What is Complicated Grief?
Losing someone close to you can invoke many complex emotions like sadness, pain, loss, and hurt. These feelings are natural and a part of life, but with complicated grief, or complicated bereavement disorder, such feelings don’t fade with time or improve. Their emotions might be so intense that it disrupts their daily life.
Living with complicated grief can bring up dysfunctional behaviors and unconventional thoughts. This chronic form of suffering can make it impossible to return to a healthy state of life. When normal grief does not go away, complicated grief occurs.
Think of complicated grief like being in a heightened state of mourning that prevents you from accepting and moving forward. Often this looks like intense sorrow and pain and constantly thinking about the loss of your loved one. You may find it challenging to think about anything else but your loved one’s death. But also, complicated grief could also arise from separation as well as life transition such as loss of job.
Losing someone close to you is a distressing and natural event that everyone faces at one point or another throughout their lives. It is entirely normal to go through a period of sadness, numbness, regret, guilt, or even anger. However, these feelings eventually fade and are replaced with acceptance and the ability to get on with life.
For most people, the grieving experience follows a natural sequence and timing of events:
- Acceptance of loss
- Experiencing the pain and grief of your loss
- Adjusting to a new reality without your loved one
- Having new relationships
Complicated grief does not allow you to move through these stages in a healthy time frame.
Examples and Signs of Complicated Grief
Complicated grief can look like normal grief, except that symptoms usually fade over time with normal grief.
Examples of complicated grief may include:
- Avoiding thinking of their loss
- Obsessively thinking of their loved one
- Intense longing for their loved one
- Feeling a loss of purpose in life
- Constantly reminding themselves of their loved one
- Suicidal thoughts
- Unable to accept their loss that occurred at least six months ago
- Feelings of loneliness
- Lack of interest in taking care of one’s self
- Reckless and self-destructive behavior
- Inability to resume their regular routine
- Avoiding activities or places that remind them of their lost one
- Loss of appetite
- Stress and anxiety
If these symptoms persist for more than a month and significantly impair your life, then it may be time to seek help.
Please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 if you have suicidal thoughts to receive support and assistance from a compassionate, trained professional.
Healthy Ways to Cope
The best way to cope with complicated grief is by seeking out professional counseling and therapy. Treatment can help you focus on your condition and begin the process of healing.
The most common treatment option is called bereavement therapy. A bereavement counselor will show you ways to monitor your grief and stabilize your emotions. You can also join a bereavement support group to talk about your feelings of sorrow, pain, and loss. It’s important to know that you are not alone and that other people experience the same emotions.
Other forms of therapy can help you cope with your situation, such as traumatic grief therapy. Help is always available, and you can find ways to find happiness and peace again.