How Grief Works

Iraqi women, dressed in black, grieve for a relative whose body was found just outside Baquba in June 2008. See more emotion pictures.
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­It's pretty safe to say that grief is one of those emotional bullets that's impossible to dodge. Animals such as dolphins and elephants grieve the loss of a pack member and recognize it via elaborate memorial rituals. Even small children are capable of grieving the loss of something as tiny as a goldfish. Unfortunately for the majority of us, grief becomes more common as we get older and have more life experiences.

Whether this intense sorrow is caused by the death of a loved one, divorce, loss of a pet, miscarriage or some other unfortunate occurrence, it's an emotion that varies in duration and intensity from person to person. In short, there is no easy way to "cure" grief. Instead, psychologists believe that the grieving process must be allowed to run its course over time.

­As defined by Merriam-Webster Online, the word "grief" means "deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement." The word dates back to somewhere between the 12th and 15th centuries (depending on which linguist you ask) and is rooted in such languages as Anglo-French (gref -- meaning injustice or calamity) and Vulgar Latin (grevis -- heavy or grievous). Despite the language barrier, all of these cultures seemed to hit the nail right on the head when they coined the term associated with feelings of sadness, confusion, despair, fear, anger, anxiety and guilt, to name a few. Grief also has a physical impact on those suffering from it. Often, bereaved individuals experience physical effects such as insomnia, irritability, fatigue, weight fluctuations and difficulty concentrating.

­This article will cover a range of grief-related topics. For example, we'll discuss the various types of grief, as well as the template five stages of grief. You'll also learn about additional ways that grief can affect a person, how to know when grief has spiraled out of control and the ways that psychologists recommend people work through sorrow.

On the next page, we'll start our look at the grieving process.