Coping with loss can lead to serious health problems

The loss of a loved one is among the most difficult and challenging parts of the human experience, so it's not at all surprising that it's also a time when many face serious mental health issues.

And it's not just depression.

Loss can also trigger conditions such as mania, post-traumatic stress disorders, heavy drinking, anxiety, panic attacks and even the sudden onset of phobias, new research confirms.

All of these conditions are not only common when facing the loss of a loved one, but they can even strike people with no history of mood disorders or mental health problems up until that point.

Again, this shouldn't be surprising. Loss is a major trauma -- one of the biggest we ever face. Even among people who say they've faced 11 or more major traumatic events in life, more than a fifth said the loss of a loved one was the biggest trauma of all.

So there are two basic, but critical, lessons here.

First, if someone you love is going through a period of loss, don't assume they're OK simply because they've always been so stable.

That may not be the case this time around.

So be there -- be part of their support network, and let them know they're not alone, and help make sure they get the help they need when they need it.

And second, remember that this will happen to all of us at some point -- and, sadly, it will happen to you as well.

When it does, remember that this isn't a time to withdraw and hide. It's a time to go out and seek the love and support of your friends, your family and your church.

That's also part of the human experience.