We know how difficult it can be to lose something or someone close to you: a friend or family member, a job, a home, or a sense of self-worth.

Grief is the normal internal feeling one experiences in reaction to a loss, while bereavement is the state of experiencing that loss. Although people often suffer emotional pain in response to loss of anything that is very important to them (for example, a job, a friendship or other relationship, one’s sense of safety, a home), grief usually refers to the loss of a loved one through death. Grief is quite common, in that three out of four women outlive their spouse, with the average age of becoming a widow being 59 years. More than half of women in the United States are widowed by the time they reach age 65. Every year in the United States, 4% of children under the age of 15 experience the loss of a parent through death.

Although not a formal medical diagnosis, prolonged grief, formerly called complicated grief, refers to a reaction to loss that lasts more than one year. It is characterized by the grief reaction intensifying to affect the sufferer’s close relationships, disrupting his or her beliefs, and it tends to result in the bereaved experiencing ongoing longing for their deceased loved one. About 15% of bereaved individuals will suffer from complicated grief, and one-third of people already getting mental-health services have been found to suffer from this extended grief reaction.

Anticipatory grief is defined as the feelings loved ones have in reaction to knowing that someone they care about is terminally ill. It occurs before the death of the afflicted loved one and can be an important part of the grieving process since this allows time for loved ones to say goodbye to the terminally ill individual, begin to settle affairs, and plan for the funeral or other rituals on behalf of the person who is dying.

We know how difficult it can be to lose something or someone close to you: a friend or family member, a job, a home, or a sense of self-worth.

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