Grief and loss in conflict and disaster affected societies

Why do we grieve? Wouldn’t life be much simpler if we did not experience all those painful emotions that occur when someone we love dies? Perhaps so: no weeping and wailing, no stoical silence, no anger and irritation, no smiling and carrying on as usual; no sudden flood of pain and memories to overwhelm and paralyse, or the rush of tears when you hear a familiar tune. That sounds much easier. The trouble is that grief is actually the price tag on another emotional experience without which human life would be quite unbearable. We grieve because we love. Love is the essential emotion that keeps us connected and attached to family and friends and allows us to survive as rather puny animals in a hostile world. If we did not love we could not suffer loss, but neither could we survive is selfish isolation.
This chapter provides a brief introduction to understanding grief and loss in families living in disaster and conflict affected societies and provide some guidance as to how to support them. It will address the following questions:
• What is the impact of loss on individuals and groups in conflict and disaster settings?
• What is grief and how is it related to attachment?
• Is grief an illness?
• How does it affect our health?
• When is grief abnormal?
• What is mourning and why does it matter?
• What happens when large numbers die at one time?
• How do we distinguish between the effects of traumatic events and the effects of loss?
• Cultural bereavement
• Grief in childhood
• What can we do to help grieving families and children?

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