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Bereavement — the period of grief you experience when someone dies or when you have a traumatic experience — is a normal reaction. People experience bereavement in many different ways, often with a wide range of physical, mental and emotional reactions.

Bereavement is different from depression, which is a whole-body disorder that can be treated clinically.

Bereavement: what you should know

  • Mental reactions to bereavement might include feelings such as the following:
    • Emptiness
    • Sorrow
    • Anger
    • Guilt
    • Anxiety
    • Despair
  • Physical reactions to bereavement might include the following:
    • Trembling
    • Dry mouth
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Changes in appetite
    • Muscle weakness
    • Physical aches and pains 
  • There is no “right” timetable for how long feelings of bereavement should last. Although many people work through their grief within six months to two years, every situation is different depending on what has triggered your feelings. 

How can I get help for bereavement?

The process of working through bereavement or grief involves completing four steps:

  • Accepting the loss
  • Working through the emotional and physical pain
  • Adjusting to living in the present, without the person or thing you have lost
  • Moving on with your life

If you are having difficulty with the grieving process are having ongoing symptoms of bereavement or grief, talk with your primary care doctor for treatment and referral options.

  • Many people find relief through grief counseling sessions with a psychiatrist or psychologist
  • You may also find it helpful to go to bereavement support groups, where you can talk about your feelings with others whose experiences are similar to yours 

Care for bereavement at Rush

  • The Outpatient Psychotherapy Service of the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Rush University Medical Center provides bereavement counseling services.
  • After an initial evaluation, your therapist will work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan, which may include the following:
    • Counseling sessions to help you work through the stages of grief
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy that teaches you how to change attitudes by replacing negative thoughts
    • Antidepressants, which are prescribed on a case-by-case basis and are not suitable for everyone
  • A particularly difficult kind of bereavement can occur after miscarriage. Rush offers specialized bereavement counseling for parents who have suffered this kind of loss, including the following:

Why choose Rush for bereavement care

  • Clinicians in Rush’s Department of Behavioral Sciences are part of a leading-edge psychotherapy research program that focuses on training psychologists and physicians in the latest, most effective counseling techniques.
  • Rush offers a unique combination: the resources of a large medical center plus a responsive, down-to-earth approach that’s sensitive to your needs.

Departments and programs that treat this condition