The American Psychological Association (APA) defines grief as “the anguish experienced after significant loss, usually the death of a beloved person… [and] often includes physiological distress, separation anxiety, confusion, yearning, obsessive dwelling on the past, and apprehension about the future.” Experiencing grief after a loss is healthy and natural. The more significant the loss, the more intensely grief is experienced. Experts conceptualized and summarized a pattern surrounding grief. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross first introduced the Kübler-Ross model, more commonly known as the five stages of grief, in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying. The five stages of grief, though not necessarily in sequential order include:
- Denial: Loss often comes as a shock, and it is not unusual to respond to the overwhelming emotion of grief by resisting to accept it.
- Anger: When it is difficult to experience the loss or it cannot be justified in one’s mind, it is not uncommon to hide emotions and/ or pain behind a vail of anger.
- Bargaining: Attempting to make deals with a higher power to try to attain an outcome different than the loss experienced.
- Depression: Grief-related depression includes overwhelming feelings of sadness and emptiness, experiencing a loss of motivation, increased fatigue, confusion, and lack of concentration. Feelings of guilt because of an inability to function optimally and care for others during the grieving process is also common.
- Acceptance: This is the stage of grief that an individual begins to accept the loss and reinvest in other parts of his or her life. The pain of the loss continues to be present but is no longer all-consuming.
Everyone is different and will move through the stages of grief at their own pace. Although there is no set length or duration for grief, research findings from 2020 indicate that people who experience common grief may experience improvements in symptoms after about 6 months, with symptoms largely resolved in about 1 to 2 years. Still, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), mentions a related disorder, known as persistent complex bereavement disorder, that can occur in approximately 10% of bereaved people. Persistent complex bereavement disorder is characterized by intense symptoms of debilitating grief that does not dissipate in the months following the loss and lasts beyond twelve months.
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Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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