Grief & Loss

Grief is an emotional reaction that follows the loss of someone or something of great value. There is a difference between normal sadness and grief. Normal sadness is your emotional response to most losses, disappointments, and frustrations in life. When you experience normal sadness, you are able to describe why you are sad, respond to your environment in a normal way, and get over your sadness in a relatively short time.

Grief is different in its intensity, duration, and impact on functioning. For those vulnerable to depression, grief can evolve into severe depression requiring professional psychological and medical intervention. When a person has mixed feelings about someone who has died (anger or shame mixed with love), feelings of abandonment, or the loss was unexpected, that person's reaction may be more complex and disruptive to their life.

Grief is strongly associated with:

» Loss of a loved one (through death, or other means, such as divorce or serious injury).

» A change in body appearance (loss of body part, such as through mascotomy or other amputation)

» Loss of ability to maintain physical function (loss of walking or independent living)

» Loss of a job or social status

In the early stages of grief, almost any emotional reaction is possible. Most behavior will resolve over time, with the love and the support of friends and family. However, any of the following signs suggests that a normal grief reaction has become more complicated and will require professional intervention:

» Inability to function at work.

» Extreme feelings of guilt or worthlessness.

» Unexplained physical symptoms.

» Feelings of depression or nervousness that are getting worse at a month or more.

» Persistent sleep disturbance lasting more than 4-6 weeks, especially with early morning.
awakenings from which you cannot get back to sleep.

» Weight loss, more than 10-15 pounds.

» Suicidal thoughts you cannot get out of your mind.

Once these symptoms develop, the person is unable to think or “will” themselves out this complex grief reaction. Getting help does help.

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