By Dr. Murray Feingold
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Grief is an emotional, behavioral, physical and intellectual response to a significant loss.
The most severe loss is the loss of a spouse or a child, but grief takes place following many other losses, such as losing a job or being informed you have a serious illness.
There are many memorable quotes concerning grief. Queen Elizabeth said, “Grief is the price we pay for love.” Other quotes include, “Grief itself is a medicine.” “To spare oneself from grief can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, and this excludes the ability to experience happiness.”
There are various forms of grief, and one is called “complicated grief reaction.” Complicated grief reaction consists of unresolved grief in which the grief is prolonged and intense. There is an inability to function normally and participate in the activities of daily living.
All ages are affected with grief, but there is a higher incidence of grief in older individuals. One reason is that they continually face the loss of loved ones and dear friends. Approximately 10 percent of older bereaved women experience complicated grief reaction.
A recent study attempted to determine the most effective way to treat patients with complicated grief reactions. Two types of treatments were studied - interpersonal psychotherapy and complicated grief therapy.
In complicated grief therapy, therapists encouraged patients to talk about the deceased and discuss the various memories they had of their loved one. This was associated with also encouraging the individual to participate in various outside activities, thus focusing not only on the past, but also the future.
Results showed that although both types of therapy were helpful, complicated grief therapy was twice as effective as interpersonal psychotherapy.
Treatment is more effective in individuals who have a strong support system, and this includes family and friends. Unfortunately, as one gets older, fewer friends are alive to help provide such support.
To grieve the loss of someone means that you loved that person. Yes, that person is gone, but you did have the wonderful experience of loving and respecting him or her.
If people could concentrate on how fortunate they were to have such a person in their life, it could help lessen the amount of grief they undergo.
But getting over grief isn’t easy to accomplish, and many people need the help of health care professionals, including grief counselors.
Massachusetts-based Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.