What you should know
What is complicated grief? Of course, everyone is capable of understanding what grief is when they lose someone they love. Complicated grief is a little more complex than just grief itself. The RACGP says that 10% of people that experience a loss experience trouble with complicated grief. Some, if not all, of the websites that talk about complicated grief are very vague which can lead to some confusion. The best definition I can find is from Psychology Today and states “…acute grief can gain a foothold and become a chronic, debilitating mental health condition that worsens over time, rather than gets better”. They also describe that if you have past mental health problems it can make the grieving process a bit more complex. Psychology Today also states that “multiple stressors, emotional dependency, or substance abuse issues… increase the likelihood of a complicated bereavement disorder”.
Complicated grief is usually diagnosed after not being able to cope for an extended period of time. An extended period of time can be anywhere within 9 months to years of time since the passing of your loved one. In the circumstance that these symptoms are prolonged for years you may need to see a therapist to discuss complicated grief and steps to recover.
If you are suffering from complicated grief you may;
- Be in disbelief even after years and are unaccepting of the death.
- Be bitter or spiteful about the death.
- Be constantly reminding yourself of your loved one, or on the contrary, you might be spending a significant amount of time trying to avoid thoughts or things that may remind you of your loved one who has passed away.
- Feel like there is no future, no purpose for life or motivation for life.
- Have a hard time trusting people after the loss.
- Stay home to avoid friends or family or anyone that may remind you of your loss.
It is hard to say that one option really works more than the other because everyone is different and deals with healing and especially grief differently. Self-medicating and substance abuse could worsen or prolong your symptoms of complicated grief. Naomi M. Simon writes in her article for NCBI saying: “Preliminary studies suggest antidepressant medications may be helpful” but these should only be taken in consultation with medical professionals. The only real therapy process that has been shown to help with complicated grief is targeted complicated grief treatment. Complicated grief therapy is somewhat what new. Julie Loebach Wetherell suggests that this therapy works on addressing symptoms of complicated grief. During this therapy the therapist can suggest setting goals, improving relationships with other people, finding different solutions to the problem, cognitive behavioural therapy, interpersonal therapy, writing therapy, and virtual reality (Julie Loebach Wetherell Ph.D., NCBI). So if you or someone you know might be experiencing complicated grief let me encourage you to seek professional help as this is not something that is easily resolved without such assistance. A counsellor I am happy to recommend is Liz Pash from Sydney Grief Counselling.
Jewell, T. (2017, June 26). Depression vs. Complicated Grief. Retrieved June 20, 2018, from https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/complicated-grief
Khoshaba, D. (2013, September 28). About Complicated Bereavement Disorder. Retrieved June 20, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/get-hardy/201309/about- complicated-bereavement-disorder-0
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. (n.d.). RACGP – Complicated grief. Retrieved June 20, 2018, from https://www.racgp.org.au/education/gpmhsc/gp-resources/after- suicide/5-supporting-the-bereaved/complicated-grief/
Simon, N. M. (2013, July 24). Treating Complicated Grief. Retrieved June 20, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4530627/