Loss and Grief Can Lead to 'Bereavement Overload'

By Zoler, Mitchel L. | Clinical Psychiatry News, February 2007 | Go to article overview

Loss and Grief Can Lead to 'Bereavement Overload'


Zoler, Mitchel L., Clinical Psychiatry News


PHILADELPHIA -- Loss is inevitable for the elderly, and with loss comes grief.

Losses are not just the deaths of loved ones, friends, and acquaintances. The elderly also experience loss and grief with their diminished ability to do things. It can cause them to lose a sense of purpose.

There is also the loss of their homes, possessions, health, and vocations, not to mention their independence, Vicki L. Schmall, Ph.D., and Patrick Arbore, Ed.D., said at a conference sponsored by the American Society on Aging.

"Anything lost in which a person has invested their emotions, attention, time, energy, or dreams" leads to grief and mourning, said Dr. Schmall, president and gerontology specialist at Aging Concerns in West Linn, Ore.

"The psychologic context of loss is different for the elderly compared with younger people," said Dr. Arbore, director of the Center for Elderly Suicide Prevention at the Institute on Aging in San Francisco. In younger people, losses tend to be sudden and unexpected. For the elderly, losses are not unexpected and are perceived as inherent to living a long life, but the accumulation of loss can lead to "bereavement overload," he said.

Grief is a natural and expected reaction to any loss, not just another person's death. It is the process of experiencing the psychological, behavioral, social, and physical reactions to loss. …

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