Despite the frequency with which physicians encounter bereaved patients,
medical training offers little guidance in the provision of bereavement ("after")
care. Physicians are often uncertain of how to distinguish between normal
and pathological grief reactions in their bereaved patients, and how to manage
their health care. Bereavement is associated with declines in health, inappropriate
health service use, and increased risk of death. Identifying and intervening
on behalf of bereaved patients could help address those increased risks. We
examine the experience of a woman widowed for 2 years to illustrate distinctions
between symptoms and outcomes of uncomplicated and complicated grief, recommend
approaches to physician interactions with bereaved patients, and offer guidelines
for professional intervention in aftercare.
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