Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Grief and Loss

Grief and Loss

Overview of the grieving process

Grief is a natural human response to the loss of a loved one. It can manifest itself in many ways. Grief moves in and out of stages from disbelief and denial, to anger and guilt, to finding a source of comfort, to eventually adjusting to the loss.

It is normal for both the dying person and the survivors to experience grief. For survivors, the grieving process can take many years and many forms. The challenge of accepting death and dying as the end stage of life is what the grieving process is all about.

What is anticipatory grief vs. sudden loss?

What may happen in the case of anticipated death?

Many, although not all, people facing their own death are willing to discuss issues of death and dying. This can be a time to discuss spiritual issues, resolve family concerns, reflect on a loved one's life and accomplishments, and express gratitude. It also provides an opportunity to put practical matters in order, including the following. Consider:

What are the symptoms of grief?

For both the person facing death and survivors after the death of a loved one, it is natural to experience many symptoms of grief. These can include:

Physical symptoms:

Emotional symptoms:

Spiritual symptoms:

What are the different stages of grief?

It is natural for people who are facing death, as well as those they leave behind, to move through many stages of grief. For survivors, the grieving process can last for several months or for two to three years or more. The stages of grief do not necessarily fall into a set order, and vary greatly from one individual to another. People may move in and out of these stages at different times throughout the grieving process. These stages include:

If you or a loved one is experiencing a grieving period that seems to last longer than it should, you may want to seek professional counseling to assist you through the process. Your doctor may be a good referral source, or you may want to speak with your spiritual leader (priest, rabbi, minister, etc.) for advice.

When providing support for the bereaved

There are many things you can do to assist a bereaved person. These include:

You may also consider the following when providing for the bereaved:

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