Grief is how we respond to losing our loved ones. It is a feeling accompanied by a lot of sorrow, pain, and numbness. Grieving can be devastating and draining both mentally and physically. Unfortunately, many people still face it every other day.
Now, with normal grief, people accept the new gap in their life and learn to live with it. For some people, the wound gradually fades off, and soon after, they pick a new routine. Many will embrace the recent change and learn to live with the scar.
However, this is not usually the case for all. Not everyone experiences normal grief. Some people experience complicated grief, which takes an even more significant toll on them.
What Are the Differences Between Normal Grief and Complicated Grief?
Complicated grief is also called complicated bereavement disorder. With normal grief, the pain, numbness, and sorrow fade with time. No, we do not get over the death of our loved ones. We learn to live with it.
The situation is different with complicated grief. The pain, sorrow, and numbness do not fade away with time. They stick longer and prevent you from resuming your day-to-day activities.
How Long Does It Take for It to Be Considered Complicated Grief?
It is essential to know that grief is different for everyone. People have different coping mechanisms to go through the loss of their loved ones. However, many psychologists agree that if the grief remains intense beyond 12 months after the bereavement, it can be considered complicated grief.
Some state that if the feelings are still unbearable six months to 1 year after the death, it is not normal grief. However, no rule is written in stone, and no scientific research states when grief graduates from ordinary to complicated.
Signs and Symptoms of Complicated Grief
If you cannot seem to gather enough will and power to pick up your routine after the loss of your loved one months after it happened, you are most likely experiencing complicated grief.
Here are some other symptoms to watch out for:
#1: Poor mental health
Complicated grief is graced with depression, stress, and anxiety issues. These could manifest themselves in many ways, such as deteriorating hygiene or not being interested in activities you liked.
#2: You focus on nothing more than the death of your loved one
If you cannot seem to concentrate on anything else apart from the memories or what would have happened if they didn’t die, you may be experiencing complicated grief. This may also come out as an intense longing for the deceased.
#3: Feeling that life no longer has meaning
This is a familiar feeling shortly after you lose your loved one. However, if you feel like you have no more purpose living months after your loved one’s passing, you are experiencing it. You may also notice that you lack interest in any form of self-care.
#4: Bitterness about the loss
This may come out as intense feelings of anger. Sometimes, the blame game and the what-ifs may cloud your judgment.
#5: Suicidal thoughts
Many victims start experiencing suicidal thoughts since they feel like life has no more purpose.
#6: Overindulgence or escapism
This may come out as doing everything you can to avoid items or people that will remind you of your loved one. The opposite is also a sign of complicated grief, which happens when all you want to do is be around things that remind you of them.
You may also experience the following signs:
- Lack of sleep or inability to stay awake;
- Physical body pain;
- Lack of appetite or poor eating habits;
- Weakened immune system.
You are probably wondering why some people manage their grief more gracefully while others have a difficult time. As we have stated earlier, grief intensity is different for everyone. Besides, there are no definite causes of complicated grief. However, the following situations put people at more risk:
- The sudden or unexpected death of a loved one;
- Witnessing the death;
- Not getting a chance to spend the last moments with the loved one or not being present when it happened;
- Experiencing more than one death over a short period;
- People with a history of mental illnesses;
- Not being able to iron out differences with our loved ones before they die;
- People with a history of substance abuse.
Treating complicated grief involves accepting the death and taking steps to start healing the wounds. It may take time and patience, but it is a sure way to bounce back on your feet. Here are some steps to help.
#1: Bereavement therapy
The first reason you need bereavement therapy is that mental health issues typically accompany complicated grief.
Secondly, a bereavement therapist will guide you on the steps to:
- Accept the death;
- Gain a better understating of your grief and mental state;
- Cope with the loss of your loved one.
You can also join bereavement groups to get support from people who have been where you are.
#2: Talk it out
It would help if you got all the feelings and emotions out. Do not bottle them in. Lean on friends and relatives that can give you a listening ear and hold your hand.
Of course, you want to stick to friends who can let you be you. Be careful; words like “I understand your pain; I have been there” can take you back on your healing journey. Just surround yourself with friends that will let you grieve it out.
In short, don’t confide in friends that invalidate your grief. It makes your grief even more difficult.
#3: Practice mindfulness
We do not get over complicated grief by avoiding the feelings. Facing it is the best way out. Mindfulness will help you face grief a day at a time. It is an excellent way to feel what you feel without disrupting or avoiding it. Practice mindful breathing and walking meditations to keep your mental and physical health in check while going through a difficult time.
Mindfulness can also involve journaling your life and your loved one’s life. You can even celebrate their life through a scrapbook. Mindfulness is one great way to deal with your grieving emotions head-on and learn to come to terms with life events.