Bereavement, Grief and Loss

Bereavement has been defined as the state of sorrow over the death or departure of a loved one. It typically resolves with time.

Grief results from extreme sorrow or loss. Symptoms can include numbness, disbelief, feelings of guilt or anger, separation anxiety, sadness, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, exhaustion, lethargy and even physical symptoms such as shortness of breath.

Grief is usually related to death, but can also be felt when a meaningful relationship is lost as a result of a divorce or relocation. It can also be felt at the loss of a family pet, loss of employment or loss of a significant object.

A normal grief reaction resolves in a few weeks and months. When the symptoms of a grief reaction are prolonged however and the symptoms become disabling, intervention from a mental health professional may be suitable.

A person can develop a complicated grief reaction after a loss when they do not possess appropriate coping skills, lack family support or turn to substance abuse or self-medication.

Grief reactions have an excellent prognosis. Treatment with psychotherapy and medication when necessary is extremely effective. Additionally sleep and stress management, as well as psycho- education can help a person recover. Counselling is usually the best treatment for grief and with the right support it will pass.

Counselling also concerns itself with helping individuals cope with loss of good health, disability and terminal illness. When there is little hope of recovery, counselling can improve the quality of life by helping the individual recover at least some of their wellbeing.