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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Special Topics > Normal Grief
      Category : Health Centers > Mental Health (Mental Disorders)

Normal Grief

Alternate Names : Grieving, Mourning, Bereavement, Loss

Grief is a normal, usually painful, emotional response to a loss. Unlike depression, normal grief usually goes away in a reasonable amount of time. Grief is often accompanied by psychological, physiologic and behavioral reactions to an irrevocable loss.

What is the information for this topic?

Grief is an emotional reaction to a loss of some type. Mourning is the psychological process that individuals go through to cope with loss.

Grief can result from:

  • loss of a significant person. This can be either through death or the ending of a relationship.
  • changes in health or physical functioning, such as receiving a diagnosis of a chronic disease or losing the ability to walk.
  • change in physical appearance, such as loss of a body part or severe scarring.
  • loss of status, such as loss of a job.
  • Typically, people go through three stages of grief and mourning after a loss. Most people go through these stages in order. However, it is not unusual for people to experience them in a different order or go through a stage more than once.

    Stage one involves shock and disbelief and is characterized by:

  • numbness
  • throat tightness
  • crying
  • sighing
  • abdominal emptiness
  • sense of unreality
  • denial and disbelief
  • Stage two involves preoccupation with the loss and is characterized by:

  • anger
  • sadness
  • insomnia, or lack of sleep
  • loss of appetite
  • weakness
  • fatigue
  • guilt
  • dreams
  • thoughts of the loss
  • loss of interest in activities
  • social withdrawal
  • Stage three involves resolution and is characterized by:

  • pleasurable thoughts about the past
  • regained interest in daily activity
  • ability to form new relationships or roles
  • Some people can experience and resolve grief quickly. Others grieve a significant loss for years. It is not abnormal for people who have lost a spouse or child to feel grief on and off for the rest of their lives. Cultural differences play a part in how people grieve, as well. Usually the length and intensity of a person's grief depends on the closeness of the relationship to the person who is lost. The grief and pain created by the loss of someone very close will probably never be completely absent. It is realistic to expect that in time, the intensity, duration and frequency of the painful feelings will lessen.

    Grief and depression share many similar characteristics. These include:

  • sadness
  • crying
  • withdrawal
  • inability to sleep well
  • loss of interest in activities
  • There are, however, distinctions. Depression tends to be constant and long lasting. Grief, in contrast, is often described as coming in "waves" and then subsiding for a while. The shame and low self-esteem connected with depression are not present with grief. Finally, the complete sense of hopelessness that accompanies depression is often absent with grief.

    Author: Ann Reyes, Ph.D.
    Reviewer: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Date Reviewed: 05/02/01

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