In our previous article, we talked about normal emotional experiences after the loss of a loved one. These emotional experiences gradually ease over time, allowing us to accept the reality of our loss. Sometimes however, these experiences remain debilitating and do not improve. This is known as complicated grief.
Symptoms of Complicated Grief
Signs and symptoms of complicated grief may include:
- Intense melancholy and anguish
- Not being able to focus on anything else except the loss of your loved one
- Excessive avoidance of reminders of your loved one
- Intense and persistent longing for the deceased
- Emotional numbness or feeling detached from everything else
- Continued feelings of anger about your loss
- Feelings that life no longer has any meaning for you
- Inability to function well at work or in social relationships due to these symptoms
Who are more prone to Complicated Grief?
Factors that may increase the risk of developing complicated grief include:
- An unexpected or violent death, such as death from an accident, murder or suicide
- An untimely death, such as the death of a child
- A dependent relationship to the deceased person
- Social isolation
- Past history of depression
- Other major life stressors, such as major financial difficulties
How you can cope with loss and grief
Accepting the loss: Going through the funeral and last rites helps in facing and accepting the loss.
Talk to someone: Expressing your feelings related to your loss is helpful in processing your emotions. Remember, allowing yourself to grieve properly is an important step in healing and acceptance. Sometimes your friends or family may also be able to pick up the extreme emotions associated with the loss and suggest that you seek professional help
Closure: Packing up the belongings of your loved ones, leaving a few important items for memory sake. Remember that packing up and putting away their items does not mean that you are taking them out of your life. There is always a place in your heart for your loved ones that no one else can replace.
Remind yourself how your loved ones would wish you to be like even when they are not around. Take good care of your health and find little joy in your everyday life.
When to seek help
- Prolonged Grief
- Beyond 6 months to 1 year and the intensity of your grief has not reduced
- Prolonged difficulties in returning to your previous social and work function
- Your social life has been affected by your grief and you are unable to accept any new friendships or relationships
- You feel guilty about many things not directly related to the death
- You have thoughts of ending your life other than thoughts of joining your loved ones
- Hearing voices or seeing images not related to the deceased
Consult a psychiatrist if needed. Your psychiatrist can work with you to advance through the stages of grief and recover. You can still keep the beautiful memories of your loved ones as you move on with your life.