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Grief symptoms usually follow a predictable series of responses, or steps. Although researchers are now moving away from this to consider the wide variety of ways of grieving depending on a person’s personality, family upbringing, culture, spiritual and religious beliefs and practices. Many people are able to work through their grieving independently, while others may need additional support from licensed psychologists or psychiatrists or other grief counseling specialists. Grief counseling, professional support groups or educational classes, and peer-led support groups are primary resources available to the bereaved. In the United States, local hospice agencies may also be an important first contact for those seeking bereavement support.

Grief symptoms, as developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book, “On Death and Dying,” are:
Shock or disbelief

The beginning shock or disbelief stage is associated with numbness. It’s often a necessary stage for the loved ones to get through the first few days after losing a loved one, and dealing with all the details of the funeral, etc. Kubler-Ross described the denial stage as the bereaved having difficulty believing what’s happened. In the anger phase, the bereaved questions the fairness of what happened and perhaps loses one’s faith. The depression stage can often be the worst (please see our section on symptoms and treatment of depression.) Other symptoms of grief can be physical, social, cultural, or religious in nature. Physical symptoms can range from inability to sleep or loss of appetite problems to something as serious as heart attack. Social symptoms of bereavement include isolation from other loved ones and difficulty functioning at school, and/or work.

Kübler-Ross felt these phases can be applied to any significant personal loss (for example, loss of a job, relationship, one's own health, anticipating one's own death), as well as the death of a loved one. All of these stages don't necessarily all have to occur, or can take place in different order, and can reoccur many times as part of an individual's specific grief process


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