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Unresolved Grief Can Leave Untold Mental, Physical Harm

Update Date: May 28, 2013 01:13 AM EDT

Unresolved grief can jeopardize our mental and physical health, and leave us feeling angry and guilt-ridden, a new study said Monday.

"Loss creates injury. It is a new risk factor for poor health in the public sphere," Toni Miles, a researcher and director of the Institute of Gerontology at the University of Georgia, told USA Today. "When you study care giving, you know grief kills people. Obesity is also a big problem among caregivers," 

 Miles notes that grief is behind much of the nation's obesity, depression, diabetes, smoking and hospitalization. "When you study caregiving, you know (grief) kills people,'' Miles says."Obesity is also a big problem among caregivers. "

According to the American Cancer Society, it's important for anyone suffering from unresolved grief to gain support from family and friends in order to come to terms with their loss. Professional help is also suggested but not required.

"Time doesn't heal all wounds. People in public health need to be discussing this topic more," Miles said. "There can be health outcomes from loss. It's up to help to find ways to make that happen more often and to push for policy that guarantees it."

However, a 2004 study on family perspectives on dying found that people often don't get enough support, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Lead researcher Joan Teno asked participants "during the last month (of their loved one's life), how much support in dealing with your feelings about a patient's death did the doctors, nurses or other professional staff taking care of him or her provide you: less support than was needed, about the right amount or more attention than you needed?''

People who don't deal and accept their grief can become angry, guilt-ridden and fail to care of their health. Here are the four steps along the way to healing from grief:

  • Accept the loss.
  • Work through and feel the emotional and physical pain.
  • Adjust to living in the world without the person or lost item.
  • Move on with life.

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