Death and Dying

There is no such thing as a normal reaction after the death of a loved-one. Nor is there a series of grief stages. Grief is often most severe when the death is sudden or before its expected time, as in the death of a child.

Unexpected Death

Most of us will have to cope with the loss of friends and relatives. Usually the most difficult separation is from one’s spouse – a loss suffered five times more by women than men. When death comes at an expectedly late time in a loved-one’s life, the grieving may, and often is, relatively short-lived. However, the accidental death of a child, or a sudden illness that claims a young spouse, or a routine surgery gone wrong, may trigger a year or more of mourning flooded with memories, eventually subsiding into a mild depression that sometimes continues for several years (Lehman et al., 1987). For some, the loss is unbearable. One study that followed more than a million Danes over the last half of the twentieth century, found that more than 17,000 people had suffered the death of a child under the age of 18. In the five years that followed that death, their 3 percent of psychiatric hospitalization was 67 percent higher than of people who had not experienced the loss of a child (Li et al., 2005).

Loss of a Spouse

The normal range of reactions to the loss of a spouse or partner is wider than most people think. Some cultures encourage public weeping and wailing. Others hide their grief. It is natural to grieve more intensely and openly. However, those who express the strongest grief immediately, do not end their grief more quickly (Bonanno & Kaltman, 1999). For most people, bereavement therapy and self-help groups do little to enhance the healing power of time, supportive friends and family. Terminally ill and bereaved people do not go through stages of denial, anger and so forth. Some people grieve hard and long, others more lightly and briefly.

Although death may be unwelcome, life can be affirmed as meaningful and worthwhile, even at death.

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

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