning → the mourner is not socially recognized and his pain can not be publicly expressed.

In the latter case, the absence of supportive contact at the time of the traumatic event and in the subsequent time is, in itself, another cumulative loss or trauma.

Coping with mourning

There are two types of coping mechanisms in the grieving process: the ones oriented to the loss and those oriented to the restoration .

For mourning to be adjusted, these two mechanisms must occur in an oscillatory way, although as the process progresses over time, mechanisms oriented towards restoration predominate.

The emotional needs of people who have suffered a loss

Grieving people have certain needs that must be satisfied to successfully overcome the loss.

  • They need to be heard and believed in all its history of loss.
  • They need to be protected and have permission to express emotions.
  • They need to be validated in the way of facing the duel (knowing that this happens to them is natural, it is well done and it is not bad to feel this way).
  • They need to be in a supportive relationship from reciprocity (that the other person understands thanks to a similar experience or that the other person "knows" what the affected person is talking about).
  • They need to be defined in the individual way and unique to live the duel (that the rest of people support their way of coping).
  • They need to feel that their grief experience has an impact on other people (let your pain or your explanation of what you are suffering mark others).
  • They need to be in a relationship where the other takes the initiative since they are not able to, for example, start talking about the subject.
  • And finally, they need to be able to express love and vulnerability in front of other people.

Development of special types of losses

There are certain ways of dying and certain circumstances that require special treatments that go beyond the usual processes. We review them below.


The affected not only are they left with the feeling of loss, but also with a legacy of shame, fear, rejection, anger and guilt . It is possible that a suicide duel may be more intense and last longer than the duel due to another type of loss.

The most remarkable feeling is the shame, which affects individually as well as the nucleus or family unit and guilt, the relatives assume responsibility for the action of the deceased and have the feeling that they could have done something to avoid that death or, for the On the contrary, guilt manifests itself by blaming other people for that death.

Sudden death

They occur without warning. In this type of deaths, the loss is perceived as if it were not real, the mind does not assimilate such a sudden change so a specific treatment is needed to help accept it.

Perinatal death

In this case it is necessary to give importance to the mourning of the deceased baby since, if it is underestimated, it can incite the parents to produce another pregnancy that would only serve as a substitute for the previous one and later problems could arise.


Usually a masked duel that manifests itself through other events or events , without the patient knowing that they are due to the previous induced abortion, since it is a provoked loss, it is not usually talked about and it is quickly forgotten, however, a woman who does not elaborate well this loss can see intensified later losses.

Anticipatory grief

In the anticipated duel, death is known in advance so the process or emotional responses are started before the loss is made . Prolonged grief can lead to resentment and, in turn, leads to guilt. The anticipated grief does not have to shorten or reduce the intensity of the process of mourning after death


Due to the stigma of AIDS, it is really complicated to find social support for this duel since there is fear of rejection or to be judged if the cause of death is discovered. Because of these fears it is likely that isolation will occur towards the patient. An affective way of coping with this type of grief is support in social groups that are in the same situation.


In summary, mourning is a process with which everyone can be affected or involved at some point in life . It is a difficult but resolute process in which the support of others is very necessary to overcome it. In the duel is not necessary the presence of a psychologist to help us cope with it but sometimes it is very helpful the service that this can offer us.

There are many types of duels and many ways to cope with it but all have common bases or principles that will help us identify it.

Grief is a serious process that can cause many problems if it is not treated properly so that It is vital to know about him and be prepared to offer help to victims both from a professional vision and from a closer vision such as helping a family member or friend to cope with it.

Bibliographic references:

  • AMELA, Víctor-M. "Qui suicida no veu cap altra sortida, no tea elecció", La Vanguardia, 25-26 December 2012, p. 56 (back cover)
  • CONANGLA, Maria Mercè. Lexicon and affects, Abandonment. CONANGLA, Maria Mercè. Emotional crisis Barcelona: RBA pocket, 2007, p. 189-190.
  • NEIMEYER, Robert A. Learning from loss. Barcelona: pocket paidós, 2007. ISBN 8449311799.
  • NOMEN MARTÍN, Leila. The duel and the death. The treatment of the loss. Madrid: Pyramid, 2007. ISBN 9788436821420.
  • PAYÁS PUIGARNAU, Alba. The tasks of mourning. Bereavement psychotherapy from an integrative-relational model. Madrid: Paidós, 2010.ISBN 9788449324239.
  • WORDEN, William J. The treatment of grief: psychological counseling and therapy. Barcelona: Paidós, 2004.ISBN 9788449316562.

The Death Crawl scene from Facing the Giants (December 2022).

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