The duel: dealing with the loss of a loved one

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

Human beings form relationships by nature. We are constantly interacting with those around us: we build bonds throughout our existence to meet our needs for safety and protection as children, develop our identity as a teenager and give and receive love as adults. This impulse to connect with the outside arises from the moment the baby is born and begins to relate to its mother.

Characteristics of the duel

It’s a process, it evolves in time and space, It’s normal (everyone can be a victim of a significant loss), it’s dynamic, it depends on social recognition, it’s intimate (each person wears it differently) but it’s also social because it involves cultural rituals and ultimately it is active, the person will make their own decisions and give them meaning. Its function is to determine the impact of the loss and to adapt to the new situation.

Normal bereavement

The grieving process is a mechanism to adapt to a loss, it is standardized because its characteristics are present in most duels. In normal grief, there are about six behaviors that normally occur: somatic or bodily discomfort, concern for the image of the victim, guilt related to the death or the circumstances of the death, hostile reactions, inability to act normally; and finally, many patients have developed the victim’s traits in his own behavior.

How long does the normal grieving process take?

The duration of the duel is between two and three years (If it is a significant person), it begins when the person begins to witness the separation and ends when they finally accept it.

It is also normal that some people affected by a traumatic event are aware, as a result of their adaptation, that they are experiencing positive changes in their life. 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. Post-traumatic growth can coexist with suffering. In fact, difficult emotions may be necessary for these changes to occur.

Phases of the duel

Normal grief is generally structured in successive stages:

1. Emotional denial

It’s a way of emotionally distancing yourself in fact, it’s the lack of reaction that ends when it happens, it should last between 2 weeks and 3 months.

2. Protest

It is done with the closest people even if the real anger is with the lost person, it is very necessary to express this step.

3. Sadness

This is where there is the most danger of stagnation, there is isolation from the world, you have to have 3 to 5 relationships with whom to talk about the loss.

4. Intellectual and global acceptance

He begins to come to terms with the fact, begins to have a hard time talking about it, and ends with small comments about the loss.

5. Look for global meaning

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

6. Elaboration and new hobbies

Being able to bond with other relationships without taking the place of the lost person.

Types of abnormal duels

In addition to normal grief, there are other more complicated or pathological types of grief:

  • chronic duel → of excessive duration, the person cannot turn the page.
  • delayed duel → the emotional reaction was not sufficient and manifests itself some time later, triggering it for example, through memories.
  • exaggerated duel → symptoms of excessive intensity and disabling.
  • masked duel → the person is not aware of the effects of the loss.
  • duel not allowed → the injured person is not socially recognized and their pain cannot be expressed publicly.

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

Clash of the duel

In the dueling process, there are two types of coping mechanisms: those oriented towards loss and those oriented towards restoration.

In order for the duel to be adjusted, these two mechanisms must occur in an oscillating fashion, although as the process progresses through time, restoration oriented mechanisms predominate.

The emotional needs of people who have suffered loss

Grieving people have certain needs that must be met in order to successfully cope with the loss.

  • They need to be heard and believed in their whole story of loss.
  • They need to be protected and have permission to express emotions.
  • They must be validated in the way they face the duel (knowing that what is happening to them is natural, well done and not bad to feel that way).
  • They must be in a supportive relationship with each other (Let the other person understand you through a similar experience or tell the other person what the affected person is talking about).
  • They must be defined individually and unique to experience the duel (which the rest of the people support in their way of enduring).
  • They need to feel that their grief is having an impact on others (Let your pain or your explanation of what you are suffering mark others).
  • They must be in a relationship where the other takes the initiative since they are not in a position, for example, to start talking about the subject.
  • And finally, they must be able to express their 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.


those affected not only do they have a sense of loss, but also a legacy of shame, fear, rejection, anger and guilt.. It is possible that a suicide duel is more intense and lasts longer than the duel due to some other type of loss.

The most notable feeling is shame, which affects both the individual and the family unit and the guilt, relatives take responsibility for the victim’s action and feel that they could have done something to help them. prevent this death or, conversely, the guilt is manifested by blaming other people for this death.

sudden death

They happen without warning. In this type of death, the loss is perceived as if it is not real, the mind does not take in such a sudden change specific treatment is therefore necessary to accept it.

perinatal death

In that case importance should be given to mourning the dead baby because, if it is not taken into account, it can encourage the parents to produce another pregnancy which would only serve to replace the previous one and later problems could arise.

Induced abortion

usually a masked duel that manifests itself through other events or factsWithout the patient knowing that they are due to the previous abortion, being a loss caused, do not generally talk about it and try to be quickly forgotten but a woman who does not deal with this loss may see subsequent losses intensified.

anticipated mourning

In the expected duel, death is known in advance, so the process or emotional reactions begin before the loss occurs. Prolonged grief can produce resentment and in turn lead to guilt. Early grief does not need to shorten or reduce the intensity of the grieving process after death


Due to the stigma of AIDS, it is really difficult to find social assistance for this duel because there is the fear of rejection or of being judged if the cause of death is discovered. Because of these fears, patient isolation is likely to occur. One emotional way to endure this type of grief is to support social groups that find themselves in the same situation.


To summarize, grief is a process by which anyone can be affected or involved at some point in life. It is a difficult but resolvable process in which the support of others is very much needed to overcome it. In the duel, the presence of a psychologist is not necessary to help us endure, but sometimes the service he can offer us is very useful.

There are many types of duels and many ways to endure, but they all have some common basics or principles that will help us identify it.

Grieving is a serious process that can cause many problems if not treated properly. it is vital to know him and to be ready to offer help to victims both from a professional standpoint and from a more up-close perspective, such as helping a family member or friend endure.

Bibliographical references:

  • AMELA, Victor-M. “Whoever commits suicide sees no other way out, he has no choice”, La Vanguardia, December 25-26, 2012, p. 56 (back cover)
  • Conangla, Maria Mercè. Lexis and affections, abandonment. Conangla, Maria Mercè. Emotional crises. Barcelona: RBA pocket, 2007, p. 189-190.
  • Neimeyer, Robert A. Learning from Loss. Barcelona: butxaca payós, 2007. ISBN 8449311799.
  • NOMEN MARTÍN, Leila. Mourning and death. Treatment of loss. Madrid: Pirámide, 2007. ISBN 9788436821420.
  • Payroll PUIGARNAU, Alba. The tasks of the duel. Psychotherapy of bereavement from an integrative-relational model. Madrid: Paidós, 2010. ISBN 9788449324239.
  • WORDEN, William J. Treating Bereavement: Psychological Counseling and Therapy. Barcelona: Paidós, 2004.ISBN 9788449316562.

Leave a Comment