January 13, 1975

A Death in the Family

JAMA. 1975;231(2):195-196. doi:10.1001/jama.1975.03240140051031

WE all know that death in a family, if unexpected, causes great disturbance and pain in the survivors. However, we seem less aware that a death after long and wearying illness has a major impact on survivors, despite some sense of relief that prolonged suffering is over. As a society, we also wish to believe that bereavement is a short-lived state, and that people "get over it" in a few weeks. Physicians, trained as they are in medical schools and in teaching hospitals where survivors are not seen after a death, seldom have occasion to learn of the dynamics of grief or to participate in the treatment of grief reactions, unless an obvious medical problem also emerges.

It is well known that the state of bereavement carries health risks, in physical and psychiatric as well as social spheres. The supreme risk is death itself. Not only is the suicide rate