Harvard Women's Health Watch

Getting through grief

At a time of loss, it's important to focus on maintaining your health and getting the support you need.


Image: natalie_broad/iStock

Losing a family member, a close friend, or even a beloved pet can be devastating. All the small details of daily life—getting out of bed, making meals, going to appointments, taking care of children, handling responsibilities at work—may seem monumentally hard or inconsequential. Yet, even as you grieve, you've probably been reminded that life must go on. But working through the emotional pain can be difficult, particularly during the holidays, when you may feel you are supposed to be celebrating.

The normal process of grieving

"There are cultural differences and personal style differences, but grief is a shared part of the human experience," says Dr. Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Grief isn't linear. It usually comes as wave after wave of emotion. With time, most people manage to reach equilibrium. While significant losses are never forgotten, the feelings of grief become less intense and more manageable.

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