Episode: The Process of Grief


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The Process of Grief

Grief is the multifaceted response—emotional, behavioral, social—to a loss or major life adjustment (like a divorce, loss of a job, etc.). Bereavement is the process of grieving specific to the loss of affection or bond to a person or animal (Parkes & Prigerson, 2013; Shear, Ghesquiere & Glickman, 2013; Shear, 2015).

Some of the signs and symptoms of grief are:

-somatic symptoms (e.g. choking or tightness in the throat, abdominal pain or feeling of emptiness, chest pain)

-physiological changes (e.g. increased heart rate and blood pressure, increased cortisol levels)

-sleep disruption and changes in mood (e.g. dysphoria, anxiety, depression, anger)

(Buckley et al., 2012; Lindemann, 1944; O’Connor, Wellisch, Stanton, Olmstead & Irwin, 2012; Shear & Skritskaya, 2012; Shear, 2015; Zisook & Kendler, 2007)

Medical and psychiatric complications can also arise due to grief and include:

-An increased risk for myocardial infarction

-Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (Broken Heart Syndrome)

-The development of mood, anxiety and substance-use disorders (Cheng & Kounis, 2012; Keyes et al., 2014; Mostofsky et al., 2012; Shear, 2015).

Acute grief begins after a person has learned of the passing of a loved one (Shear, 2015). During acute grief, a person may experience immense sadness, yearning for the deceased, and persistent thoughts of the decreased (Maciejewski, Zhang, Block & Prigerson, 2007; Shear, 2015). Auditory and visual hallucinations are benign hallucinations commonly found in acute grief and involve the person seeing, talking to or hearing the voice of the deceased (Grimby, 1993).

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