Bereavement, such as after the loss of a partner, often brings about symptoms of mental illness such as depression, anxiety, guilt, anger and hopelessness. Losing a partner to death ranks highly on a psychological scale of severely stressful life events.
The death or loss of a loved one can cause disturbances in bodily and emotional functioning and in social behaviour. Most conjugally bereaved persons suffer real clinical depression, with one or more symptoms, in the first year. As many as twenty percent may suffer for a longer time. While depressed, people stop looking after themselves, stop eating properly, spend their days sitting down and taking no exercise, all of which take their own toll on health. Under bereavement stress, and perhaps worry about financial or family matters, the immune system also does not work well. In the case of conjugal bereavement there is an increased risk of mortality of the remaining spouse in the succeeding five or six years, as well as an increased risk of disabling illness. Bereavement can aggravate or lead to substance abuse, whether alcohol, drugs or medications. The death of someone close also affects children in powerful and sometimes traumatic ways and may possibly affect their ensuing development. Lack of social and medical services for the bereaved aggravates their physical, mental, social, and even financial problems.
Lack of preparation for dying and the absence of realism amidst the artificialities and escapism of modern living make the dying and their eventual survivors equally responsible for the grief trauma prevalent in many, but not all, cultures.