Steve Jobs, one of the most influential visionaries of our day, recently died. His untimely death not only left a void in Silicon Valley and an uncertainty in tomorrow’s society, but it also created an immense blanket of sadness over the world.
When someone leaves us in this world, sadness most often ensues. If not sadness or depression, death also triggers denial, anger, bargaining, or acceptance. What was your initial reaction when you found out Jobs died? What about your reaction now? Moreover, how did you react when you found out that a personal loved one was dying or suddenly passed away?
Bereavement and grief are terms used to describe aspects related to the matters of death. Bereavement refers to the state or the fact of the loss of someone to death. Grief, on the other hand, refers to the reactive process to the death which includes emotional, mental, and behavioral reactions. A bereaved individual has experienced the death of someone, but will not necessarily be grieving, but a person in grief is inherently in bereavement. Grief also broadly describes the response to other types of loss, such as to the loss of youth, opportunities, and abilities. Think of Sharon Stone who now has to play second fiddle to a younger more beautiful actress or Peyton Manning who cannot quarterback this season due to injury (I wonder who’s grieving more – Manning or Colts fans?).
Mourning, another term associated with death, describes more specifically the behavioral manifestations of grief. Mourning is a grieving process that is influenced by social and cultural rituals, including traditions like funerals, visitations, and other customary practices.
In psychiatry, treatment is not typically warranted unless grief becomes “complicated grief” or the sadness worsens into a major depressive episode. Complicated grief, as opposed to normal uncomplicated grief, is prolonged and severe to the degree that causes significant impairment in work, health, and social functioning. Therapy and medications are standard treatments, with emphasis on coming to terms with the loss and working towards repairment.
Death is a natural part of life. As painful and unfair it feels to have lost a loved one, death and grief have their reason and purpose. If not, then it would certainly be difficult to comprehend why Jobs prematurely left us before we felt it was time.