Deep distress occasioned by the death of a loved one occurs in both animals and man. The dog who stops eating when his master dies until he himself succumbs is the extreme animal form of grief, while survivor suicide is the extreme human form. Grief is universal and an inescapable condition of living. Even in everyday life, small losses – a broken object, a rejection – produce episodes of "micro grief". Experiences and understanding of micro-grief helps in dealing with the chaos and overwhelming nature of the grief that follows a death.
The classic study in grief-related death was of all men in England and Wales over the age of 54 whose wives died during two months in 1957. The mortality rate during the first six months was 40% higher than the average for married men of the same age.
Grief is usually regarded as a poignant emotion, but it is much more. It is a physically destruction condition that affects the body like an illness; and in addition, it is socially disruptive in countless ways. Grief should be considered as a medical disease, and treatment should be provided for it. The usual prescription of tranquillizers, sleeping pills and words of comfort are not medically specific. Victims of grief, like victims of crime, should be viewed as a responsibility of the whole or local society in which they exist. Appropriate medical, social and, perhaps, economic remedies need to be developed.