THIS REVIEW COVERS FOUR AREAS OF CLINICAL IMPORTANCE TO PRACTICING PSYCHIATRISTS: a) symptoms and course of uncomplicated (normal) grief; b) differential diagnosis, clinical characteristics and treatment of complicated grief; c) differential diagnosis, clinical characteristics and treatment of grief-related major depression; and d) psychiatrists' reactions to patient suicides. Psychiatrists often are ill prepared to identify complicated grief and grief-related major depression, and may not always be trained to identify or provide the most appropriate course of treatment. Both conditions overlap with symptoms found in ordinary, uncomplicated grief, and often are written off as "normal" with the faulty assumption that time, strength of character and the natural support system will heal. While uncomplicated grief may be extremely painful, disruptive and consuming, it is usually tolerable and self-limited and does not require formal treatment. However, both complicated grief and grief-related major depression can be persistent and gravely disabling, can dramatically interfere with function and quality of life, and may even be life threatening in the absence of treatment; and both usually respond to targeted psychiatric interventions. In addition, patient suicide has been reported as one of the most frequent and stressful crises experienced by health providers, and psychiatrists are not immune to complicated grief or grief-related depression when they, themselves, become survivors. Thus, it is essential for psychiatrists to recognize their own vulnerabilities to the personal assaults that often accompany such losses, not only for their own mental health and well-being, but also to provide the most sensitive and enlightened care to their patients.
Keywords: Bereavement; grief; major depression; suicide; uncomplicated grief.