Grief is a natural response to loss, a multifaceted process that can vary dramatically among people. While most of us will move through stages of grief with time and healing, you may experience complicated grief, or persistent complex bereavement disorder. In observation of Grief Awareness Day on Aug. 30, we want to shed light on this lesser-known form of grief that can have profound, lasting effects on your emotional well-being.
What Is Complicated Grief?
Complicated grief represents a state of acute mourning that doesn’t alleviate, causing long-term suffering after losing a loved one. Unlike typical grieving, where emotions gradually find equilibrium, complicated grief can persist for months, years or even longer, leading to significant challenges in daily functioning.
Symptoms may include the following.
- Struggling to cope: Finding it nearly impossible to accept the reality of the loss or move forward.
- Withdrawal from social life: An overwhelming urge to withdraw from friends, family and social situations.
- Loss of motivation: A lack of desire to fulfill daily responsibilities or engage in previously enjoyable activities.
- Extreme despair: Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or even suicidal ideation.
- Intense longing or preoccupation: Focusing obsessively on the loss to the exclusion of almost everything else.
Complicated Grief and Mood Disorders
A crucial aspect of understanding complicated grief is recognizing its potential overlap with mood disorders like depression. The feelings of despair, worthlessness or suicidal ideation mirror symptoms that might warrant a clinical depression diagnosis. This connection underscores the need for professional evaluation and treatment if such symptoms persist for at least a year following the loss.
Depression differs from sadness in that it drains your energy and motivation. You may get overwhelmed by the idea of doing simple daily tasks like showering and getting dressed. People living with depression struggle with the ongoing weight of guilt and negativity that can change their personality and ability to carry out their responsibilities.
A Cultural Perspective
American culture considers grief to be a private matter, something to push through behind closed doors. This approach can exacerbate feelings of isolation and misunderstanding, especially for those grappling with complicated grief. At Amend Wellness, we advocate for open dialogue and compassionate support to normalize grief and enable those struggling to seek assistance.
A licensed therapist specializing in complicated grief can provide personalized, evidence-based treatments to help alleviate the burden.
- Individual counseling: Working one-on-one to explore emotions, develop coping strategies and find ways to reconnect with life.
- Group therapy: Connecting with others who share similar experiences to create a supportive community.
- Mindfulness techniques: Learning to focus on the present moment to ease the intensity of grief.
- Medication: In some instances, a doctor may prescribe you an antidepressant as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
Reach out for Support
Complicated grief doesn’t have to be a solitary journey. If you recognize symptoms in yourself, it’s essential to seek professional help. Compassionate support can make a meaningful difference in healing and recovery.
At Amend Wellness, we provide individualized care that respects each person’s unique grieving process. Our clinicians will work with you to untangle complex emotions and disrupt dysregulated behavior patterns. If you’re experiencing intense despair or suicidal thoughts that don’t improve one year or more after losing a loved one, please reach out to us or a mental health professional.
Grief Awareness Day serves as a reminder that we must not overlook or underestimate the profound impact grief can have. Together, we can foster an understanding, compassionate community that recognizes grief as a shared human experience.