Grief, is most commonly recognized as intense sorrow we experience when we lose someone mostly due to death, however, now the definition has expanded to include the loss of any individual due to any reasons such as break are also.

Grief is a natural and universal response to the loss of a loved one. The grief experience is not a state but a process. Most individuals recover adequately within a year after the loss; however, some individuals experience an extension of the standard grieving process. This condition has been identified as complicated grief or prolonged grief disorder, and it results from failure to transition from acute to integrated grief.  

Symptoms of acute grief include tearfulness, sadness, and insomnia and typically require no treatment. Intense grief over the loss of a significant person may trigger the acute onset of myocardial infarction (MI). The impact may be higher with cardiovascular risk. Complicated grief has prolonged symptoms of painful emotions and sorrow for more than one year. Complicated grief has also been termed as, ‘prolonged grief disorder, ‘persistent complex bereavement disorder, ‘pathological grief’ and ‘traumatic grief’. Both the ICD-11 and DSM-5 have approved diagnoses of ‘prolonged grief disorder.’

 All of these conditions depict intense, impaired, and prolonged grief. Patients show a preoccupation with the deceased and feel inner emptiness, no interest in life, and sleep poorly. There is a correlation between complicated grief and acute coronary syndrome (ACS). It has been estimated that 7-10% of those bereaved do not adapt to the loss and, in turn, develop complicated grief. 

The terms grief, mourning, and bereavement have slightly different meanings:

Grief is a person’s emotional response to loss.

Mourning is an outward expression of that grief, including cultural and religious customs surrounding the death. It is also the process of adapting to life after loss.

Bereavement is a period of grief and mourning after a loss.

Anticipatory Grief is a response to an expected loss. It affects both the person diagnosed with a terminal illness as well as their families.  

Certain factors increase risk of turning grief into prolonged grief

Traumatic circumstances such as the death of a spouse or a child, the death of a parent in early childhood or adolescence, sudden, unexpected, and untimely deaths ( particularly if associated with horrific circumstances), multiple deaths (particularly disasters), deaths by murder or manslaughter.

Vulnerable people such as those with low self-esteem, low trust in others, previous psychiatric disorder, previous suicidal threats or attempts, and/or absent or unhelpful family are more likely to experience increased symptoms.

These factors also specifically include an ambivalent attachment to deceased people, dependent or interdependent attachment to the deceased person, insecure attachment to parents in childhood (particularly learned fear or learned helplessness

Age and gender seem to have an impact on the epidemiology of grief. The loss of a spouse typically causes greater negative consequences in men than women. Mortality rates for both men and women who have lost a loved one are increased when compared to nonbereaved people, with the mortality rate higher for males as compared to females. Men experience greater depression and a higher overall health consequence than women.

Younger bereaved persons have more consequences following a loss than older people, including more severe psychological and physical health consequences. These age-related symptoms may be because younger people often experience sudden and unexpected loss. Younger bereaved persons may have more difficulty in the initial period after a loss but may recover sooner because they have access to more social resources.

Certain reaction to grief are as follows

Common grief reactions: Reactions to loss are called grief reactions and vary from person to person and within the same person over time.  Grief reactions lead to complex somatic and psychological symptoms.

Feelings: The person who experiences a loss may have a range of feelings, including shock, numbness, sadness, denial, anger, guilt, helplessness, depression, and yearning. A person may cry for no reason.

Thoughts: Grief can cause feelings of disbelief, confusion, difficulty concentrating, preoccupation, and hallucinations.

Physical sensations: Grief can cause physical sensations like tightness and heaviness in the chest or throat, nausea or stomach upset, dizziness, headaches, numbness, muscle weakness, tension, or fatigue. It will make the person vulnerable to illness.

Behaviors: Difficulty sleeping, loss of interest in daily activities, and becoming more aggressive or irritable. 

Somatic symptoms: Chest tightness and choking, shortness of breath, abdominal distress, decreased muscle power, and lethargy.

Psychological symptoms: Guilt, anger, hostility, restlessness, inability to concentrate, lack of capacity to initiate and maintain an organized pattern of activities.

One can however overcome grief with proper treatment and care and help. All one needs to do is seek help when needed. Be patient and kind towards people who are grieving. It can get difficult to come back to normal life, but with the correct steps, care and help, with time, one can always learn to deal and cope up. 

Importance of Professional Counseling: A friend or family member may listen to you, but they aren’t professionally, technically qualified or experienced to offer you professional advice. If you wish you can contact us at MindTribe to receive help from our team of expert psychologists.


MindTribe Founder Dr. Prerna Kohli, India’s eminent psychologist, established the company to leverage the strength of the online to make counseling affordable and accessible to everyone. MindTribe provides counseling, workshops, support groups, forums, and eLearning.

About the Author.

Swarnima Gupta is a psychologist at You can learn more about her by clicking here

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of, the Founders, or management team.

Acknowledgement: All images used are open source and from Unsplash.


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