Loss hurts. I wish someone could have seen what was happening in me, back then.
It hurts each of us in unique ways, and each of us responds in our unique ways.
There is no right or wrong way to do grief.
Grief does us:
It comes and goes like crashing waves in one moment and then a babbling brook the next. It sneaks in and then disappears leaving us with a guilty smile for the first time.
Grief put me to bed for almost a year. I lost all sense of self, time, purpose, identity, and reason. I forgot about life when my partner lost hers.
Losing a loved one is one of the most distressing and, unfortunately, common, shared experiences that most of us will face.
Some people experiencing normal grief and bereavement have a period of sorrow, numbness, and even guilt and anger. Gradually these feelings ease, and it’s possible to accept loss and move forward.
For some people, feelings of loss are debilitating and don’t improve even after time passes.
This is known as complicated grief. In complicated grief, painful emotions are so long-lasting and severe that you have trouble recovering from the loss and resuming your own life. Like I did.
Different people follow different paths through the grieving experience. The order and timing of these phases may vary from person to person:
- Accepting the reality of your loss
- Allowing yourself to experience the pain of your loss
- Adjusting to a new reality in which the deceased is no longer present
- Having other relationships
These differences are normal. But if you’re unable to move through these stages more than a year after the death of a loved one, you may have complicated grief.
If so, I am called to serve you. I have been there. For years. And now, I am not.
I can help you come to terms with your loss and reclaim a sense of acceptance and peace.
During the first few months after a loss, many signs and symptoms of normal grief are the same as those of complicated grief. However, while normal grief symptoms gradually start to fade over time, those of complicated grief linger or get worse. Complicated grief is like being in an ongoing, heightened state of mourning that keeps you from healing.
Signs and symptoms of complicated grief may include:
- Intense sorrow, pain, guilt, and rumination over the loss of your loved one
- Focus on little else but your loved one’s death
- Extreme focus on reminders of the loved one or excessive avoidance of reminders
- Intense and persistent longing or pining for the deceased
- Lack of engagement in relationship with others and typical daily routines
- Numbness or detachment
- Bitterness about your loss
- Feeling that life holds no meaning or purpose
- Lack of trust in others
- Inability to enjoy life or think back on positive experiences with your loved one
Complicated grief continues to show up in the following ways, more than a year after loss:
- Have trouble carrying out normal routines
- Isolate from others and withdraw from social activities
- Experience depression, deep sadness, guilt or self-blame
- Believe that you did something wrong or could have prevented the death
- Feel life isn’t worth living without your loved one
- Wish you had died along with your loved one
If you have thoughts of suicide
At times, people with complicated grief may consider suicide.
If you’re thinking about suicide, talk to someone you trust.
If you think you may act on suicidal feelings, call 911 or your local emergency services number right away. Or call a suicide hotline number.
In the United States, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor.
Risk factors in Complicated Grief
Complicated grief occurs more often in females and older age. Factors that may increase the risk of developing complicated grief include:
- An unexpected or violent death, such as death from a car accident, or the murder or suicide of a loved one
- Death of a child
- Close or dependent relationship to the deceased person
- Social isolation or loss of a support system or friendships
- Past history of depression, separation anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Traumatic childhood experiences, such as abuse or neglect
- Other major life stressors, such as major financial hardships
Impact of Complicated Grief
Complicated grief can affect you physically, mentally and socially
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
- Anxiety, including PTSD
- Significant sleep and eating disturbances
- Increased risk of physical illness, such as heart disease, cancer or high blood pressure
- Long-term difficulty with daily living, relationships or work activities
- Alcohol, nicotine use or substance misuse
What can we do about it
Recognize this as a response in your mind/body/spirit and reach out. Losing hurts in every way.
- Talking. Talking about your grief and allowing yourself to cry also can help prevent you from getting stuck in your sadness. As painful as it is, trust that in most cases, your pain will start to lift if you allow yourself to feel it.
- Support. Family members, friends, social support groups, and your faith community are all good options to help you work through your grief. You may be able to find a support group focused on a particular type of loss, such as the death of a spouse or a child.
- Grief Coaching. Through early coaching after a loss, you can explore emotions surrounding your loss and learn to release heavy energy around the loss. This may help prevent negative thoughts and beliefs from gaining such a stronghold that they’re difficult to overcome.
It has been almost a decade since my complicated grief experience. The longing and hurt remain, but the darkness has lifted, I am in a beautiful, loving relationship that I would have NEVER imagined possible, and I am called to serve you as you move through yours.
As a trauma trained psychotherapist and international consultant in well-being programs I have prepared my Brain, my Mind, and mostly my Soul to share this part of your journey with you.