When losing a loved one it is natural for a person to experience grief. Grief is a natural reaction to loss. Everyone will experience their grief in different ways. The process in which a person works through for their loss is called bereavement.
People tend to think of grieving as only mourning the death of a loved one. This is not always the case. People can grieve people. They can also grieve any object of affection and loss.
If a loved one is lost, it is socially acceptable to grieve the loss of that loved one. Sometimes, grief and bereavement can be experienced by elements that are less socially accepted. Some examples are the death of a pet or ending of a relationship.
It is important to note that everyone grieves differently. Everyone will have their own unique bereavement process. It will take time to heal, and some will need more time and guidance than others.
Symptoms of Grief
Like any mental health issue, grief and bereavement has symptoms. Symptoms of grief are situational, and tend to cause many confusing feelings and behaviors for the affected person.
Symptoms of grief include:
- Mood swings
- Denial of the situation
- Difficulty feeling or understanding emotions
- Depression or depressed mood
- Resistance to moving on without the lost person or object
- Crying spells
- Anger and rage
- Questioning of religious and spiritual beliefs
- Difficulty managing stress
- Emotional eating, or change in appetite
- Lack of motivation
- Withdrawal from work, friends and family
- Lack of interest in personal hobbies
Causes of Grief
The most understood and accepted form of loss is death, but it is not the only thing that people lose throughout their lifetime. People can also feel grief and work through their bereavement process after the loss of other things, like:
The loss or ending of a relationship
Grief can be felt when a person experiences a loss or ending of a relationship. Both romantic relationships and friendships are deeply valued by people. When the integrity of such a relationship is compromised it can cause a person to experience grief.
Some examples that could cause grief of the loss or ending of a relationship include:
- A dramatic change or ending or a friendship or relationship
- The disappearance of a family member or friend
- Watching a family or friend suffer from addiction
- The moving or relocating of a good friend or family member
The loss of financial security
Financial security is deeply valued by people. Financial security brings a sense of safety. It also brings a sense of pride and status that people value. When financial security is lost a person can experience grief.
Some examples that could cause grief of the loss of financial security include:
- The loss of a job
- A missed financial or career opportunity
- A failed business venture
A decline in health
A person’s abilities and autonomy are compromised when their health begins to decline. The new struggles that come with a decline in health can lead to a sense of loss. It also causes anxiety and apprehension about the future, which is referred to anticipatory grief.
Some examples that could cause grief of a decline in health include:
- The anticipation of death or health decline in a loved one
- A decline in one’s own aging or functioning
- A decline in the aging or functioning of another
- A decline in the mental health of a loved one
- A decline in one’s own mental health
The loss of an object of value or affection
People develop deep connections to material objects, people who they relate to, and their pets. The loss of any of these objects of value and affection can result in grief. This form of grief is considered complicated grief, because the sentimental value is often not understood by others.
Some examples that could cause grief of the loss of an object of value or affection include:
- The death or disappearance of a pet
- The death of a celebrity
- The loss of material objects
Treatment Options for Grief
Many people are able to process their own grief without treatment, but treatment is recommended for people who are struggling to move forward.
It is not uncommon for an affected person to feel stuck. In such a situation it is best to seek therapy from a licensed mental health professional.
Without proper treatment, unresolved grief can cause permanent consequences, like:
- Inability to move forward with life
- Permanent personality changes
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Consequences to physical health and wellness
Therapy for grief and bereavement typically focuses on the 5 stages of grief:
A therapist will work with their patient to process each step. They will teach coping strategies for emotional distress.
Typically, a patient will be referred to individual therapy and possibly group therapy. A patient may also receive spiritual counseling if they have a strong belief system and feel they could benefit from spiritual guidance.