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Acute grief / reactive depression

Grief is a natural response to loss of someone or something that's very dear to the individual. Losses resulting in grief include the death of a love one, the loss of a job, the loss of one's health, or the death or loss of a beloved pet.

Stages of grief

Individuals experience a variety of reactions as a consequence of loss. An important part of the healing process is to allow oneself to experience and accept the feelings as they occur. The stages of grief include the following:

Denial and shock:

The initial stage of grief serves to protect the individual from experiencing the intensity of the loss. Numbness is a normal reaction to an immediate loss and should not be confused with lack of caring. As the individual is able to slowly accept the impact of the loss, denial and disbelief decrease.


This stage involves persistent thoughts about what could have been done to prevent the loss. Individuals can become preoccupied about ways that things could have been different. If this stage is not properly resolved in time, feelings of guilt may interfere with the healing process.


Depression occurs in most people when they realize the true extent of their loss. Signs of depression usually include disturbances of sleep and appetite, lack of energy and concentration, and episodes of tearfulness. A person is likely to feel loneliness, emptiness, isolation, and self-pity.


Anger is very common for individuals who feel helpless and powerless at times of great loss. Anger can derive from a feeling of abandonment to loss of the loved one or loss of a relationship. An individual may be angry, even at a higher power, or towards life in general.


Individuals are usually able to come to terms with their feelings, and accept the fact that their loss has occurred and that life can go on. Healing can begin once the loss becomes intergrated into the persons total set of life experiences.

Each individual defines his or her own healing process in the face of grief. There is no time limit on this process, and it may be an important part of a person's ongoing life. Debilitating elements of grief can be reduced by seeking professional help.

Factors which hinder the process of healing include avoiding emotions, self-medication with alcohol or drugs, and/or burying oneself in work or other activity to shut out memories and feeling of grief. Individual therapy, family therapy, and short-term protocols for prescribed medications can be effective in helping persons work through the grieving process.




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