In psychology, critical life events are incisive and stressful situations in people’s lives. These critical life events are often associated with strong negative feelings such as fear, grief, loss, and despair, and these events can significantly change the life situation of the person affected.
Examples of such critical events are the death of a close person, divorce, an accident, a serious illness, a change of residence or job, a prison sentence or even abuse. But also, assassinations, rampages, natural disasters or wars. For children, (mental) illness of a parent, loss or absence of one or both parents also play a role.
Critical life events can trigger mental illnesses (e.g., PTSD, depression).
Grief is a normal coping process. We speak of a mental disorder when this process lasts longer than 6 months. If after 6 months the grieving person has not accepted the loss and has not integrated the death into life, we speak of pathological grief.