What is Complicated Grief?

When you experience the loss of a loved one, grief is the natural response to such an event. But what is complicated grief? What causes it? What is the difference between the two? Experiencing the feelings of hurt and sadness that usually accompany grief can be a difficult thing to do. When those feelings don’t naturally fade, and the feelings of anger, hurt, and sadness don’t go away, that can be even more challenging. Understanding the differences between grief and complicated grief, and how to identify the latter, can help you to reach an understanding of what you may be feeling and why. 

What is Grief?

Grief can be an overwhelming feeling accompanied by some strong emotions. It can be caused by the loss of a loved one, or even a terminal diagnosis. It is considered to be a natural reaction to any type of loss. Loss of jobs or friendship, the death of a loved one, all of these can cause intense feelings of sadness, and hurt that can be indicative of experiencing what is known as grief. Feelings of deep sorrow and longing for what is loss is a natural response to that loss. Grief is natural, and usually fades as time goes on. 

What is Complicated Grief?

People experiencing grief may ask themselves, “What is complicated grief?” A person suffering with it can experience symptoms associated with grief. However, unlike “regular” feelings of loss and sadness that fade with time, these symptoms last for prolonged periods. The feelings associated with grief can be so intense that they tend to interrupt the person’s day to day life. This interruption can make it extremely difficult for them to think of and focus on anything but the loss. This is what makes complicated grief differ from the grief that others feel when experiencing a loss. In such cases, one might need mental health treatment.

Symptoms of Complicated Grief

Often, complicated grief can outwardly seem similar to typical experience of grief. However, those with this condition can be experiencing the associated feelings and symptoms more intensely and persistently without relief from the feelings over time. Some of these symptoms of complicated grief can include:

  • Inability to accept the loss
  • Avoiding reminders of the loss, to an extreme degree
  • Losing sense of purpose
  • Persistent and intrusive thoughts surrounding the loss
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • Loss of appetite
  • Obsession over the loss

When someone is experiencing complicated grief it can also cause severe and unrelenting depression. Oftentimes, people tend to feel that they don’t want to live without that which they lost. When complicated grief causes these types of feelings, suicidal thoughts and behaviors can occur, these behaviors may be indicating that their loss has caused severe emotional distress and they may need some professional help. 

How to Identify Complicated Grief

When it comes to diagnosing complicated grief, or complicated bereavement disorder, a number of factors come into play. A study published in April 2006 by the American Journal of Psychiatry suggested some common factors among people who had experienced the loss of a loved one. These factors included:

  • Loss occurring more than one year ago
  • Symptoms of acute, or typical, grief which can include feelings of yearning, loneliness and yearning for the lost loved one
  • Persistent symptoms lasting more than one month
  • Experiencing at least two symptoms of shock, anger, inability to accept the loss, and longing for the person who was lost

These symptoms may also include an inability to return to regular life. Complicated grief can disrupt one’s daily life. This can mean an inability to accept the loss, constantly avoiding any reminders of the loss whether that include other people or places that could stir up memories of the loss, and the loss of interest in caring for yourself. 

Treatment for Complicated Grief

If you are wondering what complicated grief treatment looks like, it can include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. CBT can be helpful in treating grief-related symptoms like insomnia. It can also help people accept their loss in order to heal. Healing from the loss is essential to being able to return to daily living, without interruption. There is hope.

Help for Complicated Grief in South Florida

If you are experiencing a loss and it is beginning to feel like it is interrupting your daily life, making it difficult to do the necessary things to maintain your lifestyle, you may be experiencing complicated grief. This may feel overwhelming, but there is help available that can assist in working through the feelings and emotions. At the Neuroscience Research Institute, we have professionals who can help you to begin on the path to healing, and start living your life the way you did prior to the loss. Contact us today to start your journey toward healing. 

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