Grief and Bereavement
Grief is the feeling of sadness, numbness, and/or anger that follows a major loss. Loss of a loved one, receiving a diagnosis of terminal illness or experiencing permanent disability, loss of a job, or the demise of a relationship can lead to grief. Grief and mourning are normal reactions to losing something or someone important. Bereavement is specifically the loss of a loved one due to death.
The experience of grief is different for everyone, although there are a few stages of grief that appear to be common in many people. These stages or symptoms do not occur in a specific order and can appear concurrently. The stages of grief are:
- Denial, numbness, or disbelief
- Anger or blame (of self, others, or both)
- Sadness, crying, loneliness, or low mood (temporary depression)
- Acceptance or coming to terms with the loss
While many people believe the stages or symptoms of grief are firmly codified, much of the experience of grief depends on what type of loss occurred. These general five symptoms can be broken down into more specific physical, mental, and emotional symptoms.
Physical symptoms of grief include:
- Nausea or upset stomach, sometimes in the “pit of stomach”
- Tightness in chest or throat, as if breathing is difficult
- Oversensitivity to noise
- Surreal or dissociated feelings
- Muscle weakness
- Lack of energy, fatigue, or increased need for sleep
Mental symptoms of grief can include:
- Preoccupation or being easily distracted
- Feeling like the person is still there
Emotional grief symptoms can include:
- Anxiety or fear
- Blaming oneself or others for the loss
In the case of bereavement specifically, the experience of a loved one’s death can be influenced by whether the person died suddenly or if their death was expected due to chronic illness. Since bereavement is a type of grief, symptoms are very similar, although during the most intense moments of the mourning period, they can appear similar to symptoms of major depression. Some of these symptoms include appetite and weight changes, insomnia, and prolonged periods of sadness. In some instances, bereavement and grief can trigger or contribute to major depression.