Dealing with Grief: Complicated Grief

The experience of losing a loved one is extremely distressing, and unfortunately this is something that most people have to cope with at some point during their lives. When a loved one dies, it is normal to feel sorrow, guilt, and numbness for some time. With time, these feelings normally ease and the person who experiences them is able to heal and move on with his or her life. However, some people experience feelings of loss that are debilitating and don’t lessen with time. When this happens, it is known as complicated grief. When a person is dealing with complicated grief, he or she feels painful emotions that are so severe and prolonged that he or she is unable to move forward with his or her own life. In these cases, the person should seek professional help to deal with his or her grief more effectively.

Signs of Complicated Grief

  • Lack of trust in others
  • Extreme focus on the loss
  • Extreme focus on reminders of the departed loved one
  • Inability to accept the death
  • Detachment
  • Numbness
  • Seems to be consumed by or preoccupied with sorrow
  • Inability to find any enjoyment in life
  • Difficulty carrying out normal routines
  • Withdrawal
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Uncharacteristic and prolonged irritability or agitation

When to Seek Help

Grief, even intense grief, is a natural reaction to the loss of a loved one. In most cases, people are able to experience their grief, and then eventually move on with the help of a support network of family and friends. If a person experiences grief that does not seem to abate or appears to be debilitating for more than two months, it’s a good idea to encourage that person to seek professional help. If someone you care for is demonstrating the following symptoms of complicated grief, it’s time to seek help:

  • Wishing he or she had died along with the departed loved one
  • Is unable to focus on anything other than the death
  • Has persistent longing for the departed loved one
  • Feels intense guilt or feels that he or she could have somehow prevented the death
  • Feels as though life is no longer worth living
  • Has lost a sense of purpose in life

If someone you love is experiencing intense grief and has spoken about considering suicide, you should not leave that person alone. Call 911 or another emergency service right away.