Grief and Bereavement (cont.)
Opening the Floodgates
Grief may cause significant physical symptoms and psychological distress.
- Physical manifestations of grief
- loss of appetite
- changes in weight
- trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- chest pain
- hair loss
- gastrointestinal distress
- Risk for health problems and death: Grieving people are at increased risk for health problems and death.
- Physical complaints such as changes in weight, chest pain, and palpitations, while often seen in the bereaved, nevertheless should be discussed with a doctor
since they may be due to other conditions.
- Chest pain that is alarming; that radiates to the neck, jaw, arm, or back; or that is sudden in onset, should prompt an immediate call to 911 for emergency medical services.
- Similarly, seek immediate help for chest pain or palpitations associated with shortness of breath, nausea, sweating, lightheadedness, weakness, or profound fatigue.
- Psychological manifestations of grief
- emotional swings
- impaired concentration
- lowered self-esteem
- hallucination that the deceased person is present (visual or auditory)
- feelings of unreality, numbness, denial
- searching for the deceased
- individuals may progress and then suddenly feel worse, without an obvious trigger
- Suicidal thoughts
- Thoughts of suicide occur in up to 54% of survivors and may continue up to
six months after the death.
- Although it is common to have such thoughts, individuals should talk with a doctor or a mental-health professional.
- Depressive illness
- Depressive illness, not to be confused with situational depression caused by the loved one's death, occurs in 17%-27% of survivors during the first year after a death.
- Symptoms of depression typically begin after one to two months of bereavement, last for several months after the loss, and are constant.
- Depressive illness is associated with prominent thoughts of suicide, profound changes in appetite or sleep, or substantial decreases in function. The help of a mental-health professional is needed.
Lynn Barkley Burnett, EdD, MS, LLB
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