Researchers found all individuals who lost their spouse experienced higher levels of depression. However, people without a pet experienced more significant increases in depressive symptoms and higher loneliness than those who had pets. In fact, those who had a pet and experienced the death or divorce of their spouse were no lonelier than older adults who didn’t experience one of those events.
The death of a close friend hits harder than previously believed
The trauma caused by the death of a close friend endures four times longer than previously believed, according to new research from The Australian National University (ANU). The researchers warn a lack of recognition about the time it takes people to mourn a close friend is leading to inadequate support being made available during the grieving process. The study shows the death of a close friend will significantly affect a person's physical, psychological and social well-being up to at least four years. Previous studies suggested the grieving period lasted for around 12 months.
The study analyzed longitudinal data and indicators of health from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey of 26,515 Australians, of whom 9,586 had experienced the death of at least one close friend. Lead author Dr Wai-Man (Raymond) Liu said the study found people grieving a close friend suffered a significant decline in physical health, mental health, emotional stability and social life. "These findings raise serious concerns with the way we manage the recovery for people dealing with the loss of a close friend," said Dr Lui. "We found there are serious declines in the health and well-being of people who had experienced the death of a close friend any time in the last four years.
"We all know that when someone loses a partner, parent or child, that person is likely to suffer through a significant grieving period. Yet death of a close friend, which most of us will experience, is not afforded the same level of seriousness by employers, doctors, and the community. The death of a friend is a form of disenfranchised grief -- one not taken so seriously or afforded such significance. This is leaving people without the support and services they need during a very traumatic period of their lives." Dr Liu has called on medical practitioners and policy makers to rethink the way they approach dealing with people's grief after the loss of a friend. "We need to recognize the death of a close friend takes a serious toll, and to offer health and psychological services to assist these people over an adequate period of time."
Story Source: Read this article on ScienceDaily --> Materials provided by Australian National University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length. Australian National University. "The death of a close friend hits harder than we think." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 May 2019. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190513143835.htm.
Dr. Holland's Perspective
"From birth to death we are wired for connection. It is not something that we just want, it is something that we deeply need to ensure our survival. Connections with caring and supportive others helps us develop into the people we are meant to be. These connections keep us thriving and growing as we move through life, and as we experience challenges and successes together.
Friendship is a special kind of relationship because it is one where we are not obligated through family ties or by contracts, but rather we choose to be close, because something in that person brings out the best parts of us. And we bring out the best in them. A close friend loves us enough to tell us the truth about what they see in us, both constructively and with encouragement.
Because our friends have the ability to tell the truth in a way that no one else can, they are in a unique position to help us to see ourselves more clearly. We feel truly seen and recognized, we trust them deeply, rely on them to be there for us and we are committed to being there for them. Our friends know us better than anyone else, and we often tell them things we don’t even tell our spouses or our therapists. Therefore, when we lose a friend, the consequences can be severe emotionally, physically and mentally.
When we are faced with the loss of a close friend, one way to ease our suffering is to try to take care of ourselves the way our friend would if they were here. That includes, paying attention to the way that we talk to ourselves and standing up to thoughts feelings and ideas that tear us down, the way a friend would. Feeding ourselves good food the way a friend would. Showing up for ourselves the way a friend would, consistently, patiently, and with love. This is an effective way to honor their memory and the closeness that you shared." Learn more about Dr. Holland's work with grief and bereavement...
Dr. Jenny Holland provides cutting edge, integrative and evidence-based care, proven effective with depression and anxiety, life transitions; pregnancy, parenting, ageing, loss and caring for a parent or loved one during a health crisis or decline. To schedule an appointment call 707-479-2946.